Emerald fields followed by ascetic dunes, strange, for a city dweller’s eye, birds rising sharply from the reed, lone little houses and snail shells crunching under your feet… When you find yourself in the National Park of Delta del Ebro you may suddenly feel for a split second that you are on another continent…
From the geographic point of view, the feeling is, of course, misleading. We are on the border of Catalonia and Valencia, at the mouth of the river Ebro. Dnipro of Spain originates in Cantabria, crosses on its way Castilla y Leon, La Rioja, Navarre, Aragon, and finally flows into the Mediterranean sea near Tarragona. The size of the Delta of the country’s most full-bodied river is spectacular 320 square kilometers. The past of these places is no less amazing. In the III century AD a battle between the Carthaginians and Romans took place here ending in the victory for Rome, and in 1938, Ebro saw how nationalists who supported Francisco Franco defeated the combined forces of the Republicans. One of the key battles that brought the future dictator to power went down in history as the Battle of Ebro. Today, however, nothing in the Delta of this majestic river would remind you of those bloody events of the past: this picturesque Cape by the Mediterranean Sea in which the mouth of Ebro is embedded breathes with tranquility and peace.
Delta del Ebro has a status of National Park. If the word “Park” prompts your imagination to paint trees, squirrels and verdure shelter from heat be prepared for a big surprise, you are up for an encounter with dry dunes to start with and then with soaking fields later. Newly arrived visitors are met with dragonflies, small but very bright, mostly of two colours, red and yellow, just like the flags of Catalonia and Spain. These magnificent insects with transparent wings have a rather mystical name of espantadimonis which in Catalan means ‘those who scare away demons.’ Here they swing on almost every stalk and every blade of grass. Their population does not seem to be affected even by the presence of predators of their own kin: large blue dragonflies fly seemingly out of nowhere, like real fighters jets, grab yet another red or yellow victim and carry it away in an unknown direction.
The topography of Delta del Ebro presents no surprises: it’s a wide plain with no hills and no slopes even, huge chunks of which are designated for… rice fields! Yes, you’ve heard it right. People tend to think that rice is mainly grown in Asia, however, Catalonia and Valencia also have the technology of cultivating this cereal. Rice fields are flooded with water, and the green stems protruding above the surface in July have an incredible light-green-emerald hue. The best way to see all this for yourself is to to climb a bike: the cars may become incapable of dealing with local roads at some stage, while to fully explore the Park on foot may be too much of a physical challenge due to its sheer size.
A walk in Delta del Ebro will be a particular delight for bird lovers. Abundantly rich flora and fauna are considered to be one of the main advantages of the area. Local thickets are home to over 300 different species of birds, including eagles, herons, kingfishers and Royal duck. You can observe them by climbing special observation decks — wooden “paraderas” — that are scattered throughout the Park. If you’re lucky, you might even see local flamingos, not pink though, but snow-white, due to the fact that their diet does not include shrimp that otherwise provides that pigment.
Once you have experienced the fields you may feel like a rest and a substantial snack. Both can be reached in a small town under the inventive name of Deltebre. There, on the coast of the Ebro, near a Bridge of Girona, a rather nice and modern structure with a pedestrian path and benches, you will find a leisure area with wooden tables at which anyone is welcome. Having looked around, you are likely to be surprised: this is not your typical Mediterranean settlement, with its palm-trees, sand or roundstone beaches and bays. And not even your typical Catalan village lost somewhere in the mountains. Deltebre with its 20 thousand residents certainly looks more like your typical Russian riverside town than anything else. That impression, most likely, is induced by the landscapes and the scents…
How to get there:
The distance between Barcelona and Delta del Ebro is about 165 kilometers. The fastest way to get there is by car, along the routes C32 and AP-7, which will take you approximately two hours. You can also get to the Park by public transport. The most practical way is to do the following: at Barcelona-Sants take a train that heads to Tortosa, get off just a little before the final stop at Lampolla-El Perello-Deltebre station, and start the walk from the town of Lampolla on bicycles that you can rent there.
What to take with you:
The Park is enormous, and mostly wild, so be sure to bring drinking water with you. A picnic basket full of goodies would also be most useful. During summer, bring sunscreen and do not forget to apply it. Another important accessory is a good camera. There really is something to shoot here: from the spectacularly colorful dragonflies and birds to the creeks and the rice fields.
What to do:
Few tourists walk, or drive past Casa de Fusta. An isle of civilization in the heart of Delta del Ebro has its own restaurant, ornithological museum, go-karting and a poultry farm. It owes its name to a wooden house, built in the 1920-ies by local hunters. This green building looks like half the houses in Moscow county, but for the locals it is a treasured antiquity.
If you would like to see the beauty of Delta del Ebro with your very own eyes Your Сity Magazine recommends to talk to Trescant Travel Agency www.trescant.cat who have been our guide in this and many other unforgettable trips throughout Catalonia.