Beautiful roof of the Mercado central
Yesterday evening while I was chatting with the two American roommates, it started to rain. Not a huge storm, but some thunder and lightning still. The girls didn't mind that much, as they were leaving in the early morning anyway. But I didn't want to have clouds on my first real day in Valencia. Luckily, when I got out of bed this morning the sky was blue and the streets had dried.
First things first, I went to the Mercado central
at 9am to buy me some food. I adore the Spanish markets. There is such an abundance of food here, especially the fresh produce: vegies, fruits, cheese, fish straight from the sea, bread rolls fresh from the oven. Almost too much for my brain to handle! I want it all. The Mercado Central is much like the Boqueria market in Barcelona
: a beautiful Modernista building packed with the most delicious food.
When I got there at 9am, not all the shops were open yet. People were still busy preparing things, bakers were putting their last cookies in the ovens. Yet soon the alleys were filled with people shopping around. One important thing with markets is to go early, when they are most vivid and still full of merchandise. I got myself way to much stuff. I bought Manchego cheese (no surprise there), Murcia cheese, an overload on tomatoes and olives, a fresh baguette, fresh empanadillas with spinach and paprika/tomato filling, cherries (I'm addicted to cherries almost as much as I am to cheese), mmm, what else? Let me tell you, breakfast has never been so good, out in the sun on the terrace, enjoying all these simple but mouthwatering things!
Since I can't eat all day, I did some sightseeing too, however ;)
First on the list this Saturday was the Museo Ceramica
To my surprise, I got free entrance with my student card. I am so blessed to be ánd under 25 (just, gotta enjoy it for as long it lasts) ánd in possession of a student card. It is such a simple thing though, not at all international, and I didn't expect any museum to accept it. But everyone did! And I'm not even really a student. I just study one evening in the week only, for fun, haha. The museum was nice though, it would have been worth paying the entrada. It is housed in a fine building, that has some pretty furnished rooms still, and the collection of ceramics was interesting to watch, even with most of the explanations in Spanish.
Close by is the Colegio del Patriarca
, or Real Colegio de Corpus Cristi. This was an exceptional museum, I absolutely enjoyed my visit here! The patio is really nice, the museum is stunning.
There are some true masterpieces here, and there was not a single other tourist around! I was all alone in the rooms, stared at by saints from numerous canvasses. Works of art by El Greco, Ribalta, Rogier Van der Weyden,... It gave me chills. I can still not believe these paintings just hang there, apparently unattended. I had the feeling that if I wanted, I could just steal one. Or better still, like they were all mine, hanging in my living room. I'm sure they are well looked after, but not at all like in -lets say- a Prado, surrounded by guards and cameras and spectators. This place is a hidden gem. Right next to the museum is the chapel (the Iglesia del Real Colegio
), a really characterful room with a beautiful ceiling and paintings of apostles/saints (?) on the upper walls, all around.
Around the ceramics museum
While I was there most of my attention was drawn to the service that was going on though. I was amazed that I was let in, as there was a baptism going on. It reminded me of the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, were I also was able to witness a baptism. Actually here, the guy from the ticket office encouraged me to go in, as I didn't wanted to at first, because I didn't want to interfere. Yet I placed myself all in the back of the church to watch, amazed on how traditional this service was. Men on one side, woman on the other. And the baby dressed in what looked like a tiny wedding dress, held by its grandfather. All the family members were dressed up very fancy yet very conservative. But it also was a very relaxed affair, in which the older children where allowed to walk up to the altar to have a better look, to wander around, to help the pastor reading from the Bible,.
Around the ceramics museum
.. Where there was rooms for small talk, so it seemed, and jokes between the pastor and the father of the child. Very nice.
One thing that I clearly remember is that at one point, everyone had to stand up, and all kinds of saints were called onto. I know that one part of mass where the pastor says something like "god bless us" and than the crowd goes "have mercy on us", or something like that. I'm not attending mass normally so I don't know what it's called, but I guess you know what I mean. Here, it started with Christ being called onto, but five minutes later, it was still going on. I swear, every Saint has passed the revue. All of them! Saints seem to be very important in Spain, much more than in Belgium. Yes, we have chapels for Saints. But here, every church seems to be full of paintings of massacred Christians, and relics.
Residence of the ceramics museum
By the time I fly home, I'm going to know all the stories :) San Sebastian pierced with arrows, Santa Barbara beheaded after being locked up in the tower, Saint John the Evangelist poisoned (or whatever else might have been in that chalice), and so on and so on. Apparently there is also one lady that got her breasts cut of and caries them around on a tray every since... I had to get used to all this horror in the churches! No, I kid. Honestly, I LOVE religious painting and I found it really interesting, because Spanish religious art is in all possible ways different from the Flemish ones. The style, the stories told, the way people look physically, everything. Not that you'll here me say the "Mystic Lamb" is not a stunning painting. But there is something in the way Flemish painters portray people that I do not like.
Residence of the ceramics museum
Not so much Van Eyck, but most others, yes. I'm not going to stray of here, just summarize: Spain is arty heaven for me!
[To be continued (yes, this is going to be a long entry :)]