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Gandesa

   
   - darkometer rating: 4 -
  
The capital of the Terra Alta region in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain. This provincial town was in the heartland of the Battle of the Ebro. It was captured early by the Nationalists and held against Republican counter-attacks until their final retreat. Today the town features one of the museums about the Spanish Civil War that is amongst the best adapted to international visitors in this region, thus making it a good starting point for explorations on this subject.     
More background info: See under Spanish Civil War in general and under Ebro in particular.
   
Gandesa was involved twice during that conflict, initially in the First Battle of Gandesa in April 1938, when Franco's Nationalists managed to take control of the town, defeating one of the International Brigades, and dug in. Then from July to November the Republicans tried to recapture the area around Gandesa but ultimately failed, ending in their retreat on 10 November.
  
In 1999 the Centre for the Study of the Battle of the Ebro, abbreviated CeBe (for 'Centre d'Estudis de la Batalla de l'Ebre ') opened its museum to visitors. It is run independently from (but in co-operation with) the Consorci Memorial dels Espais de la Batalla de l'Ebre. This makes Gandesa an important stop on any Spanish Civil War themed tour of the region.
   
Today's Gandesa is a small provincial town, with barely 4000 inhabitants, but is an important centre for wine production in this area. And good wine it is! Especially the white Grenache!
  
  
What there is to see: The main reason for a dark tourist to come to Gandesa is its CeBe (see above) with its Historical Museum of the Spanish Civil War.
  
This is one of the larger museums on the topic in the region, and it is well suited as a general introductory stop on any extensive Spanish Civil War themed tour of the region. Not only is most of its exhibition in four languages (Catalan, Spanish, English and French), it also covers more than just the Battle of the Ebro. The English translations are not perfect but overall sufficiently clear.
  
The exhibition is subdivided into various sections. One is about the museum building itself (a former school), as well as others in the town. Another is centred on a large interactive installation with a map of the region, where touchscreens can be used to play video footage (in Catalan and Spanish only). Other audiovisual elements include projections of videos of interviews with surviving eyewitnesses.
  
Of course there is also a large collection of artefacts, including the usual displays of pieces of shrapnel, rusty grenades, shells and bombs, medals, uniforms and boots, rolls of barbed wire, rifles, pistols and machine guns, as well as personal items and old letters, printed pamphlets and newspapers, plus model planes and an installation of a field hospital tent. The latter is complemented by a collection of medical artefacts.
  
In addition to the objects text-and-photo panels focus on personal aspects – of the ordinary people caught up in the war and what it meant for their lives during and after the conflict.
  
A rather remarkably unexpected object, I thought, is a stone slab with a carved relief of Benito Mussolini on it, which apparently was found in a farmhouse in Gandesa.
  
A room for temporary exhibitions (a collection of old photos, when I was there in April 2015) also doubles up as the museum's cinema room, where yet more film material can be screened.
  
Back outside, a couple of memorials can be seen, including one with a stylized hand grenade and a German stone marker in memory of a shot-down pilot who, according to the stone, “died for a Free Spain” ('starb den Fliegertod für ein freies Spanien'). This was obviously left behind by the Nazi supporters of Spain's fascists (who wanted anything but a genuinely “free Spain”).
  
On the western edge of Gandesa you can see a farmhouse wall still showing pockmarks from salvoes of heavy machine-gun fire (see the photo in the Ebro gallery).
  
  
Location: in the heart of the Terra Alta region, Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain, about three miles (4.5 km) south-west of Corbera d'Ebre, ca. 15 miles (24 km) south of Flix and about a hundred miles (160 km) west of Barcelona. The CeBe Museum is on 5, Avinguda de Catalunya, the main road into town from the north, not far from the wine co-operative and the heart of the old town centre.
  
Google Maps locators:
  
CeBe Museum: [41.0546, 0.4392]
  
Pockmarked farmhouse: [41.0543, 0.4338]
  
Co-operative wine cellar building: [41.0549, 0.4402]
  
  
Access and costs: easy to get to, if only by car; not expensive.
  
