Log in

No account? Create an account
Tarragona — The sights - Chuck Fisher's LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
From Bay Area to Barcelona

[ About me | LiveJournal user info ]
[ Archive | LiveJournal archive ]

Tarragona — The sights [ Saturday, 23 Aug 08 | 17:47 ]
[Tags|, , ]
[My Location |El Masnou (Barcelona) España]
[My Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Tarragona — The sights

We set off for Tarragona early in the morning. We took the Rodalies commuter train from El Masnou to the main train station in Barcelona. There we bought tickets to Tarragona, about 5 € one-way. There is a train about every 20 minutes. The one we took required a change not far from our destination. We arrived before 9 am and with the sun shining we knew it would be a hot day of around 30ºC (upper-80s F).

Roman Amphitheater

Roman Amphitheater

The Roman amphitheater is a short distance from the Tarragona train station. In fact the train tracks are only a few meters from the amphitheater. If you look closely at the notch of the theater, you can see a pole used for the catenary power lines for the train.

We had to huff and puff walking up a hill that overlooks the amphitheater. Although much of the original work has been used as a source for building materials for the past two millennia, you can still see that it was an outdoor theater that could seat several thousand spectators. We decided that we could take plenty of pictures without paying the entrance fee.

The amphitheater has the characteristic elliptical shape of this type of construction, with tiers of seating for the audience and an arena. Here gladiators fought each other or wild animals and sometimes fights between animals of the same or different species were held. Below the arena there was a series of underground passageways used by the auxiliary services needed for the performances.

Roman Wall and Roman Circus

Roman Wall and Tower

Just above the amphitheater was part of the roman wall that surrounded the ancient city of Tarraco. The wall is 10 meters high and is preserved over a distance of more than a kilometer — about a quarter of the original length. On this corner a medieval tower was built and it was used as a prison during the XIX century.

Just inside the wall at this point was the roman circus. We decided to pay the entrance fee, and I got a reduced “retiree” rate of 2,50 €. The ruins were more extensive than what we expected. The circus is essentially a 1500 foot narrow oval used for chariot and horse races. There were also staff located throughout the site that were knowledgeable and happy to explain things.

Some of the underground galleries remain and I surprised how long they are. In the post from yesterday, Ruben appears in one of these galleries. There is even a gallery that connects the circus with the amphitheater, but it was closed the day we were there.

In the following picture you can see the Roman wall and the tower from the previous shot on the left, and part of the circus on the right. Currently there are buildings that occupy the circus and we were told that in time they would be razed and the circus recovered.

Roman Wall and Roman Circus

National Archeology Museum of Tarragona

As soon as we left the circus area, we entered the Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona. Being the capital of the largest Spanish province, Tarraco was a very rich town, and the museum has an extensive collection. Lucky for us, the entrance was free that day.

The collections displayed in the museum are predominantly Roman. The historical and monumental importance of the city of Tarraco and the urban archeological difficulties created by the site, have meant that the museum has focused on this historical period.

I enjoyed seeing the numerous mosaics on display, some for their geometric designs and others for their depiction of wildlife. Many mosaics were excavated in the wealthy urban dwellings in the area known as the Pedrera del Port. An impressive mosaic showing different species from the sea was discovered in 1955 in the remains of a nearby Roman villa. The mosaic is 6.25 m long by 4.5 m wide. The field of the mosaic is a rectangle with 47 different types of marine life. Most are fish, but there are also crustaceans, cephalopods and mammals.

Another section of the museum featured jewelry and decorations. I found a few items that I thought were interesting.

The figure in the following photo looks to have two legs, one of them misshapen, but the limb on the right is not a leg.


I also found the two “cock rings” in the next picture interesting as well. It seems that the Romans had an interest in eroticism and fecundity.



The last major item we visited was the cathedral. It was built over the original site of a Roman temple. The cathedral is undergoing extensive renovation. I thought it was quite large for the size of Tarragona. They didn’t allow any photography so I have no pictures of the “treasury” or gilded altarpiece.

Cathedral from the Roman Circus

There was a picture of me in front of the recent cleaned front doors of the cathedral in yesterday’s post.


