Before the Inquisition forced many of Spain’s Jewish population to flee or convert, many Spanish cities housed truly thriving Jewish communities, some of whose citizens were among the most notable philosophers and scholars of the era. Additionally, in the early Middle Ages, many Spanish cities of great culture, learning and knowledge were home to Christian, Jewish and Muslim populations that all coexisted quite peacefully. Hence, a key to discovering Spain’s fascinating past – particularly its medieval one – is understanding the remarkable (and rather unique) co-existence between the three religious groups.
From the 12th century Jewish bath house of Besalu (only 2 of its kind in Europe) to the dramatic Jewish heritage in Girona, this one day Jewish Cuisine and Culture Tour will provide a rich and comprehensive backdrop to Catalunya’s heartbreaking and inspiring past. For 1,300 years, the Jewish communities formed an active part of the history of the Iberian peninsula. The expulsion of the Hispanic Jews -the Sephardic diaspora- would become the most tragic episode in the peninsula’s medieval history. Forced to sell off their property and belongings, they ended up spread around several Mediterranean and Atlantic ports and would, with a lot of effort, refound communities that, in some cases, would manage to maintain their original language. The Jewish diaspora became a wide-reaching phenomenon and a good part of the Israelite nation would end up spread around the great coastal cities of the Roman Mediterranean. The archaeological evidence confirms that Tàrraco (Tarragona), Emporion (Empúries) and Dertosa (Tortosa) all had large Israelite communities. By the end of the tour, you’ll not only have a deeper understanding of Catalunya’s Jewish history, culture and cuisine after visiting both Besalu and Girona, but you’ll have an insatiable desire to explore the rest of the peninsula’s vast Jewish diaspora.
The tour far exceeded our expectations; absolutely everything was perfect! I can’t thank you enough for being so patient and arranging such an amazing day. We will talk about all of the experiences for a long time and will always think of this as our best travel day together.
Your guide, an expert on Spanish Jewish history, will meet you at your hotel in Barcelona at 9am to begin our day. You’ll then drive 1.5hr north to the city of Girona where tiny, winding cobblestone streets, pedestrian bridges, and colorful houses await you. We’ll begin our visit touring the very well-preserved medieval city with its amazing history and stunningly beautiful old quarter with a rich Jewish heritage. Behind the hidden sites, we also visit the Jewish History Museum, which has fabulously preserved and collected artifacts of Catalan Jewish history.
After a rich and descriptive walking tour, you’ll continue onward to the medieval town of Besalú, approximately 30 minutes northwest of Girona. This incredibly charming stone village was the former seat of counts of the same name, as well as a magnificent artistic site. Here, you’ll lunch in a tiny little restaurant nestled just below an 11th century Romanesque bridge that once adjoined this quaint village to land. You couldn’t ask for a more stunning setting to savor modern Catalan fare.
After lunch, you’ll visit the ruins of the Jewish quarter of Besalú, dating back to the 9th century, and the 12th century Mikvah (Jewish ritual bathhouse), which is the only one of its kind discovered in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the few known in Europe. Your visit ends at the local public gardens, where villages grow herbs for their infamous, traditional, homemade liqueur, ratafia. We will then begin the drive back down to Barcelona, where your tour will come to an end.
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