We have spent almost a month in Valencia, although Windependent will have spent rather longer there due to our continuing need to return home. Instead of a blow by blow account of our time here, which would become seriously monotonous, I shall try and write something interesting and educational about the place. Having said that Valencia is a lovely city without the added ‘complication’ of the Fallas; there is simply so much to see and do that there is so little time to sit a write about it! But now we are home for a week or so I shall try to correct that.
In an effort to make this more readable I have divided it into ‘Chapters’, starting with a very brief history of Valencia.
Valencia is the capital of the Valencian autonomous region in Spain with its own language and customs. The city was founded by the Romans on the banks of the River Turia in the second century BC. It was overrun by Vandals and Visigoths and later the Church, and then in 8th Century AD the Moors took the city without a fight. It was during this period of Moorish rule, in the 10th century that Valencia became a booming trading centre for paper, silk ceramic and silver; the Moorish influence is still very apparent in the skyline of Valencia which is littered with domes.
Over the following centuries the city changed hands between various Moorish dynasties, El Cid held it for a while at the end of the 11th century and in the mid 13th century King James I of Aragon retook the city and expelled the Moors.The 15th Century saw large scale economic expansion; it was Venetian Bankers that lent the money which funded Columbus’ voyages. Two of the original city gates from this period still stand, the Tours de Quart on the west side and the Tours de Serrano on the north, and the Porta and Puente de la Mar and the line of the original city wall is preserved in the paths of the roads around the old town running between the two towers, to the station and bull ring in the south and then along the line of the now dry Turia River to the east and north.
One of the major buildings from this period was La Llonja de la Seda, or the Silk Market. Built between 1482 and 1548 it was the first commercial court regulating trade through the city and is one of the grandest buildings in the city which is not a church.
With the discovery of America the trade routes shifted to the Atlantic and Valencia went into a decline, apparently forbidden to trade with America. Ironic as Valencian bankers funded Columbus !! This resulted in considerable unrest for the following couple of centuries. The situation hit rock bottom during the Wars of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 18th century and apparently the English made an appearance holding the city for a while in 1706.
Valencia lost its status as a capital and didn’t regain its influence or economy until the end of the century. The French took the city in 1812 and it became the capital of French occupied Spain for a short while. By the end of the 19th century Valenician influence was on the rise again and there was a revival of Valencian customs and language, but the 20th century didn’t start off too well. WW1 did for Valencia’s economy again and during the Spanish Civil War the city became the capital of Republican Spain against Franco and suffered accordingly when the Facists took the city.
The River Turia flooded twice in the 1950s, resulting in heavy loss of life. In 1957 the river was diverted to the west of the city and the old river bed was turned into the Jardin de Turia.
Since the 1960s Valencia has been ‘on the up’ again and in 1982 the Kingdom of Valencia we re-established with a Statute of Autonomy. Construction of the City of Arts was started in 1996 and it was partially opened in 1998. It is still not entirely finished today. See the Chapter on the City of the Arts. In 2004 a momentous event occurred which was completely missed by all other histories of the city; Valeria, who had been working here on and off for a number of years moved to the city. The City hosted the 32nd America’s Cup in 2007 and the 33rd in 2010 which resulted in lots of regeneration in the harbour area.
Valeria has seen the Fires a number of times and we visited together in 2011 and 2015 and because we loved the city and Las Fallas so much we decided to make Valencia our first ‘target’ in our new lives aboard Windependent.