The Sparrows of Valencia’s Port

One of the Port’s most famous buildings has equally famous annual visitors

VALENTINA OROS – Levante-EMV August 2020 ( Link to Original Text )

There are certain things that forever represent Valencia in the eyes of those who have visited it: the perfumed air from the orange trees’ flowers, the bats, the Quart and Serrano towers… But there’s a few, subtler ones, that might escape your notice. Like, for example, the sparrows.

There’s a legend regarding Jaume I, the militant king who conquered the territory after seven centuries of muslim reign, that talks about him and his armies camping in Burriana before marching towards Valencia. A sparrow, upon seeing the king’s tent, built its nest on the most colourful side. The king, who loved animals, gave an order to keep the tent there until the sparrow had gone away for the winter. The bird flew circles around the king’s crown in thanks. Sparrows still thank us to this day, gobbling up all sorts of flies and mosquitoes around their nesting areas.

One of their preferred nesting areas is none other than the Clock Building from the Port of Valencia. It’s a perfect marriage: the living legend within the centenary structure, mythology integrated with reality. Of course, there’s plenty of differences between today and Jaume I’s times, but the sparrows endure, returning even after the building’s last renovation. A return that the Valencian Port Authority (APV in its native language) has done its best to encourage by installing an innovative cleaning system. This consists of a series of aluminium trays placed beneath the nests, to ease both their construction and the cleaning of the building’s façades.

In my native Romania, there’s a saying that sparrows bring good luck wherever they nest. It’s a simple contract: good luck in exchange for letting the birds build their nests near your home. A constract that the APV has signed gladly with the Clock Building’s sparrows and that seems to reap benefits already. Even with the coronavirus crisis, the Port of Valencia has recently been qualified as “Europe’s most transparent port” in an independent study by Arup, the international consulting company. This study also offers a prosperous and hopeful overview of the port’s current activity. So much so, we could say that its status is looking more and more like the one it had after Jaume I’s military campaign.

I also quite enjoy the APV’s hospitality from my immigrant point of view. I have also arrived from far away and built a nest in Valencia for quite some time. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to it one spring, like a sparrow to the port.