Day 17 – Valencia

Today I jump on the hopon hopoff bus to get a good idea of Valencia’s layout.

It is quite a large city. The area developed as the City of Arts and Science and the Oceanografic Museum looks interesting, but I plan to spend my time in the historic center. I return to Valencia for a day after my ecoprint workshop and might have the time to branch out then.

Many interesting statues stand at the roundabouts. The hopon hopoff bus does not describe them all, of course. Generally, the audio is off by a city block or so. This bus is crowded. It has been reconfigured to decrease the space between seats so I can barely raise my arms without causing my seat partner’s audio cable to fall out of the plug! The volume buttons can’t be reached because they are located behind the seat in front, caused by the remodel to add more seats. Very unpleasant until most of the passengers get off at the beach, and I am able to move up to a normal seat. Whew! I can breathe again.

Back towards the city center, we pass the Serranos Towers, one of the two medieval gates remaining in Valencia, dating to the late 1300s.

Some of the downtown buildings have spectacular facades. This is the Bank of Valencia’s building.

Back to walking in the downtown area, I pass large windows of a Santander work/cafe. Recently I read an article about Italian cafe owners who are aggravated that mobile workers sit all day with their laptops over one coffee. This work/cafe solves that problem.

I have a tapa for lunch – mushrooms and ham bits. I can’t seem to get away from that ham.

I come across a handmade fan shop. I have seen older women using them here, so they aren’t just for souvenirs.

I had wanted to take a Valencia’s Silk tour, but I find out from the tourist office that it only runs on Fridays. Still I’m told I can see a lot of it in my own and am pointed in the right direction.

I start out in the Velluters (velvet-makers) neighborhood and find this map covering a wall. It shows various routes silk took to make its way to and from Valencia.

I visit the Silk Museum and learn that the Muslims brought silk to Spain, and the Genovese brought the technique of making velvet.

The velvet weavers guild had its headquarters in the building that now houses the museum. Because the weavers needed complex technical skills such as design and mathematics, the guild was advanced to a college, La Collegio del Arte Mayor dela Seda.

Its logo here is about 2 feet wide and embroidered in silk with finely detailed wavy lines.

The museum shows many examples of various silk textiles. On the wall is an image of the tile floor, with Lady Fame (of Silk) in the center and the four known continents of the world represented by animals in the corners. The floor is indeed spectacular and is now protected by heavy vinyl.

A photo shows silk workers in about the 1950s!

An excellent animation depicts various weaving structures . This one is serge.

A docent describes the jacquard cards. After seeing numerous displays of old-time jacquard weaving, I understand the general concept, but I still don’t understand how the mechanism actually works in detail. It’s quite a complicated operation.

A poignant film features the last velvet weaver in Valencia. He died three years ago, but his weaving techniques and interview are recorded for posterity.

The docent shows the extraction of silk thread from the cocoons. I have seen this done many times in many different ways, but never with this particular wooden mechanism.

On my way home, I spot some women in a shop picking out some fabric. Ornate silks are still very much in vogue here in Valencia. Shop windows display the silks with intricate lace and mantillas, filigree silver and gold. One fabric merchant tells me that his business is sustained by the many festivals in Valencia wherein both men and women wear traditional clothing. It’s really great to see the tradition maintained, even though the fabric is now machine-made.

Tomorrow I go to the cathedral and the central market, where I am sure to find some yummy specialties of Valencia.

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