On the road to Spain – Ebrodelta and Amposta

It is November 2019. We are spending two weeks in the appartment of our friends, at L’Hospitalet del Infant.

Once more we visit the Ebrodelta. We have been in the delta before and it is always worth a visit. In addition we explore Amposta, a small town that we have passed by so far.

Source: Googlemaps

 

Ebrodelta: l´Encanyissada

After two very stormy days, the wind has stopped, but there are still clouds in the sky. We drive to the Ebrodelta and to the Casa de Fusta at the l’Encanyissada pond. From the Fusta viewpoint, we look at the Montsía mountains with the clouds above them.

This is the zoomed-in view of the Montsía mountains with San Carlo de la Rápida.

Igrets are all over… looking for a tasty fish meal.

We switch to another viewpoint at the l’Encanyissada pond. The clouds reflect in the channel.

Above the water of the l’Encanyissada pond, Ursula detects a kingfisher perched on to reed grass. It is the first time that we come across a kingfisher in the Ebrodelta.

More igrets – this one sits on the harvested rice field.

Swarms of glossy ibis are in the sky (called “Brauner Sichler” in German) and more of them sit in the harvested rice field – they look like black dots.

 

Ebro delta: The Salines de la Tancada 

Where are the flamingos? In spring, half a year ago, we found them standing in the Salinas de la Tancada. We drive there, and indeed, here they are, a pink stripe at the horizon.

One individuum decided to look for food all alone and much closer to us.

In the background, we can again see the Montsía mountains, now with fluffy cirrus clouds above them.

After having bought some of our favourite “Bomba” rice and some bottles of olive oil in the Case de Fusta, we decide to have lunch at Amposta.

 

Lunch and stroll through Amposta, the capital of the Ebrodelta

Amposta is the capital of the Ebrodelta and of the Comarca Montsía which is the southern most Comarca of Catalonia. The small city with about 20’000 inhabitants is very proud of their Suspension bridge across the Ebro. It has been constructed from 1915-1921 to replace the former ferry. The engineer was inspired by the Brooklin Bridge of New York , and his bridge was the second suspension bridge built from armoured concrete worldwide. In 1938 (during the civil war) the bridge was destroyed, and one year later it was inaugurated again. The ropes hang on arches built in German historizing style, as I read on the Webpage.

We stroll through the pedestrian zone and find one square after the next – we suppose that on hot summer days all these squares are joyfully busy. We also find welcoming restaurants such as this one selling hot “small dogs” (perritos calientes) that the parents can eat calmly, while their children play on the motor cycle.

Not far from the townhall, we settle in the bar Il Viale and enjoy a well prepared meal  with stewed veal and crema Catalana.

Amposta is not a pretentious town with overly restored houses. It has an old history though. Historians suppose that Amposta was an important Celtiberian settlement. Then the Romans were here. The name “Amposta” is said to derive from Latin “amnis = river” and “imposita” seems to refer to a guesthouse that was located on the rocks above the river Ebro.

Around 1150, the king of Aragon reconquered Amposta from the Moors. He gave it to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The flag of Amposta contains their cross. With the castle on the rock above the Ebro, Amposta thrived. In 1465 the castle was destroyed during the civil war in Catalonia. Not much is left of the castle today; this is the view from the suspension bridge.

Only in the 17th century, Amposta slowly recovered, when cultivation of the Ebro delta started. Today, Amposta is the regional center that lives primarily from agriculture in the Ebro delta, from the related mechanical industry and from tourism in the Ebro delta and in the near mountains.

In the early 20th century, some modernist houses were constructed. A congestion of them is on the street to San Carlos de la Rapita, such as this house with elegant oriels…

… a second one with pretty balconies,…

… and a third one made from red bricks.

When walking through the small streets, we find more modernist houses,…

… and, sorely, some of them are at the brink of decay.

We say good-bye to Amposta, this small town located on the rocks above the Ebro and return to our apartment in Hospitalet to enjoy the balcony.

The Ebro Delta is always worth a visit

Again and again we have visited the Ebro Delta, when staying in Catalonia. We love it for its rice fields changing with the seasons and for its natural reserve lagoons holding a variety of birds.

This is what the rice fields looked like in spring 2018, all fresh, brown, ready to be watered and to grow rice.

