Saturday, June 07, 2014

Visiting the Arab Baths in Girona, Spain

When I was in Girona last year I didn’t get to visit the interior of churches, mostly because they were not open to the public at certain hours or they require an entrance fee. The latter turned me off. After all I have seen hundreds of churches in my lifetime without paying an entrance fee. The magnificent St. Peter’s Cathedral for example in the Vatican City is free to enter, that is if you managed to survive the long queue.

Nevertheless, I searched for other places of interests to see. Not a big fan of museums unless they are showcasing something interesting up my alley, I decided to settle for the Arab Baths. Looks quite promising to me as it is a historical piece of Girona, as well as I love architecture anyway.

Banys Arabs Girona
Website: Banys Arabs Girona 

The Arab Baths or locally called in Catalan, Banys Arabs are located at the back of St. Feliu Church and just around the corner of the Girona Cathedral.

These were public Roman Baths during the 12th century (circa 1194 to be exact) and were owned by the king back then. It follows some Roman, Greek and Arabic elegant architectural patterns. The Roman Baths here in Girona are one of the best preserved today and it’s great to see how a wellness and spa centre looked like before as well.

To read more about its history, please click the Banys Arabs link above.

It is also very interesting to learn that the idea of spa in the past is 4-step process or a 4-room visit that you must go through, at least at this Roman Bath site.

1) Apodyterium – this is the lounge and locker area where you prepare and come back later to relax
2) Frigidarium – then you start the bath by going through the cold room first
3) Tepidarium – afterwhich, you proceed to the warm room where you can get a massage as well
4) Caldarium – then lastly, you go to the steam room to sweat out everything

I do not think we adapt this step-method in our spa nowadays. Although in the north of Europe they have a different process where cooling off is instead done at the end of the ritual by jumping for example into a very cold lake or pool.

This is the apodyterium, the lobby lounge of the bath where everyone gathers to relax and socialise. It has a little pool in the middle fitted with columns and a cupola that supports day lighting. 

You can see the cupola above with windows that gives natural light to the room.

This is the tepidarium (left picture), the warm room. The caldarium (right picture) is the steam room which did not survive, there are only ruins left.

From the tepidarium there is a narrow terrace where you can catch a sight of the apodyterium cupola and columns.

And also catch a glimpse of the Girona Cathedral.

And catch a glimpse of the tower as well of the St. Feliu Church.

St. Feliu Church tower and the cupola of the Arab Baths apodyterium (lounge lobby).

Back in the lounge (apodyterium). The little pool is filled with coins, why am I not surprised? Humans have silly tendencies. Like throwing coins into a pool or fountain. Just imagine the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, how much the city has earned from the hundreds of coins thrown into it everyday. 

The columns on the cupola of the pool.

There is a little outdoor terrace nearby in front of the Sant Pere Galligans Archeaological Museum.

I remember this tree when I was young, we call them ipi-ipil or biyatilis. My neighbour playmate one time told me she eats them (when they are still green) so I did as well. Kids will try anything =)

Visit Period: November 2013
Destination: Girona (Girona), Spain

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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