We do love monasteries. We love to get lost among their stones, to walk through the cloister, to sit in the church and to imagine the lifes of those monks or nuns that used to live therein some centuries ago. Sometimes we don’t need to go much far to visit impressive monasteries.
We have already posted in this blog about Montserrat, a true symbol of Catalonia which is still in use today. And we have also written about Siurana, one of the most beautiful villages in Catalonia, located in the Tarragona province. Well, we visited Siurana from a hotel that was placed next to one of the must-see monuments in Catalonia: the Poblet Monastery, a World Heritage site since 1991. Do you want to know what you can find if you just drive 1 hour and 30 minutes from Barcelona? Keep reading!
Montserrat was once a delta of the Tetis Sea. It was before the growth of the Pyrenees, before the actual Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe merged. But then the tectonic forces pushed the Iberian plate towards the north and the land started to compress, fold and grow towards the sky. The Pyrenees were created and other mountains appeared where there used to be sea, plains or deltas. Nowadays Catalonia stands on the land that once was under the water and in the center of the country; Montserrat is still the light that guides the Catalans. It is our sacred mountain and a must-see place when you visit Barcelona.
Summer is coming and, when it arrives, all Catalans use to go and bath in the Costa Brava –in our opinion, one of the finest landscapes of Catalonia. It may not be the typical exotic coast, but it has the incomparable Mediterranean charm of its cliffs and its plant life. The Costa Brava, which literally means “rugged coast”, is the scenery of our summer childhood memories. The coast follows the Catalan counties (comarques) of La Selva, Baix Empordà and Alt Empordà, all of them within the province of Girona, whose inhabitants have seen how fishing has been replaced by tourism as the main business of the area.
There is one day in Catalonia that everyone agrees it is the best day of the year. Sant Jordi’s (Saint George) day (23rd of April) is maybe the most international celebration that Catalans have. All the country has a special atmosphere. In this day we commemorate Sant Jordi’s legend giving away roses and books. Sant Jordi is the Catalan Valentine’s day.
Once upon a time in the small village of Montblanc people were living with fear. In the near mountains there was a dragon and for many years it was devouring people and destroying houses and yards with its fire. One day the King decided that the only solution was to make the dragon stop feeling hungry by giving to him one person each day. This person had to be chosen at random. The coincidence made that the first person to be chosen was his daughter, the princess. Everyone in the village was sad because they loved their princess but the King, faithful to his decision, brought her daughter to the dragon cave. The sob of the princess, alone in front of the dragon, stopped when a knight came with a white horse and nailed the spear in the dragon. He killed the dragon and saved the princess. His name was Jordi. The King, thankful to the knight, decided to offer his daughter for marriage. But Jordi didn’t accept and left. There, where the dragon was killed, the blood leaked out into the soil making a rosebush to grow with the reddest roses in the world.
Since then, the tradition is that the man gives away one rose to the beloved woman and the woman gives away one book to the beloved man. (Giving away books was added to the tradition in the 30s). Nowadays many men buy also a book for their beloved women but men still don’t receive a rose.
This is the excuse to make the biggest day of the year. The streets are crowded with people searching for the best rose or the best book among hundreds of stands in the street. Cultural performances and contribution from all the Catalan society can be found everywhere in different manners. We have tried to catch the atmosphere and feelings of Sant Jordi’s day in the Catalan’s capital: Barcelona.
Some days ago we had the opportunity to visit Siurana during our Easter break. Siurana (also called Siurana de Prades) is a nice village located in the municipality of Cornudella de Montsant, in the Tarragona province. It is part of the Priorat region, the land that produces the well-known wine that is traded from Catalonia to the world.
We had always seen Siurana in photos: that fantasy village located at the top of a cliff (more than 700 metres high), with amazing views to the Montsant mountains, a place highly visited by rock climbers. So we couldn’t wait to plan a visit to the village and its region. You will also see a water reservoir placed at Siurana’s feet where you can practise some aquatic activities.
Nowadays, you will see that the Romanesque church of Santa Maria de Siurana stands out in the skyline. However, Siurana was the last Moorish bastion in Catalonia, and they say that knights of four counties were needed to conquer the village. In view of its incredible location, it’s easy to understand why.