Now it is November 2018. The rice has been harvested. The green stubbles remain.

The tractors are ploughing up the harvested rice fields. The birds are following the tractors – do they catch the worms that come out of the ground or do they find residual rice grains?

Whatever they find, it must be worth it. The birds are not afraid of the tractor and neither is the tractor caring about them.  

As always, we buy rice and olive oil at the Fusta shop. The rice produced by the Cooperative del Delta is called “Bomba”. In Swiss German we would say “är isch e Bombe”, which means, “the rice is super”.

Near the Fusta, in the lagoon de l’Encanyissada, we saw many flamingos in spring.

They were busy picking food from the lagoon (these two small spots are flamingos).

Not one flamingo now, in autumn, in the Encanyissada lagoon.

Instead, the layers of rock in the Montsià mountains behind the lagoon are very clear today.

Hunters have taken out their boats to chase ducks. Now we understand, why we do not see one duck in this lagoon.

We meet a ranger that tells us that the ducks hide in the reed (because of the hunting going on) and that there is too much water in the lagoon for the flamingos. We should look for them at the lagoon of Tancada. We drive there. The Tancada lagoon is full of ducks. They have congregated where there are no hunters. No fotos of ducks – our cameras do not look like guns.

There are no flamingos either. We give up and just enjoy, how the sun plays with the colours of the reed…

… and how the clouds reflect in the water.

In spring, the water channels were full with black-winged stilts (Himantopus Himantopus or in German Stelzenläufer) with their long red legs.

None of them around now, in autumn.

Poble Nou (literally “new village”) is located near the lagoon de l’Encanyissada, behind the reeds.

We sometimes have lunch in one of the small bars at Poble Nou, but now it is twelve o’clock and far too early for lunch in Spain. We take our way back to Hospitalet and stop in Ametlla del Mar. At the port we have fresh sole fish which is a delicious close up of another excursion to the Ebro Delta.

In Catalonia (Spain) – some excursions around Hospitalet: Ebro Delta and Tortosa

On a sunny Friday in November 2017, we get up early to take photos in the beautiful landscape of the Ebro delta and then continue to Tortosa on the Ebro. This is another excursion that we go for, while enjoying the small apartment of our friends in Hospitalet de l’Infant at the end of October until mid November 2016.

 

The morning light in the Ebro Delta

In November the rice fields have been harvested awaiting the next cultivation cycle. We enjoy taking photos in the atmosphere of this morning.

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Ursula has a very good “photo eye”, when capturing the fields…

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… and the black egrets reflecting in them.

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Then the birds decide, we are too close and fly away.

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We have a chat with a fisher – he comes here regularly from Andorra. And yes, I do understand that driving is forbidden here…

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In Deltebre we visit the Ecomuseum. This place is a miniature Ebro Delta showing its plants and wild life as well as the economy: Fishing, the cultivation of rice and – more inland – the cultivation of vegetables and fruit.

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Tortosa – Basilica-Catedral de Santa Maria

In summer we had visited Tortosa, and it was pouring with rain. The town seemed grey and not very welcoming and the cathedral was closed. Now we return, leave our car in one of these narrow Catalonian parking houses in the city center and set out to explore the Basilica-Cathedral de Santa Maria  with the bishop’s palace and the convent. The gothic construction started in 1347 (Thomas Schröder: “Katalonien”, Michael Müller Verlag 2015). From outside, the cathedral seems “uncompleted”: The roof is flat.

The nave is spacious with high vaults – just right for the archbishop in the 15th century.

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The exhibition shows treasures such as this lamb embroidered in gold…

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… or this funerary object.

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I love the cloister dating from the 13th century…

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… and use this photo of the arches for my 2016 Christmas card.

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Tortosa – Jewish center

After a break in a small bar that serves excellent tapas, we stroll through the former Jewish quarter.

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All that is left are the street names (such Carrer and Travessia de Jerusalem) and some plates explaining where the synagogue and the kosher butcher were located.

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Now we find a halal butcher instead.

