For over 700 years, the art of redoli or cala has been passed down through generations of fishermen of La Albufera, Valencia, and this traditional fishing technique is still used today in the wetland. In 1250, King Jaime I granted the original fishing rights in the area, laying the foundations for a local activity and tradition which continues today with the Comunidad de Pescadores - the now centuries-old Community of Fishermen of El Palmar. Generations and generations of local residents have set out daily in the same kind of vessel their ancestors used: small boats without motors that are propelled using poles to push off from the lake floor. The boats are loaded with traditional nets, the mornells or volantas, mounted on hoops and placed under the water. Using this trap-like device the fishermen catch sea bass, llisa (grey mullet) and the famous eels that are taken directly to be sold at the fish market at El Palmar.
Discovering the secrets of the local fishing tradition, handed down through the generations, is an ideal way to soak up the history and nature of the area. And it's easy to do as some of the local fishermen perform demonstrations between October and February, as well as relating anecdotes and talking about life in the wetland. And this traditional and cultural experience is set off perfectly by the beautiful lagoon scenery which can be explored in typical local boats. The nine kilometres of La Albufera give plenty of opportunity to spot wildfowl including herons, egrets and ducks, and to look for fish such as the rare samaruc - the Valencian toothcarp - an endangered native species. Jaime I established a royal game park here, but he was not the only one to be impressed by the fauna and flora of the lake. Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon, was taken by the beauty of the local scenery and bestowed the title of Duke of Albufera on Marshal Suchet.
The name Albufera is Arabic for "little sea". The landscape here has changed over the centuries and today part of the marshland has been given over to rice production, another of the area's traditional activities. After taking a trip on the lake, you should visit the island of El Palmar, with its vast rice paddies, where you can admire some of the old thatched houses that are still standing and visit the workshop of a calafateador - the caulker, a craftsman of the traditional boats. The beaches, restaurants and buildings of the village of El Saler offer the opportunity to explore a world immortalised in Blasco Ibanez' novel Cañas y barro.
There are many perfect views of the area, but none can quite compare to dusk, when the sun slips away casting rosy reflections across the lake, with the typical boats - the small albuferencs, and the larger catarrogines - motionless on the calm waters, separated from the sea by a belt of dunes and pine trees. The lake and locality are a small oasis of tradition just 11 kilometres from the modern city of Valencia.
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