Sunday, June 11, 2006


Ha ha. I'm so clever. :). I figured out a way to stay here in Girona without losing time. Yesterday, you see, I was hoping to reach Figueres, last Spanish city stop for me before arriving into France, for two reasons: 1) it is only 25 kms away from the Pyrenees mountain pass at the French border, and it seems to make sense to tackle the uphills early in the day when you're at your freshest, and 2) Figueres is home of the "Teatro-Museo Dalí", to which he donated all of the works on exhibit himself, since the site had special significance to him (Dalí was born in Figueres and the Theater had hosted his very first painting exhibit). But it turns out I had miscalculated and Figueres was about 30 kms farther from Barcelona than I thought, so that when I arrived at Girona at 6 p.m. with still 40 kms to go to Figueres it made no sense to continue onwards. The plan as I rode into the city, then, was to wake up early today, ride to Figueres in the morning, see the Dalís in the afternoon, and then take the bus back to Girona for an evening trip onto its city center, which was looking quite pretty.

This, however, made not much sense given that the Girona sights and museums close today at around 2 p.m., since it is Sunday, so I simply reversed the above plan/ I would day-trip to Figueres for the Dalí in the afternoon, then return back to Girona in the evening, and bike from here to France. There will be hell to pay tomorrow, of course, when I extend the approach to the pass by 40 kms and add that much more to the day's journey, but the golden rule of pleasure seekers is: when you can, buy on credit. So there.

Anyway, Girona is kind of notorious because in its day (this means, in this case, between the 9th and 15th centuries) there was a rather large Jewish community here. So in the morning after visiting some Arab Baths that were neither Arabian nor baths (they were the ruins of 12th century Roman-style steam rooms intended to look like the fashion of the moment, which was Arabian, but the intent remained so...), I headed to the Jewish museum which was dedicated to the history of "El Call", which was the old medieval Jewish quarter, and where I spotted this old Jewish saying which I found rather amusing: "The world has the same relationship to hell as the lid to its pot".

Heh heh.

Anyway, later, I went to the Museum of Cinema, where they have an absolutely excellent collection of old cinematographic-related machines, Pathè Baby crank-operated portable cameras, projectors, magic lanterns, kinetoscopes, you name it. Oh, and have you ever looked at those drawings/paintings/lithographs of landscapes and monuments in pen or ink and watercolor that look so wonderfully detailed and perfect that you think how extraordinary the artist must've been to manage them? Why, they're simple tracings, done with the aid of a camera oscura, or later, in the 18th century, a portable camera clara (and which comes in a kit no bigger than a pencilcase)! Copies of drawings, too, were very easily achieved with the aid of a Limnoscope, which basically places a semitransparent mirror side-by-side in a plane perpendicular to the picture to be copied, and on the other side, the copyist simply traces over the reflected image onto a piece of paper (the copies are mirror images, though. Easily corrected with another mirror...). The displays, too, were really well thought out, explaining how things worked via computer animated graphics with no sound or titles, simply by visually highlighting or zooming and focusing in turn onto the moving parts, so that it was easy for a child or someone not very mechanically inclined (like myself!) to understand. A great museum, I really recommend it. My only regret is that they stopped their chronology at around the 1960's. Which means no exhibits or explanations of digital technology. Pity. With such clever methods of explanation and such a large repertoire of old optics-related artifacts the modernization (or rather, more accurately, the "making current"/"bringing up to date") of the museum exhibits would have made this one of the best museums I've ever visited.

Can't say the same thing for the Dalí museum in Figueres, though. It was rather boring and it had very few of the cool paintings Dalí is known for, and had instead way too many of his weird "I have issues" sketches which are to me quite uninteresting, also because they're mostly in black and white or done in a hurry: one of the cool things about Dalí is that he paints a little bit like Georgia O'Keefe---his brushstrokes are very delicate, detailed, and careful (even on his larger canvassed paintings), and the colors blend in perfectly (in things like the sky, or shaded objects, etc) such that you can't tell there is a color boundary, but there was little of this here, except one or two works like the famous "Gala con Esferas". One more interesting exhibit at the museum today, however, were works by Antoni Pitxot, who seems to like to paint people as rocks.

But all in all, a nice day.

Tomorrow: hope the Pyrenees don't kill me, and after that it is all downhill all the way to Perpignan.


carlos said...

Dali & O'Keefe? I struggle with that.

Elisa said...

Look at the paintings up close. Similar brushstrokes. Subject matter, of course, very different.