The most iconic cultural complex can be found on the way towards the port of Valencia, a little bit after the green, former riverbed of Turia finishes; actually it is right next to the garden of L'Umbracle which I talked about previously.
The first building of this area will be a futuristic, sphere-like piece of architecture, Palau de les Arts (Palace of Arts),which is inmediately followed by the Museu de les Ciències (Museim of Sciences), which has a very extravagant, horizontal stucture with amazing curves of its white frame making the whole institute look like a mountain ridge or a human spine.
Apart from them, there is a round-shaped cinema surrounded by water (Hemisfèric), a tall, fascinating, contemporary metal bridge that looks like a huge wing (Pont de l'Assut de l'Or) and also a Forum building (L'Àgora) reminding one to a giant whale rising up from the waves.
This whole area all together with the pools, artifital lakes and park zones everywhere is referred as the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències), and it is really a fast-developing, modern district outside of the city centre. And you can also visit the Ocenarium of Valencia (L'Oceanogràfic), which is, on one hand, praised by many tourists, but also plenty of locals will recommend it to you with pleasure.
The different far away quarters (barrios) of Valencia, and some former towns that were connected to the main city also all have their special characteristics: one thing that we can definitely notice apart from the similar appearance of these outskirt streets is the fact that the traveller can notice many beautiful ceramic tiles with the names of some streets, institutes or locations.
I could first experience this in Moncada, in my former exchange university’s neighborhood, and in Natzaret, my former place of stay, but Torrefiel also has such decorative pieces of art that reminds me a bit to the works of the Zsolnay family from Hungary, but also to some wonderful majolica objects and Middle-Eastern mosques and palaces of an old, exotic fairy tale.
Besides, other famous districts are Ruzafa, Beniferri, Benicalap, and Benimaclet (having mostly names of Arabic origin), and the last one on this list, Benimaclet, as I heard from some locals, is considered to be one of 'the most Valencian parts of Valencia', where people mostly prefer to use the local language.
You can also take the metro to areas like Paterna or Torrent: the second one has a genuine, extraordinary tower in the main square, and a wonderful garden not so far away (L'Hort de Trènor). I would also like to mention Cabanyal, a particular barrio close to the port with a vivid cultural and a dynamic touristic life, and besides, many bars and restaurants to discover.
The port has not only some great spots of architecture connected to the naval traffic and administration, but it is remarkable for its sports life: as in many other parks and open areas, you will see many dancers, skaters, bikers, but also performers like practicers of martial arts: once I saw a group of capoeira fighters, and it was indeed a complex, medidative and spiritual experience to see them partly street fighting, partly dancing with some special choreographies for the mysterious rhythms of Brazil.
Here, at La Marina it becomes very visible how multicultural this world really is: you can find not only people settling down from Latin America, but also from the Philippines, India, Africa, China and of course, various countries from Europe.
Valencia is a city full of festivals, concerts and cultural events including music, cinema and science: sometimes I just randomly bump into programs lasting for one day or evening, but sometimes there are weekly or annual events, meaning that there are a lot of opporuntites here for musicians, poets and other types of artists to fulfil their dreams: most probably this is also the reasons of my personal staying.
However, the most iconic festival of Valencia is Las Fallas wihtout any doubts. It is a sort of traditional carnival organized each year around March and it lasts for more than one week, which also means that the locals do not have to work or go to school for this time and have a chance to meet one another.
Las Fallas is very spectacular with a lot of music, marches and visual effects, where you can see the beautiful folklore dresses of the festival's main characters, the falleros, although the festival can also be very annoying for outsiders due to the harsh sounds of rockets, firecrackers and fireworks for this whole period.
It is particularly loud during an event called mascletà which takes place everyday based on the festival’s schedule, but since pyrotechnical articles are allowed during the Fallas, there are many people, even families and children making some noises with them anytime, anywhere on the streets. So if you wish to see Las Fallas, it is highly recommended once, but watch out in the city!
The last night of Fallas is the most amazing one, because this is the time for setting all the fallas (bonfires) on fire. These enermous constructions are installed in every district of Valencia and in many important squares as well, and they are usually sarcastic caricatures of politicians, cartoon protagonists or other famous characters, and sometimes they also have a specific theme to connect everything.
There are qualified craftsmen working on the design and construction of these installments for the whole year, from one Fallas to another one. So when the time comes, the wooden-based figures are all burnt at the same time, thus the whole of Valencia is lit by the flames.
These bonfires symbolizing the winter can be easily associated with other European costumes like the kiszebáb from Hungary or Marzanna in Poland. It is a bit unhealthy, but unforgettable experience for sure, and a worthy companion for the famous masquerade carnival of Venice.
Later I was also impressed of the big march of another festival in the summer, which was the Gran Nit (Great Night') or, with other words, the Gran Fira ('Great Festival') of Valencia. The madness of this extraordinary carnival really gave us the feeling of a medieval celebration combined with the (sometimes unnecessary) loud and modern party vibes.
Therefore, I could observe giant orange elephants and blue gorillas, colorful tribal people riding on huge, ostrich-like birds, musicians, robots, fantastic vehicles, and of course, clowns walking on stilts, as it should always be during a huge carnival. Additonally, the event was also special due to some concerts performed in Valencian language.
