Traveling back in time is easier than it seems. Hop on a regional train (Rodalies de Catalunya) to Vic from Barcelona´s Estacio Sants and in less than two hours you´d know exactly what I mean.
Vic, a small medieval town and the capital of the comarca of Osona, lies 70 kilometers north of Barcelona – but it feels like centuries apart. The town is literally crammed with the remnants of long-forgotten past: roman temple, gothic cathedral and baroque churches, ruins of ancient castles scattered here and there. The earliest mention of the settlement on the site dates back to the Roman era – the Romans named the city Ausa, and later the Visigoths changed it to Ausona. Hundreds years later, Vic suffered numerous attacks from the Islamic forces, and by the 8th century the city was almost completely destroyed. The only remaining quarter, Vicus Ausonensis (vicus is Latin for city borough; hence the current name) was repopulated by the count of Barcelona, Wilfred the Hairy, in 878.
Vic starts with the city’s main square Plaça Major – this is where festivities, funfairs and markets take place. Arguably the best of these celebrations is Mercat Medieval de Vic. Held annually in the early December, the market gathers together artisans, craftsmen, and local producers; and at the same time commemorates the medieval spirit of the city. Plaça Major is easily recognized by medieval porticos and bright-painted ornate façades. Most of the buildings belong to the Baroque and Neo-Renaissance styles; the Town Hall, however, is a fine example of the 14th century Gothic.
The Roman temple is the oldest preserved building in Vic – it is still argued which God was cherished within its walls, and the date of its construction is also unknown. The temple somehow survived the Islamic attacks, and in the 9th century Wilfred the Hairy annexed it to his castle – the latter was to become a residence of one of the most influential Catalan dynasties, the Montcada family. Later, in the 16th century the castle was used as a prison, then – as a granary, and finally in the 19th century, when half of it already lay in ruins, the City Council ordered the demolition of the remains. At this point the Temple – or whatever was left of it – was discovered. During the restoration in the 20th century, pieces and stones from the original structure were used; the Montcada castle was never rebuilt, and only some walls can be traced nowadays.
The most emblematic building in Vic is the Catedral de Sant Pere de Vic – which has been the seat of the Diocese of Vic since the 6th century. Although, when the foundation was laid in the 11th century, it was a Romanesque church, over the years the Cathedral was redesigned several times, and many of the elements are reminiscent of other styles, like its Gothic cloister, and Baroque chapels. The episcopal museum, located nearby, holds the collection of artifacts and frescoes which were previously found in the Cathedral itself – and were transferred to the museum during one of the latest renovations.
Outside Catalonia Vic is mostly famous for fuet de Vic – a thin cured dry sausage made of pork meat. Osona is in fact one of Catalonia’s leading producers of pork derivatives; and restaurants in the area offer a great deal of pork dishes. At the same time, particularly in Vic you would find a lot of eateries with simple market fare. Mushrooms, if they are in season, are really good, and used to accompany meat, in rice dishes or soups; fish is scarce but bacalao (salt cod), on the other hand, is rather popular; and aside from pork, numerous places have duck and lamb on the menu.