For many centuries, Valencia was surrounded by walls. They protected the city and the sources of its wealth – silk, oranges, ceramics, olives, rice – from Muslims, pirates, and other invaders until the middle of the 19th century, when they were demolished so that the city could expand. Two gates survive. The painting shows one of them, Las Torres de Serrano, constructed in 1392.
The river Turia was also important to the health and wealth of Valencia, but a terrible flood in 1957 destroyed a large part of city and swept away the homes of thousands of residents in the surrounding area. At least eighty people lost their lives. The city redirected the river around the city so that it still empties into the Mediterranean. But what to do with the old river bed?
The city wanted to construct highways in it and, naturally, real estate developers wanted skyscrapers, but the citizens rebelled and fought back. “The bed of the Turia is ours,” was the rallying cry, “and we want green!” Against all odds, the people prevailed. An urban forest of thousands of pine trees were planted, along with orange and palm trees. Fountains and rose gardens were added, along with a concert hall, soccer pitches, an opera house, bars and cafés, ponds, even a baseball diamond. The park now meanders nearly 6 miles and comprises more than 450 acres. In it you’ll find runners, acrobats, families, T’ai Chi practitioners, children of all ages, gymnasts, picnics and playgrounds. Oh yes, and cyclists, like the bride.
Where she came from and where she was going I don’t know. I would love to have heard her story, but she was in a hurry and we’re left only with what we’re able to imagine.