OUR TIME IN VALENCIA
Upon coming to Valencia, my first time in Spain had been wonderful. Madrid felt like a dream—we met kind people, ate amazing food, and learned almost everything about the Spanish capital thanks to our tour guide, Luis. So, when we first stepped off of the air-conditioned bus in Valencia, a big gust of humidity quickly made me question whether the city could even compare to the previous. Fortunately, I was wrong.
As a soccer (or ‘futbol’ as they call it) enthusiast, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at our hostel and realized that it lay directly across from ‘La Mestalla”, Valencia’s largest futbol stadium. The colossal stadium served as a daily reminder of Spain’s rich culture.
For the first half of our stay, we took daily classes with CivicWise, an organization comprised of urban planners from all over Europe who meet via online forums to discuss and plan local projects in their cities. As Athanasia, our teacher and member of the Valencian CivicWise branch explained, the company is unique as it allows for a type of fluidity of information and design tactics never seen before. Classes were hosted in a retrofitted old monastery, which, despite the heat, was super fun. We learned about the history of cities, starting with the Roman Empire, and how every urban area has many invisible layers of technology and design. Above all, we were taught that a city is more than a city, and in order to truly understand it, you must use all of your senses. To practice this, we were blindfolded and lead on a walk around the monastery so that we could use our other senses to feel the city.
One of the most unique and interesting things about Valencia, though, was it’s Central Park. The park used to be Valencia’s central river, but it posed too much of a danger to the city due to its floods, and so they redirected the river to outside the city and created a city-long park there instead. The renovated riverbed has playgrounds, biking and running paths, and beautiful scenery. When we biked through the city with Aula de Bici, a private organization advocating for bicyclist rights in Valencia, we rode for about a mile along the park. Unsurprisingly, it seemed like half the city was using the park for either exercise leisure, or work. For me, this was a prime example of how a park should exist in a city. Although I had my doubts about Valencia at first, these experiences (and many more that I didn’t get to) helped me realize its true beauty.