Text & Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
At last, after another long day of riding I have eventually arrived at my final destination. I am entering Barcelona on the Carrer de la Flor de la Lliri (or street of the lily), the main road from the kingdom of France to the capital of Catalonia. It is mayhem in the noisy streets. Drunk sailors just off the ship seem to enjoy themselves very much as they are following the statues at street corners leading to brothels. In a narrow side street, one of them has just inadvertently avoided a bucket of excrements been thrown out of a window. The offending smell merges with other filthy smells that are just an insult to my nostrils. The sailor stops in front of a red door where the street number is slightly bigger than others, signalling the location of the house of joy. The chaos in the street suddenly seems to organise itself as the crowd is pushing towards an intersection. I inquire about the reason for the excitement: “It’s the shame parade of a few thieves who are humiliated on their way to jail. We are going to have some fun!”
Tired and hungry, I decide to skip on the show to check in the hotel of the lily flower, the best in town. There, I sit at a table, order the house wine and inquire about what there is to eat.
“Pork, pork or pork my lord, which one would you like?” says a beautiful young waitress with a grin.
“Hmm, what a choice! How come?” I ask with irony.
“It’s dangerous to not be a good catholic these days, my lord. King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille have unified their provinces to make one country. They want to unite Spain, and they start by the religion. They are hunting down Jews and Muslims. If there is a doubt that you are not a good catholic they will take you to the Santa Caterina Convent to question you!”
“I haven’t done anything, what can they question me about?”
“It does not matter my lord, if you are taken you are guilty, and you’d better tell them of what! If you don’t find a good reason you will be tortured… They will cover your feet in oil and burn your soles until your bones are exposed. They will hang you by your wrists tied behind your back. They will suffocate you with water. Be aware of the inquisition my lord!” she concludes as a warning.
“Then please bring me a double ration of pork, I’m starving and want to stay out of troubles!”
My cute waitress is fast to come back with a generous plate, as she delicately puts it in front of me she whispers in my ear: “Whatever you do tonight, don’t sleep in your bed!” Puzzled, I look at her as she hastily leaves to attend other tables. Talking to a few guys at the table next to me, I learn that people staying in the most expensive room tend to disappear, leaving no trace. After the meal with particularly tasty pork sausages, I find myself in the room, the most expensive room, and I sit down on the bed. As I am about to lay down, I remember the smile of the waitress and the fright in her voice as she warned me. Against the will of every single muscle in my body after so many days riding, I reluctantly choose for the floor and fall asleep soundly.
A loud noise wakes me up. Half asleep, I try to assess what is going on. My bed seems to be folded. The door opens slowly and a shadow slips into the room motioning towards what would have been left of me had I not listened to the waitress. Suddenly, I understand. I take my dagger out to neutralise the thief.
“It turned out that the thief was the owner of this inn. He had been robbing and killing his guests and got executed for that. As the bodies have never been found, one can only wonder why these pork sausages were so tasty…” concludes our passionate guide. Standing in the narrow medieval street, in front of the building in which this scary story took place, I shiver and wonder what the next story of this thrilling walking tour of Barcelona will be…
- The inquisition in Spain started in 1478 and lasted for 350 years, being responsible for 3000 to 5000 casualties.
- This story is inspired by the Runner Bean dark past night walking tour where many more legends and interesting facts are shared.
- To learn more about Barcelona, join Runner Bean Tours, a family business that pioneered free walking tours and also offers private tour guides in Barcelona. With many large tour operators copying the concept, make sure you go to this high-quality locally-operated business with passionate guides with excellent English.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.
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