"No marxaràs de Girona sense besar el cul de la lleona"
(Translation: You should not leave Girona without kissing the lioness' bottom)
They say that if you kiss it (others say it's enough to pat it) you will be so lucky that you will never leave Girona, or you'll return soon.
It seems the lioness (even it looks as a male lion, tradition says it's female, probably just to help the rhyme) was the sign post of a medieval tavern. In fact no one really knows, but it's a funny tradition.
You cannot miss it, next to the bridge to the old town.
Santa Narcis or Saint Narcissus is the Patron Saint of Girona. Back in 1285 a siege involving French troops took place near the Church in Girona where the would be invaders entered the Church. Opening the tomb of the Saint they unwittingly released a plague of flies which poisoned the soldiers and their horses causing them to flee and abondon the attack on Girona. A free festival honouring Santa Narcis still takes place today featuring many cultural events culminating in people running through the narrow streets with fireworks. The festival is held in Placa del Vi and its surrounding streets during 29th. October to 3rd. November. My visit was one week before but Moira my travel companion had seen it during her last visit.
Once upon a time, there was a witch in Girona. Well, probably there was more than one, but the most famous was a very, very bad witch. She enjoyed throwing stones at people who attended the processions around the Cathedral.
On the day of Corpus Christi, when she was about to throw a stone, a mysterious voice thundered out across the town saying: “Throw stones, throw stones and stone you will become!” and she became a gargoyle on the Cathedral.
You can see her from the Gardens of "la Francesa", on the back of the Cathedral.
Girona has a long history, with many battles and wars. There was a siege on 1285, they say that a group of French soldiers managed to enter the Sant Feliu's church, where the sarcophagus of Sant Narcis (Patron Saint of Girona) is kept. They say that a multitude of huge and poisonous flies emerged from the tomb of the Saint, biting the French troops and their horses, causing many deaths. They considered it a miracle, and the French troops retreated.
Centuries later, on 1653, the city was attacked again by French troops. The citizens of Girona put the sarcophagus of Sant Narcis on the ramparts to protect the city. Again, the flies appeared from nowhere and the French army had to retreat. This time, even some French officers did swear upon the Royal Notary of Sant Feliu de Guixols (town nearby Girona) that a swarm of big flies caused the panic and death to the French troops and their horses.
Fact of legend? Who knows...
The Girona flower festival "Girona, Temps de Flors" is one of the most important events in the city. This yearly event, held in the month of May, allows the town’s citizens, and the numerous visitors which Girona receives over these days, to see areas which are closed during the rest of the year (because they belong to private owners or because no activity takes place there) decorated with all kinds of flowers and plants.
It's truly beautiful. If you happen to be in the area by mid-May, you can't miss it.
Girona is part of Catalunya. The main language is Catalan, but they also speak Spanish (Castillano). Catalan is a sort of mix between French and Spanish. If you speak one of these languages, you'll understand most of the written language. Some restaurant menu's are only in Catalan though, which makes it kind of hard.
Catalan people are very proud of their identitiy! We were in 1 place, where we ordered in Spanish and the waiter didn't want to answer in Spanish, he kept speaking Catalan and when we told him that we didn't understand, he changed into English!
A bit a shame that tourists are thrown into this political twist as well.
But this was only once, most people were very friendly and answered us in Spanish.
Catalonian cuisine, which has been subject to so many influences, is very good and filling. Fish and seafood are always fresh, and sausages and meats are usually local and very good. There a many cold dishes like Catalan Salad (various greens, cold meats, and vegetables), escalivada (roast aubergines, onions and red peppers) and xat? (curly endive lettuce, cod and anchovies). Most popular dishes are butifarra (Catalan sausage with beans), longaniza (local spiced sausage) and fuet (a delicious type of salami). Catalunya also has very good wines.
If you would like to know what it is happening everyday in the city (market, conferences, music, …) here you have a good link.
I recommend the market tuesday and saturday in LA DEVESA. You can buy good fruits, clothes, music, … and taste a mediterranean way of life.
Girona and Barcelona belong to Catalunya. The locals speak catalan which is very close to spanish. Catalan in all its variants is spoken over an area with a population of 10 million people.
Catalunya has its own flag called Senyera. It shows four red bars alternating with five yellow ones, all of the same width.
Since 1980 september 11th is declared as the Catalan national holiday.
You may think... what's that? Are Catalans crazy? What's this ass? What does it mean?
The answer is NO, we are not crazy neither dumb. Don't worry, you are not in another planet. You can see this donkey at the back of some cars. This just means that the car' owner is catalan. It's just a patriotic sign, against the spanish toro. Drivers want to let everybody know that they are from Catalonia.
Here is a photo of a friend who would only drink his wine from a poron. It is indeed a very interesting custom and ways...makes it so more interesting. Whether you are just visiting the city or just moving in or even just a passerby... YOU ALL GOT TO TRY IT!!! It´s so much fun trying drinking your wine from a poron and not from a wine glass. Please try it and as they say do as the locals do and you will all understand how much fun it may be. CHEERS TO EVERYONE OUT THERE!
Girona is located in northern Catalonia, just 60kms away from the french border.. if visit barcelona without speaking catalan is easy and doesnt entail a problem, Girona is quite different. Expect that everybody talk to you in catalan as a first speech in restaurants, bars or in the streets because the catalan roots are so so deep here.. more even than in Barcelona
Girona is in Spain, but more so in Catalunya - and you can tell by the language spoken. Catalan is widely used in spoken as well as in the written form.
Very often you will find signs in both Catalan and Spanish - plus maybe one or two other languages!
Catalan is a Romanic language. It has common aspects with Spanish - such as its morphology - and French - such as its phonetics and some vocabulary. Quite interesting to compare!
Here at the tourist office in Girona they were very helpful. They gave me very valuable information and provided me with maps and information brochures about Girona. They also told me where I could sleep, and thank to them I found my hostel.
They also offer free computer and they are very helpful to find buslines to Andorra, in my case she helped me a lot here in the tourist office.
One of the 3 rivers that cross Girona, maybe this one so beautiful than others, with balcony over the river (full of fishes)
Some bridges cross the river where you can take gorgeous photos before you enter in a narrow and cool street visiting the jewish quarter