Medieval Catalan Spain features a whole range of charming villages of rustic stone houses where it seems that time has stood still for centuries. These are the surroundings where the Catalan artist Salvador Dalí chose to live and perform his great imaginative works. Today his fascinating surrealist universes can be visited in his former homes in Portlligat and Púbol as well as in the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 21 JAN 2020
The tiny market in Calonge is absolutely worthy of a visit. This is where the locals come to buy their fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. A medieval setting emphasizes the background and history of the small, Catalan village.
The long street is this morning turned into a market street with stands abounding with ripe, bursting figs, delicate water melons and juicy peaches among bunches of huge onions and delicate, dark red tomatoes, fresh, local cheese products as well as second-hand clothes and shoes. Noticeably, it is elder people who sit on chairs behind the tables and stalls or attentively bend over the products to serve housewives and other market shoppers.
Medieval Catalan Spain
A few steps from here one of the medieval stone arches surprisingly enough reveals a tunnel-like arcade through the buildings. It turns out to be a convenient shortcut to get to the central square. Artistically painted facades surround the square and create an outdoor room filled with soul and atmosphere.
Just round the corner steep alleys flanked by stunningly flowering bushes lead to the old, medieval castle from the 12th – 13th century. It is very impressive in size when you stand at the foot of it and look up at the massive, vertical stone walls. In front of it a couple of crooked olive trees cast their shadows over the breathtaking valley and landscape below. It is the perfect place to take a moment to enjoy the peace and tranquility as well as a Catalan, medieval ambience. It is a real time warp!
We are in Catalonia, a part of Spain that since medieval times has undergone dramatic history, for instance during the Franco regime and for the years to come. It has for the Catalans been a continuous fight for independence which still goes on. A recent attempt to achieve independence was the Catalan independence referendum of 1st October 2017 which eventually was declared illegal and resulted in acts of violence from the Spanish government.
Surrealist Dalí – from the Catalan town Figueres in Spain
Despite harsh times the Catalan people have not only strived for political independence – but they have also managed to develop their own cultural lines in Spain. Catalonia has during the last centuries manifested itself as a region of flourishing art and phenomenal artists. These count among others the fascinating artist Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) who was born in the Catalan town Figueres in Spain. He can be described as one of the most extravagantly bizarre artists both in Catalan Spain and in the world. His real name was Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Dalí de Púbol . As a surrealist painter, sculptor, photographer and film & theatre producer he created the most remarkably unusual masterpieces.
Dalí was unquestionably one of the most eccentric artists at his time and his works reflect the imaginary world of surreal situations, significantly influenced by the Paris Surrealists. He depicted in his paintings the most impossible phenomena like the well-known melted watches in an empty landscape.
Dalí in medieval villages in Spain – and in Figueres
It was Costa Brava’s landscape of wild, rocky coastline, hidden coves, pine groves, small fishing communities, medieval settings and the ever-changing sea that inspired him. He painted many of his great works at his home in the small picture-postcard fishing village Portlligat near Cadaqués where his house, the Salvador Dalí House, today can be visited.
The region is still amazingly rich in medieval villages. Pals, Púbol, Besalú, Peratallada and Rupit are all exceptional examples of medieval Catalan Spain.
We visit the alluring village Pals where we walk right up to the old church tower atop the hill. The medieval vibe, the old yellow-brownish stone houses, the steep and narrow alley, the flowers, the view and the stunning landscape all contribute to the charm and uniqueness of the old part of town.
Ambling around, I cannot at the moment imagine anything more idyllic and tranquil than this place! It is therefore like a utopia when we all of a sudden spot a small, modern supermercat right inside one of the medieval houses!
Dalí was captivated by the ancient hamlet Púbol and designed a surreal home in an old medieval castle. It is known as the Gala Dalí Castle which today can be visited as a museum. Salvador Dalí devoted the place to his wife Gala using his creative talent to make it a unique fanciful universe and sanctuary for her.
The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres is unique in Spain
The Dalí Theatre-Museum is a main draw in Figueres. The town is both Dalí’s birthplace and the place where he was buried.
The museum in Figueres is the place in Spain where most people get to experience his striking masterpieces and imaginative mind. Dalí designed the Dalí Theatre-Museum as the most comprehensive surrealist project in the world. The museum construction is topped with yellowish eggs balancing on the roof and decorated with typical, Catalan pieces of bread on the walls. These naturally evoke every visitor’s curiosity and can be seen as the appetiser of what awaits inside!
One of the ingenious installations that really puzzles me is the Mae West Room with the odd photographic perspective of a large wig. You are invited to climb to the top the makeshift stairs in order to look down through a kind of photographic apparatus with a reduction lens. In this way every visitor can reproduce the composition of the image of the red sofa now appearing as lips of Mae West’s face framed by the golden wig.
The exhibition has everything: subconscious universes, ingenious illusions, photo series of Dalí’s own decorative moustaches, holograms, sculptures and motives of distorted proportions. A special section displays his fantastic and meticulously designed jewels. All add up to one of the most significant and impressive surrealist productions.
Medieval idyll in Catalan Spain
The Dalí collection in Figueres and his two other other museum houses in Púbol and Portlligat exude eccentric and multifaceted surrealist art as in few other places in the world. When you combine it with the awesome medieval charm of the surrounding Catalan hamlets and villages, the rich Catalan culture and history, the picturesque coastal villages and the gorgeous rocky coastline scenery, the north-eastern corner of Spain is an obvious choice of a destination for a both cultural and enjoyable trip.
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