There was no warning sign just how deeply I was going to fall in love before I set foot on the beach-lined North Spanish gem of A Coruňa (Gallego), or La Coruňa as it is known in Spanish. I am not a lover of cities by any means, but the ‘City of Glass’ is poles apart from any other city I have set foot on. My (travelling) bones were letting me know at that moment that I was going to be in for a treat!
With its many medieval structures and countless heritage sites, the city's architectural charisma made up of a mix of glass and concrete as well as its instantaneous magnetism enthralled me from the start. I cannot decide whether the moment of falling in love struck me while walking down Avenida da Marina, marveling over the glistening white glass-enclosed balconies, called Galerias, which tower over the city or the excitement of visiting the centuries-old Greco-Roman Tower of Hercules.
The history of the 55-meter high ‘Herculean’ tower is equally imposing as the 57-meter rocky hill it is poised on. Caius Servius Lupus from Portugal was the first architect of the tower, which he dedicated to Mars, the Roman god. The tower was abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire, but in1789, Eustaquio Giannini reconstructed and transformed the tower into its current neo-classical style. Today, it is the only Roman lighthouse still in use and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009.
The tower is proudly guarded by one of Galicia’s medieval heroes, Breogan, the founding father of the Galician Celtic nation, who some believe ordered the tower to be built for his sons so that they could have the green shores of Ireland in view. I did not test whether Ireland could indeed be seen from there.
A different legend has it that the mighty Hercules, son of Zeus, killed Gerylon, with an arrow dipped in the blood of Hydra, a snake-like monster. He then buried Gerylon’s head and ordered a city to be built upon the grave. No matter which version of the tale you want to believe, the mythological or the medieval legend, a visit to the tower is the highlight of a visit to A Coruňa.
The steep walk to the top is lined with benches, lawns and a park filled with imposing sculptures depicting Greek mythology and Celtic history. The skill of bagpipe musicians entertains thousands of visitors making their trip to the top.
My favorite sculpture, the bronze Caronte (Queronte) by Ramon Conde, has a predominantly masculine face and a body with woman features. He symbolises the mystical boatman from Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, Kharon, the Ferryman of the Dead, ferried the souls of the dead across the Acheron to Hades. It was custom to place a coin in the mouth of the deceased and send them down the river with the help of the ferryman.
Panoramic views of the ocean and the city await you at the top of your ascent where the museum is located. It reminded me of the beautiful views from the Cape Point Lighthouse in South Africa. Looking down from the top of the tower you can also see a gigantic compass rose by Correa Corredoira, a Spanish painter, which represents the different Celtic countries, of which Spain was one.
A stroll down the Avenida takes you to the Plaza de Maria Pita, one of many plazas in Coruna, with the impressive Town Hall as the focal point and the statue of Maria Pita guarding it. Maria Mayor Fernandez de Camara Pita, or Maria Pita as she is known, was a courageous woman. She was regarded as one of Galicia’s greatest heroines when she incited a counter-attack between the Coruňan forces and the British Armada of St Francis Drake by killing an English soldier.
A Coruňa is a city infused with legend and mysticism, but with 21st-century architecture and charisma. As we walked down the Paseo Maritimo promenade, the longest of its kind in Europe, the beauty of this glass city captivated my soul in absolute marvel.
I've always been a fan of Julius Caesar. For one, we were born on the same day, but when I learnt that it was all because of him that La Coruna, or Brigantium as it was called in 62B.C, became one of the grandiose cities of the Western Roman Empire, I knew why I fell head over heels in love with this wonderful city.
When I left the city behind, the words of Toni Morrison came to mind: “When we fall in love with a city it is forever. As though there never was a time when we didn’t love it.”
|COAT OF ARMS A CORUNA|
|KING CARLOS III (1716 - 1788)|
|THE MIGHTY HERCULES|
|THE WALK TO THE TOP|
|THE COMPASS ROSE|
|AND I WAS THERE|
|THE TOWN HALL|
|AVENIDA DE MARINA|
|Paseo Maritimo promenade|