Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pont del Diable

I think Tarragona’s Roman aqueduct might be the most beautiful structure I have ever seen. Known as El Pont del Diable or Devil’s Bridge, it is a surviving fragment of a longer aqueduct that once carried water, mostly at ground level, for over ten kilometers to the city. This section, about two miles outside the city, is a bridge crossing a small ravine and is made up of two rows of graceful arches, all made of golden stone, stacked one upon the other in the first century A.D. There are eleven arches on the bottom and twenty-five on top. It is 90 feet high, over 650 feet long, there are no fences or entry gates, no admission charge, no graffiti, no restraints, and visitors are free to walk across the top in the channel where water once flowed.
Even having seen photos beforehand, I didn’t have the real sense of size and context until I saw it in person. I don't understand why anyone would go to Disneyland when there are so many real fairy tales to see. The aqueduct is a piece of engineering as lovely as any work of art, and after two thousand years, it is just as beautiful as ever. There is something pleasingly perfect about it
Legend goes that the master builder was desperate to finish the elevated channel, having been hindered by high winds of the mistral Exasperated, he said that only the devil could build a bridge that would withstand a thousand years, and the devil responded with an offer of help. But he didn’t want to be paid in gold: he wanted the soul of whoever would be first to drink the water brought by the channel. The bridge was finished and the master builder sent across a thirsty donkey from the work crew in payment to the devil.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dangers of a New Language

A little knowledge can be dangerous. One day three years ago, I read a headline in the newspaper Avui that said something about six dead from an attack of mosquitoes. What a strange thing. Must be somewhere in Africa, or maybe Mexico where they have those killer bees. Curious, I pressed on to discover that they were talking about six people dead in Iraq as a result of attacks on mosques, the plural for mosques being mesquites, while the plural for mosquitoes is mosquits. What is happening in Iraq is certainly no joke. I just glad I was home alone with my thoughts and did not make a complete fool of myself in public.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sant Antoni

Today is Sant Antoni Abat (Saint Anthony the Abbot), patron saint of domestic animals and the day the Catalans haul out their animals and put them on parade. The day was grey and bleak, but I was determined, and, animal lover that I am, I went to the festival in nearby El Perello. I love the folk festivals here and haven't seen many lately, and this was just the fix I needed.
There were lots of horses, miniature horses, some mules, and some donkeys. They were all beautiful, some very decked out. Some of the riders had their horses prancing, almost dancing. Horses are so elegant.

I didn’t stay for the blessing of the animals at the church having been invited to friends for lunch. That is a very nice ceremony, when people bring up not just the bigger animals in the parade, but dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, what have you and the priest sprinkles them with holy water. I thought about taking Minnie, but decided that taking her would be more for me than for her, so I abandoned that idea. Minnie would be forever grateful if she knew.