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Tortosa – history  in the former slaughterhouse

The slaughterhouse has been built by Pau Monguió. This art-nouveau building now hosts an exhibition of the history of Catalonia. The display starts with the stone age, continues with the Iberians trading with the Phoenicians (“Iberians” comes from “Ebro”) , the Romans (Tortosa was then called “Dertosa”), the Visigots and the Moors. In 1148 Tortosa was sieged during the Second Crusade and reconquered by an allied army. In the 15th century, Tortosa became an important regional center and the seat of the archbishop. It lost its importance in the 19th century and particularly suffered from bombings in the civil war of 1936-1939.

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I particularly like the coat of arms of the monastery Scala Dei near Montsant made from alabaster – it represents the Escala Dei or the ladder of God.

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After a short visit in the Tortosa market, we maneuver our car out of the narrow, narrow parking house and drive back to our small apartment in Hospitalet de l’Infant.

 

 

The Ebro – the delta with rice fields and Tortosa

Tuesday – we head off about 50km south to explore the last kilometers of the Ebro on its way to the Mediterranean sea. The delta and – more towards the mountains – the town Tortosa are our target.

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Rice – omnipresent in the Ebro delta

The Ebro delta looks like the hook of an anchor: In the middle there is the river branching into arms with lagoons. Two sandy spits go off to the north and south. The Ebro delta is one of the largest in the Mediterrenean. It has developed in the last eight centuries due to the deforestation which made the Ebro carry soil down to the Mediterranean sea.

In the delta rice fields under water dominate the scenery, among them a few villages.

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Black and white egrets walk here on their long legs. A large part of the delta is a natural reserve, also visited by migratory birds – great for bird observers.

In Deltebre we buy some rice products – rice “as such” and licor d’arròs amb herbes (rice licor with herbs). They even sell rice beer (not for me, I am not a beer drinker…).

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Adventurous track on the sandy narrow spit going south

We continue to El Muntells and the Camping Eucalyptus. Here we find tracks that lead on to the sand. We follow them going south. Ever once in a while, we come across another car. It is a wild and lonesome scenery.

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We cross this water passage…

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… and stop at a small xiringuito (beach bar) with a large selection of drinks and food.

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We join four Germans with four dogs of varying size – from “calf” to “guinea pig” – all four the color of sand – the smallest, the “guinea pig” barking loudly.

It is very windy. My credit card, identity card and driving license fly out of my wallet and start to hop away on the sand. I run to catch two of them, but the driving license has disappeared. Finally we find it under the wooden beams of the xiringuito where the wind had carried it to. Uff.

We continue to drive south, until Ursula shouts: “stop, see, we are here, on the spit. This goes nowhere…”. Right. And our car cannot swim, once we have reached the end of the spit. We drive back to the Camping Eucalyptus and then follow the Ebro to Tortosa.

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Tortosa  – a brave Catalunyan city

Tortosa, founded by the Iberians, then taken over by the Carthaginians and the Romans, was liberated from the moors in 1148. Highlights are the old city, the cathedral and the fortress that is now a parador.

We find a “blue” parking slot in the old town. I set my blue parking card to 7pm and we walk across the bridge to the old city center. In the middle of the river Ebro we see this monument:

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Franco has erected it to commemorate his victory of 1938 – over the republicans, and the Catalans had supported the republicans. 70’000 soldiers were killed here. A sad memory.

We stroll along the narrow streets…

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… and then walk around the fortress hill, and walk and walk and walk, until we finally reach the gate. This is the fortress which is now a parador…

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… with the view of the gothic cathedral (closed after seven pm and uncompleted, as many such churches are here).

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This is the view of the mountains, just after the rain.

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Lesson learned: Blue zone in Spain is not equal to blue zone in Switzerland

Coming back to our car we find a fine of 40 Euros. Hm. Pretty expensive. Only later we understand that in Spain, blue zone means that you have to buy a ticket and place it under the front window. This is different from Switzerland or Germany where “blue zone” means “set your blue card to “show your time of arrival” and get back in one and a half hours”. Okay, the fine is, what we call “Lehrgeld”, meaning “paying for a lesson learned”.

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Dinner at the Petit Normand back in l’Hospitalet

We return to l’Hospitalet shortly after 9pm which is still early for Spaniards to have dinner. The “Olla” on Via Augusta 40 has changed its name to “Le Petit Normand”. I have a delicious rabbit with a glass of Granatxa from Montsant and Ursula enjoys duck. Excellent place. The owner is from the Normandie and has lived here for twelve years.

Another beautiful sightseeing day to remember îs ending.