Details: Gandesa is on the main N-420 road between Móra d'Ebre and Aragon, and thus easy enough to reach by car. In theory you can also get a train to the former and then regional buses for onward travel, but it's a hassle and if you want to explore the area in more depth and also see the more rural points of interest in the Ebro, then you'll need your own means of transport anyway. So I'd recommend coming by (hire) car.
  
CeBe Museum opening times: Thursday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4 to 6:30 p.m., Wednesdays only open in the afternoon, and on Sundays only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., closed Mondays and also Tuesdays in winter. Somewhat longer hours in summer and over Easter (but always that long lunch break!).
Admission: 3 EUR (in 2015)
  
Accommodation options within Gandesa include a few private rooms and one decent enough and reasonably priced motel-like hotel on the northern edge of the town, but within easy walking distance of the museum and the wine co-operative.
  
Eating-out options are a bit limited, but I found a very decent little restaurant in a side street (Ctra. de Vilalba) that served a tasty three-course set meal to go with the excellent local wines – the waitress even spoke a little English.
  
  
Time required: between one and two hours altogether.
   
   
Combinations with other dark destinations: See under Ebro.
      
The closest town of major interest with regard to the Battle of the Ebro is Corbera d'Ebre just a few miles up the road. But other relevant sites in the region, such as Batea or La Fatarella, are also only a short drive away.
  
  
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Gandesa's main (and only major) architectural attraction is its local co-operative wine cellar building. It is one of the so-called “wine cathedrals” of Catalonia and indeed a remarkable building. It was designed in the “Modernisme” style by one of Antoni Gaudi's associates, Cèsar Martell. You can only peek inside, but the main attraction is the outside façade anyway. Definitely worth a look. The wines made here are available in the co-operative's shop just to the north and are well worth a try! I found the whites from this region the best I had in all of Spain!
  
The only other mildly remarkable architectural item in Gandesa is the church Iglesia de la Asuncion with its Romanesque arch above its door. Otherwise the town is comparatively bland. But quite pleasant in a sleepy provincial kind of way.
   
See also under Ebro for the region around Gandesa.
  
  
 
  • CeBe 01 - museum buildingCeBe 01 - museum building
  • CeBe 02 - entranceCeBe 02 - entrance
  • CeBe 03 - guns and GuernicaCeBe 03 - guns and Guernica
  • CeBe 04 - big bombCeBe 04 - big bomb
  • CeBe 05 - displaysCeBe 05 - displays
  • CeBe 06 - personal effectsCeBe 06 - personal effects
  • CeBe 07 - bulldog gunCeBe 07 - bulldog gun
  • CeBe 08 - big shellsCeBe 08 - big shells
  • CeBe 09 - pins and medalsCeBe 09 - pins and medals
  • CeBe 10 - and a vinyl recordCeBe 10 - and a vinyl record
  • CeBe 11 - field hospital tentCeBe 11 - field hospital tent
  • CeBe 11 - medical kitCeBe 11 - medical kit
  • CeBe 12 - barbed wire rollCeBe 12 - barbed wire roll
  • CeBe 13 - Mussolini reliefCeBe 13 - Mussolini relief
  • CeBe 14 - exhibitionCeBe 14 - exhibition
  • CeBe 15 - some interactive elementCeBe 15 - some interactive element
  • CeBe 16 - screening roomCeBe 16 - screening room
  • CeBe 17 - difficult to read plaque outsideCeBe 17 - difficult to read plaque outside
  • Gandesa 1 - hand grenade monumentGandesa 1 - hand grenade monument
  • Gandesa 2 - German tombstoneGandesa 2 - German tombstone
  • Gandesa 3 - co-operativeGandesa 3 - co-operative
  • Gandesa 4 - historic wineryGandesa 4 - historic winery
  • Gandesa 5 - historic plaqueGandesa 5 - historic plaque
  • Gandesa 6 - modern wine-makingGandesa 6 - modern wine-making
  • Gandesa 7 - one of the productsGandesa 7 - one of the products
  • Gandesa 8 - spooky graffitiGandesa 8 - spooky graffiti
  • Gandesa 9 - there is no stopping those shittersGandesa 9 - there is no stopping those shitters
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
 

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