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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Xàtiva

Xàtiva, if you are wondering, is written here in Valenciano instead of Spanish as noted by the back-slanted accent. They actually speak Valenciano here. On the train I sat next to an older couple who were speaking Spanish to one of the employees on the train. As soon as the train stopped at the station they immediately began speaking Valenciano to each other. You just don’t hear Valenciano spoken much in Valencia but it is much more common in these rural towns. I have learned very little Valenciano since arriving—I have my hands full with Spanish. I keep saying to myself that I’ll start studying it but I’ll probably start a campaign to improve my French. It’s confusing being me.

Xàtiva is a perfect little day trip from Valencia. It’s a 50 minute train ride on the cercanía or local train (7€ round trip). These trains are incredibly efficient and timely. There is one leaving at least every hour from Valencia’s Estació del Nord. Mine said it would leave at 12:23 and it left at 12:23. It stops several times along the way at places with crazy Arabicized names like Alfafar-Benétusser, Massassana, and Algemesí. Along the way you see evidence of what the Moors brought to Spain, mainly oranges and rice—this is Spain’s breadbasket for these two items. This coastal region is also spotted with the remnants of the forts, towers, castles, and walls built since before the Roman era. I was on my way to pay a visit to the castle that towers above Xàtiva that successive inhabitants had been building and destroying for over 2,000 years.

There are ticket machines for the local trains so buying a ticket took about five seconds. Without bothering to check train schedules before I left home it turned out that I only had to wait about 20 minutes for mine. Unlike airports, I love train stations and Valencia has a nice one. Airports just can’t match the majesty of train stations, at least the older ones (Barcelona’s newer Sants station is every bit as ugly as any airport). Even in the USA we have some lovely stations, even though we seem to have forgotten their purpose. I also love traveling by train; even the metro is fun for me—at least more fun than riding in a car.

Between the short wait and the 50 minute train ride I was able to take a good bite out of the book I am reading (Shogun in Spanish—loving it). As soon as I left the station I started the very self-explanatory hump to the castle—by self-explanatory I mean straight up. There is a shuttle vehicle to take tourists up to the fort but I didn’t learn this until I got up to the top. I probably would have chosen to walk in any case. All I could think about on my shirtless hike was what a good bike ride it would be up this mountain. It wasn’t even very hot for early August and I needed to even out my sun tan. I could have used some water along the way but I’m not complaining. I had a decent breakfast before heading out and I’ve had a hell of a lot of exercise lately. Just a couple days before I swam my ass off at the beach at Pinedo so with my usual biking this would make sort of a triathlon.

After paying the very strange admission price of 2.10€ I had some more climbing to do to see the two parts of the castle each on one side of this mountain ridge. There were less than 20 tourists visiting the castle on this particular Sunday in August. I suppose most people avoid this sort of day trip involving a considerable amount of physical effort on hot summer afternoons. I noticed that at least half of the tourists were Spanish so I couldn’t help but wonder when other tourists visited the castle if not during their summer vacations. Instead of buying bottled water from the café at the castle I drank my fill at the drinking fountain. I have found that the tap water in many parts of Spain is quite good. Madrid had exceptionally good tap water. I wish that I could say the same for Valencia. It’s drinkable but has a lot of chlorine and lime. AT home I use a water filter. I ate plastic bottles and will avoid them at almost any cost.

Since I didn’t take the tourist train up the mountain I figured I would hike down as well. As a cyclist, descending is always more difficult for me than climbing. The muscles used in walking down seem to be the reverse of those used in cycling. I was also vaguely regretting my choice of footwear for the day as flip flops aren’t exactly made for bushwhacking or walking on rough stones. Luckily I found another drinking fountain on the way down at the abbey of San José although I had to fight off a half a dozen angry wasps to get to it.

Once I returned to the village I was reminded that there are several shades of slow. There are slow and lazy days and then there are slow and lazy days in Spain. The scale is further tilted to slow during the summer months in Spain and especially so in a small village like Xàtiva. And then there are Sundays. On this Sunday afternoon in August Xàtiva was positively catatonic. I couldn’t even hear the sound of cars as I walked through the historic center of the town. Vehicular traffic is restricted to residents and they all seemed to be out of town.

4 comments:

  1. Took me long enough to learn enough Spanish to survive, experiencing Valenciano reminded me of driving over the border to Wales back in the UK. Your not wrong about the drinking water, I've tested it with our pool kit and there's more chlorine in it than my own swimming pool!

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  2. If you try the water out in Rocafort, for example, it is quite good.

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  3. I'll certainly give Rocafort a try next time I'm passing that way. Thanks!

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  4. There's not a whole lot there. A bunch of mansions.

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