Once done with Barcelona, the question as to where to next is easily answered, "Madrid". Spain's capital and first city. It is merely two and half hours by one of the fastest trains on the planet. But I took a closer look at Spain's third largest city, Valencia. Its on the Mediterranean coast and about three and half hours by train from Barcelona by a slower train. It is known primarily for its football club, Valencia CF. However, it has much character. It boasts of a long central park, the Turia Gardens. It was made on the river bed of the Turia which was diverted away from the cities. On this serpentine Turia Gardens are several parks, playgrounds, monuments and the gigantic ultra modern Ciutat de les artes i les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences). It contains several components, an art gallery, a science museum, an Exhibition Space and a 3D theatre called Hemisferic. All are modern architectural landmarks and it is curious to see them from the outside. I decided to allot one precious day to the city of Valencia. I would arrive by midday and leave by the ultra fast Ave train to Madrid the next morning.
|Sand Tiger Shark: Oceanografic|
|Fishes around an artificial reef: Oceanografic|
My main objective of visiting Valencia was one component of this enormous institution, the Oceanografic. It is the largest aquarium in Europe and the 10th largest in the world. I reckoned it would take me about 3 - 4 hours just to visit the Oceanografic. Having lesser confidence in other Valencian landmarks I sacrificed visiting other historic buildings, churches and squares and just focused on the Oceanografic. I booked a hotel nearby. This was slightly away from the city centre and nowhere near the public transport networks. On reaching the hotel by midday, I took a short cab ride to the Oceanografic. The advance ticket booked online came in real handy, as it was a Sunday and long queues were present on the ticket window.
|A gigantic Manta Ray "flying": Oceanografic|
Oceanografic does a good job of being an aquarium. It has neatly divided segments of various oceans and climatic zones. The information available with the audio guide as well as near the displays is phenomenal. The large displays and the lighting transports one into an underwater world. In the Mediterranean section, there is a small crawl - through tunnel that leads one into the belly of a large fish tank, where one can look up onto the tank at various fishes. It is truly an enchanting experience. Unsurprisingly, there is a long queue to enter this. In addition, there is a long underwater tunnel in the Pacific Section. Various Sharks, Manta Rays, other Rays and myriad other fishes swim above as one looks above through the glass of the tunnel. One can clearly see the sharp deadly teeth of the sand tiger sharks seemingly flying, barely a foot above. Another similar tunnel in the Tropical Oceans section provides a site of colourful tropical fishes. In the polar sections there are large displays in sub zero temperature which house the penguins. It also has white beluga whales, seals and dolphins. There are elaborate information how the Oceanografic is helping in the marine conservation programmes through out the world. It also conducts research in conservation of the marine mammals. It does sound a bit hollow - these animals are in captivity and in much smaller space than their natural habitats. Having said that, the conditions of the habitats and tanks is world class and most congenial.
|A white Beluga Whale playing with its "toy"|
|A Walrus at the Polar section of Oceanografic|
The crowning glory (and a bit controversial) is the Dolphin Show. It is conducted twice a day. We manage to catch it on a fluke. A large stadium like Dophinarium has been built. About six dolphins take part in the displays conducted by a similar number of trainers. There are other dolphins in adjoining tanks, seemingly used alternately to avoid taxing the same set of dolphins. The dolphins dance and perform acrobatic displays along with their trainers. It reminds one of the circuses of the era when animal shows were not banned. That may be an unfair comparison though. The dolphins look happy! They are rewarded with fish after every display. A film is shown about how the dolphins are treated and how this training is actually a part of the conservation program. One may feel a bit disconcerted but the show is awesome, to say the obvious. We all applaud wildly at the end of the show!
It took us nearly five hours of relentless exploring to see the Oceanografic. Needless to say, there is nothing else one can do on the day. We do stroll around the nearby Science Museum, the Hemisferic, and other structures of the Ciutat de les artes i les Ciencies. We walk back to the hotel and slump in our beds while the sun is still up and shining at 8.30 pm. The next day is the short and fast ride to Madrid by the Ave train.
|The peculiar ultramodern architecture of the Hemisferic|
A detail presentation with eye-catching pics, makes it worth reading.
Waiting for more such informative blogs😊