I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner. I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my armpits to my thighs. I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended mine eyes. I heard a confused noise about me, but in the posture I lay, could see nothing except the sky….
…I could not sufficiently wonder at the intrepidity of these diminutive mortals, who durst venture to mount and walk on my body… without trembling at the very sight of so prodigious a creature as I must appear to them.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, 1726
There lies Gulliver, sprawled out flat on his back in the five-mile-long linear park created in the dry bed where the River Turia once flowed, helpless as Lilliputian children slide down his hair and scamper all over him. Gulliver’s Park occupies only a small portion of the tree-filled park with ample trails for walkers, runners, joggers and bicyclists.
Bridges, both historic and contemporary cross overhead, keeping modern-day vehicles from interfering. An earlier post focused on recent architectural projects designed by Santiago Calatrava anchoring one end of the Jardines del Turia, but the sculptural bridge arching over the park in the photos below was completed for his hometown about 15 years earlier.
While the linear park is huge, the narrow streets in the heart of Valencia are linked by a huge patchwork of pocket parks and plazas. These urban spaces are highly prized and used by the residents.
When a crumbling structure is removed leaving an open spot developers view as prime, neighbors revolt, trying to claim it for open space. Protest banners hang from buildings abutting one such fenced-off area. They claim the site contains archaeological ruins and should be preserved as an open plaza for public use.
My favorite sign of revolt appears to be somewhat of a vigilante park. Neighbors seem to have taken over the fenced-in property, adding plantings, handmade playscapes, seating groups and whimsical touches. The occupiers kept the gate locked and seemed to have a somewhat regular schedule or social network for nearby families to gather in their cloistered nook in the city.
Pity the developer who tries to usurp the turf now integrated into the surrounding community’s fabric. He might find himself as helplessly entangled in the locals’ Lilliputian web as Gulliver.
2 thoughts on “Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Passionate about parks”
Sadly there doesnt seem to be the same spirit amongst the San Antonio citizens to claim and protect that which is theirs. They can talk about that which was while standing in the hot sun remembering lovely old fiestas and customs gone by……
Hopefully, we elected a new mayor who will prevent Alamo Plaza from being closed off to pedestrians and ensure the preservation of the stately trees on the plaza.