Due to living all my life in the Midwest, both in Nebraska and South Dakota, bustling cities are a bit foreign to me. The Omaha-area, where I was born and raised is home to roughly one million people, while less than 11,000 individuals live in Vermillion, South Dakota, where I go to school. Now in Spain, I live smack dab in the middle of Valencia. While Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, its metropolitan area is host to twice the population of Omaha, with double the population density. While everyone I have encountered during my short time here in Valencia has made me feel more than welcome, sometimes the crowds can become a little much for me. Back home whenever I needed a break, I would find comfort in nature. Here, I find refuge in the Río Turia.
You may be asking, “IN a river? So you go swimming?” No, I usually walk or ride a bike, but let me explain.
Prior to 1957, the Turia River (Spanish: Río Turia, Valencian: Riu Túria) ran through Valencia, dividing the city almost in half. The river was prone to flooding, with a recorded 75 floods happening from the years of 1321 to 1897, while the last flood occurred in 1957. After several days of rainfall, on October 14, 1957, the river began to flood the city leaving some parts of the city under as much as 16 feet (5m) of water, rendering the entire city without utilities, thousands of families homeless, and eighty-one people dead. In response, the Spanish government approved plans to revert the river to the south of the city.
Now the river is the city’s largest green space. Known as the Gardens of the Turia (Spanish: Jardínes del Turia, Valencian: Jardí del Túria), the park runs roughly 7 miles (11km) through the city. It is home to various gardens, playgrounds, bike paths, running trails, sports fields, The City of Arts and Sciences, and the Valencian Music Palace. I try to take a walk or a bike ride through the Garden every night, and I have yet to see it all. Although it is in the middle of the city, I find the garden relaxing.
Its location throughout the city makes it the perfect meeting spot. You will find families enjoying a stroll through the park, couples staring lovingly into each other’s eyes, fitness enthusiasts cycling, running, or working out at the various gyms throughout the park. Occasionally, if you time your walk just after sunset, you may find a group of LARPers (live action role players) practicing their swordplay.
The world awaits…discover it.