Recently I have also discovered another great thing connected to Fallas, that you can visit anytime during the whole year. If you missed the carnival, do not worry, because if you go to the Fallas Museum (Museu Faller) you can see a fascinating exhibition of the best and most creative installations of each year since the beginning of the modern festival.
There are dozens of models of a human size and also some small ones showing how some of the fallas looked like in the past. Of course, they are not so enermous like the original ones used to be, but it is extremely impressive what a variety of concepts and ideas we can experience, how detailed and messageful these creations are, and the fact that they represent a very represent caricaturistic style which is passed from one generation of artists to another one.
By walking in the rooms of the museum, you can follow the development of the fallas throughout the decades, and you can observe that at the beginning there were rather religious topics, figures of falleros, or scenes realted to the locals' everyday life (sometimes also connected to social problems), but by time, many popcultural elements, cartoons, movies ad famous people appeared among the art works as well.
There are also short documentaries and descriptions on how these fascinating bonfires are made (eventually only for one night of the year), while there is an exhibition of the different official posters from each carnival. The walls are also full of painted portraits of La Mejor Fallera in her traditional Valencian dress: the girl who was chosen as the most beautiful ('the best') fallera of the season among the participants.
Let’s finish our Valencian trip with the most obvious, but also the most amazing view that one can get: it is, of course, the beach of the city, which has many different parts, but the most famous one is certainly Playa de Malvarrosa (Platja Malva-rosa), which is full of swimmers, sailors, surfers, sunbathers, volleyball players and tourists almost for the entire year.
There is always something going on along the main boulvard next to the beach, while itself, as I also have to admit, is most probably the longest and broadest beach I have ever seen my life.
Maybe it will be a sort of cultural shock for some of you, but be prepared that some women on the beach are topless: if you have ever had a vacation in the hidden lagoons of Croatia or Slovenia though, maybe you will pass this chapter faster, because you know how this works.
If you need some parties, easy refreshment and the hustle and bustle of people, Malvarrosa is indeed a vivid place for such purposes. However, if it is too crowded for you and you want to enjoy some nature, go to Saler and Pinedo, which can be found both on the other side of the port and can be reached by bike or car.
There one can admire the pure sky, the waves of the sea and the mesmerizing horizon in all peace, while there is also a reservation on the way with many pines, cedars and laurels, so one can see how the Mediterranean forests might have looked like many centuries ago.
Continuing the same path will show you Albufera: a fantastic lake of Spain, most probably the one and only of its kind, where I could also see a real swamp with my own eyes for the first time in my life. The nature all around Valencia is really worth to see: although it is very difficult to get out of the city without a bike or a car, the region is full of waterfalls, caves, mountains, plains, lagoons, islands and many further miracles.
The fields (campos) located directly around Valencia all togehter are called La Huerta de Valencia ('Garden of Valencia' more or less), and this flat, wide coastal area has plenty of agricultural territories, mostly with oranges, mandarins, lemons, and many other fruits and crops (including tiger nuts obviously, since it is the basic ingredient of horchata).
The only disadvantage of this place is exactly the fact that it is completaly flat: that is why there are huge floods from time to time, particularly after the rainy period of the early spring. I myself also had the opportunity to experience it from first hand, because once there was such a heavy rain right before the summer, that the whole city transportation was shut down, and I got stuck in my university campus in the North for the entire night.
Well, and it was still nothing compared to the great, legendary flood of the city of 1957 (Gran Riada), which some elder people still remember. The level of the water reached the houses back then, and the locals used boats and ships; so based on the old photos, the city must have looked like Venecia (Venice) instead of Valencia .
If you do not have any other chance, sometimes the best is to look for some organized trips and participate in them, and this will be the cheapiest, easiest and most comfortable way to explore some natural habitats or small but beautiful towns.
I guess this review is the broadest description or monography I have ever written about any of the cities I had visited before, but the reason is clear: unlike in the case of Maribor of Katowice, I arrived here in a different period of the year and in a different stage of my life, which allowed me to have more personal discoveries, particularly that the Covid pandemic seems to be over.
In Ostrava, for instance, I was staying for a longer time, but Valencia is more than twice as a huge city as the capital of Czech-Silesia, and there have been much more to find here just due to the size, the population and the historical development of this place.
It is not possible of course to rank any cities I have seen during my journey, and of course I am not planning to do that, because they all contributed to my personal inside travel with something else, and they are all valuable and colorful memories to me.
One thing is sure though: no matter if I will stay here for th rest of my life or not, I have found many opportunities for now equally as a journalist, a traveler, a musician and a poet.
Most likely I am not going to identify myself with all the local conflicts and I will never have the spirit of an indigenious person from here, but I can definitely feel some sort of strong connection by now.
Since I am a foreginer, the sentence I usully use in Spanish is vivo en Valencia (I live in Valencia), but to be honest, sometimes I feel that, even if it would sound ridiculous, I could say it with different words to express that although I am not from Valencia, somehow I am also a Valencian. Yo soy valenciano.