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Familiar


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The most familiar place for me in the city of Valencia, where my stay counts a bit more than a month, is walking through or crossing the Turia. The folowing text is a combination of three different people and discussions: two discussions in time with my supervisor, with Petrina and the receptionist.

I went to Turia the first day of my arrival with my supervisor. He loves to introduce it to strangers, and that was a part of the first walk he chose for me. Our walk started with the phrase: “Vamos al Rio” and as the words provoked, I excpected to visit a river indeed.

A map of el Rio, partly made playing with my friend Nikoleta that visited me last week and we walked it from the top to the bottom in once.

His favorite part of this walk is when the stranger realizes that the river has no water flowing. Some characteristics of it though reveal that it is a river: it is below the surface of the city ,wide but mostly long. Its length counts almost 9km and cuts across the city from the westest to the eastest part. Moreover, there are old constructions made of stone vertically placed in the park that were meant to hinter water’s force. Finally, there are plenty of brigdes, old and modern ones to pass from the one side to the other.

It is that moment of having a specific subject back in my mind, when my senses get sensitive on noticing or hearing for it. Then I entered a building for a completely different reason, and behind the receptionist was this map. Even if it is extremely possible an old map of Valencia to decorate a building in this city, it could also be not. I discussed with the receptionist for the river and I got allowed to take a photo of the map.

It was in the 1957 when it was decided that the river should no longer cross the city. The reason was a flood when hundrends of people died. Though, it was not the first time that the river Turia overflowed. The city was expanding in such a way through the centuries that it was evoking the proper’s river flow. As a result the water remembered its previous path and overflowed against human cosntructions. It was in the ’60s when a barrier as constructed to send the river’s stream in the south “guerta” of Valencia. Then a problem occured and variable of solutions were suggested. What will happen with the river bed? Some suggested that it could be a highway. Some others that it could be a park. Both of the options were designed and with effort the citizens of Valencia managed to be a park crossing the city.

Plans of both ideas.
The film “The boy who stole a million” by Charles Crichton was filmed in Valencia between 1957 and 1960. The river -almost without water in some parts- is captured in this film.

The fact that there are certain entrances to the river and that you change level from the rest of the city makes a special sense of this long park.

The levels with a doorway in between.

Even if it is not a river anymore, valencians keep calling it “el Rio”. I suppose they are entering a river indeed but with a subtle difference; the water is replaced by people flowing. Running, bicycling walking, dancing or staying still, having lunch , a nap or simply a quite moment. There are also different thematic parks or sport centres inside the river. Walking the river from the top to the bottom, we passed through so many different situations that riverpeople, that this walk was so stanning as if and we have been travellers through time.

Changing level

4 Comments

  1. Paliatsios Georgios

    It seems difficult trying to feel familiar a place that you just experienced for the very last weeks. I can understand it as the most familiar between the “unfamiliars” surrounding you. It makes me wonder what is really familiar and what is not. Do we create the familiarity if we accept an environment or a situation as familiar, even if we have to do it? How did you felt it? Anyway, I needed more the stimulation of my senses through your descriptions, to feel what you felt and I steel desperately need a copy of that collage map you have created!

    1. Argyro Daskalaki

      Georgios, I was wondering on familiarity and unfamiliarity resonating to your questions on this assignment. How do we create the difference between them? Since a period of time has passed and Valencia has become more familiar than it was, I could reflect-reply better to your questions. I understood that I felt familiar when I stop chosing different roads for my destination, but I had instictly chosen one path that I “knew”. “Knew” means more that I wasn’t really looking what was around me because I was used to it, and had seen it before for many times. Now I understand that the focus of this assignment was to turn such a familiar place to an unfamiliar one and re-see it. You are so true, it was really difficult to feel familiar then, and reflect my feelings more than some ideas on this assignment.(When it comes to the collage-map, you will have one soon!)

  2. Hydar Dewachi

    Thanks @daskalakiero for taking us to the river.

    Is walking the invisible – or what’s no longer there – like time-travel? If you close your eyes and wide open your ears, do you still hear the river underneath your feet?

    I very much liked the collage map, what a clever way to explore an area – much more fun than just dropping pins and saving favourites in Google map – as I would normally do.

    While I loved the idea of tracing the invisible river, my challenge here is that I found this post more of a historic guide than an ethnographical exploration. I see that you summarised the information you got out of the conversation into list of facts, but I would’ve liked it to be more raw conversation to get a sense of the person(s) you spoke to. I would also liked to get more sense of the people in the area and an observations of the flow of people, cars, bicycles, etc. What I didn’t get from the post is the here and now.

    1. Argyro Daskalaki

      Thanks Mr Hydar and I apologize for this late reply, I had read the comment but needed to take time to reflect on it. Actually this metaphor of the river’s existance was the one that amazed me the most with it. The main idea in my mind was that the river’s water nowmore is the people-liquid-based passing but truely I worked on it more historically than ethnographically. That became clearest in my mind after reading the article for positionality. What I understood, according to this assignment, is that I chose the information from the people that narrated the history of the river but displaced the stories of the people narrating on it in a more raw way, that would let me reflect my own position in a less “obectivly-suited-way”.
      When it comes to the map, I am really happy that inspired you, for me it was a way to initiate my visitor into what I was working on these days in a playful way.

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