[User Picture]From: stoicbear
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 01:42 (UTC)
Roman ruins are great. I seem to like Greek ruins better. I am fascinated by ruins of castles, though. ;-)

Not many ruins in North America. :-(
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ursine1
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 07:26 (UTC)

I seem to like Greek ruins better

The best Greek ruins in Spain are located in Empúries (Catalan name; in Spanish: Ampurias) on the Catalan Mediterranean coast, close to the French border. It was founded in 575 BC by Greek colonists with the name of Εμπόριον (Emporion — "market"). There is an archeological museum there, but not easy to get to the site unless you have a car.

I would also like to visit Cádiz, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly of all south-western Europe. Cádiz was originally a Phoenician colony. It's at the other end of Spain, but easy to reach by rail.

In general there are many more artifacts from the Roman period than from previous Phoenician and Greek ones.

And the name Catalunya is derived from "land of castles".

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: stoicbear
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 17:27 (UTC)

Re: I seem to like Greek ruins better

I didn't know there were Greek ruins in Spain. The Roman ruins are more plentiful because their empire was vaster and more recent than the Grecian "empire" (Was there a Greek empire?)

I honestly don't have the passion you are showing about ruins in general. It's because I'm at the time in my life when making a living is a very high priority, planning for the future, etc., and what little free time I seem to have goes to maintaining my sanity. :-) (Oh, and also working out the physical kinks sitting at a computer gives me.)

It's getting close to one year that I've been back in the rat race. I'm starting to get a handle on it. I'm hoping that I'll find a good balance between work and "life" sooner rather than later.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ursine1
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 18:49 (UTC)

More about ruins

I had to "bone up" about Phoenician, Greek and Roman colonization in Spain. (Fortunately I have a historical atlas of Spain with lots of maps.) The Phoenicians were first and concentrated on the southern coast of Spain, although they were in Tarragona as well. The Greeks were primarily on the northeastern Mediterranean coast. The Romans pretty much covered the entire area. The Greeks certainly had an empire, although not as extensive as the Romans.

I think one reason there are more Roman ruins is for their advanced engineering accomplishments, although some of their own inventions were improvements on older ideas, concepts and inventions. Think of their aqueducts, bridges, dams, roads, architecture and materials. Just outside of Tarragona there is an aqueduct and canal, the Via Augusta and triumphal arch. They knew how to build things that would last.

At the water museum in Barcelona that I visited last fall they said that Romans had figured out water distribution and sewage collection. Some Spanish towns were still using this Roman infrastructure until the mid-XIX century.

For me it interesting how little some things change, in both form or function. I enjoy seeing the everyday items like plates, bowls and glassware. Also mosaics with geometric patterns still in use today. It gives me a lot to ponder.

The Roman influence gives me a lot to ponder. When I am talking to Ruben in Spanish I sometimes have to think of a word to use. Often there are multiple words that same meaning in English, so I pick the one that sounds like it was from Latin and just change the ending to being "more Spanish". Often I am right or close. Sometimes Ruben looks up the word in a Spanish dictionary only to find that I made a correct guess. Of course scientific terms are almost a given since they are usually from Latin.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: stoicbear
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 21:57 (UTC)

Re: More about ruins

Being an engineer, Roman ruins generally impress me because of their engineering and longevity. Greek ruins I find more "beautiful", to be succinct.

Romans used lead pipes, had running hot and cold water, flush toilets and many "modern" conveniences. I often wonder where humans would be right now if the Roman Empire hadn't collapsed.

I wish I had more time to write. My sort replies leave me feeling inadequate. LOL

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: london1967
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 09:24 (UTC)

Great pictures!

I love Tarragona, and it's so photogenic.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ursine1
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 16:54 (UTC)

Re: Great pictures!

Thanks Franco!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: gorkabear
Sunday, 24 Aug 08 | 19:12 (UTC)
Tarragona m'esborrona
Constantí em fa patir

I like Tarragona - it's a dead city, though :(
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mariamer
Wednesday, 03 Sep 08 | 07:16 (UTC)
Mmm...I love Tarragona
(Reply) (Thread)