The writer Italo Calvino once said “Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” Something similar is experienced when watching the Albufera.
The placid waters of the lake and the Natural Park that surrounds it reflect the traditions that remain so vivid that it can seem as though your journey is actually a trip in time. A journey to the history of those early fishermen and farmers who we no longer are, but of whom we still carry a little something inside.
In addition to the spectacular natural setting, the park covers some 21,000 hectares and is the nesting place to species such as herons and teals. Forming part of the fixed landscape of the Albufera are some traditional “barracas”, typical Valencian constructions, and the fishermen carrying out their work around the lake. Retaining the many customs of the past, they go fishing in their albuferencs with lateen sails, shallow draft and flat bottom boats, since the lake in some areas is less than two meters deep.
Between October and March, to catch the species that migrate out to sea and on the east side of the lake, redolins fishing takes place on pitches with a fixed draft net and a system of traps; fisherman work in shifts that are established by an annual lottery. The other way of fishing, which takes places throughout the lake, is involant fishing, using a rod or line and traps.
An inseparable part of this landscape of the Albufera are the wide expanses of rice paddies that populate it. Valencia is the cradle of rice cultivation in Spain, which was introduced by the Arabs in the eighth century. The best way to cultivate the cereal was constantly sought over the centuries, with the conclusion arrived at that natural wetlands were the most appropriate for it. Thus, during the nineteenth century rice cultivation expanded in the lagoon, and the surface area of the lake decreased considerably.
Just ten minutes from the city centre, the best sunsets in the city are to be found at these rice paddies, as well as many other marks that agriculture has left in this land. The Albufera is one of the best places to discover the true identity of Valencia, either aboard an albuferenc or enjoying a traditional paella in El Palmar, the recipe of which also originates near these waters.