Before we hit the road and head to Besalú, I want to introduce you to a peculiar little place we stopped by near Girona – Banyoles. It’s got all the pueblo essentials: a Plaza Mayor, sunny terrazas for tapas and café, cute old folks taking paseos. Check, check and check.
I suppose it’s most noteworthy for its lake, which was the rowing location for the ’92 Olympics and also for the World Rowing Championships in 2004. That’s cool.
But there’s one other thing that I think it’s famous for – rather, that I’VE decided it’s famous for: These river thingies (oh my brilliant and vast vocabulary!) lining the streets. They’re like modern-art canals that kiss the city walls and slither around its corners. I became obsessed.
Sure they might just seem like silly water canals running through the city, but they caused my imagination to run wild. Like, how often do kids fall in them? What about the elderly? And do staggering drunks ever take a tumble?
Being the curious question-asker that I am, I fired off an email to my friends (let’s pretend we’re friends) at the tourism office, and sure enough, they satisfied my curiosity.
The “river thingies” are actually called recs, and come from a medieval infrastructure (measuring 33 kilometers in length – oh snap!) originally created to water cultivated land, and eventually to generate factory mills. The artificial versions – that I suppose more or less form the basis for what we see now – were actually created by brilliant Benedictine monks from nearby Monasterio de Sant Esteve sometime after the 9th century. Neato, right?
And as hazardous as they might seem, the recs apparently don’t cause much of a problem. Locals are used to them – in fact, if anything they serve as entertainment for little kiddies who like to splash in them, or simply let their paper boats set sail.
So there you have it. A cute little story about a cute little town and the river (ish) that runs through it.
Disclosure: I traveled through Catalonia as a guest of Charming Villas Catalonia. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own.