Last weekend I went to Barcelona and stayed with a friend from University of Delaware (Hannah). Hannah has been there for the last two years and is teaching English. Luckily she was nice enough to let me stay in her place and show me around.
Currently, there is a lot of tension between Barcelona and the rest of Spain. Barcelona is in the region of Cataluna and Cataluna wants independence from Spain. At one point in the past, they were their own separate entity, but so was every city in Italy and you don’t see them pushing for independence. Granted, there’s a deep underlying reason which stems from cultural and economic reasons. You won’t find and Spanish flags around the city or even Spanish for that matter; they speak Catalan, which is a different language than Spanish. There is also a huge rivalry with Madrid in terms of cities and football teams. It seems like every person has a preference on what city they like better; it’s always one or the other, but never both. For me, saying one city is better than the other is to not enjoy their differences. They are both incredible and amazing cities, with different things to do and see.
I spent two full days in Barcelona and in the two days I saw and did a lot; I visited the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Hospital de Sant Pau, Monjuic Castle (kinda), the magic fountains; walked through the Gothic quarter, walked along the beach, and of course to partied.
Friday: On Friday I did a tour of the Sagrada Familia at 10, then toured the Hospital de Sant Pau and then toured Park Guell at 2:30. After, I met Hannah for lunch then took a short nap; I met with her again around 7:30 and then we went to Castle Montjuic, walked through the gardens, saw the magic fountains, ate dinner and went out.
Gaudi is synonymous with Barcelona and his influence is everywhere; a visit to Barcelona isn’t complete without seeing the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Gaudi’s architectural style is influenced by nature and religion. The Sagrada Famlia is his most famous building and a testament to his architectural style. It was started in 1882 and has been under construction ever since. It is currently only 65% complete, but by 2026 they plan to have it finished to mark the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Sadly Gaudi died after getting hit by a tram, he was alone and poor, practically homeless. On the outside, the Sagrada Familia is a very interesting building; it’s a mixture of different building material and colored stone; as time and construction progressed new methods and means were used. To Gauidi this was okay, because each period would add to it in the style specific to that period, while still following the original plan; the facade acts like a window into the past. This unique aspect of the building has also drawn criticism from many, claiming they are using materials and doing things Gaudi wouldn’t have done.
Prior to going, I have of course seen photos of the church and what it looks like on the outside, but I never really saw any of the inside. Even if I did, I don’t think they could have prepared me for it. The inside is astonishing, stunning, breathtakingly beautiful and unlike any other church I’ve seen or in the world.
It’s like walking through a forest of stone and that was exactly Gaudi’s intention; the columns were built to mimic trees and the ceiling the palms. The interior space is huge and open; on each side of the nave are beautiful stain glass windows. I did a tour that lasted about 50 min and afterwards I went up to the nativity tour, which gave amazing views of the surrounding area.
Park Guell is another brainchild of Gaudi. It is located in the northern part of the city. Construction of the park begain in the early 1900s and was meant to be an estate for well-off families. However the exclusive nature of the estate and the lack of proper transport made the project unviable and in 1914 work was halted; 8 years later it was acquired by the city and turned into a public park. The park is beautiful, within are gingerbread-like houses, nature-like arches and colonnades and an amazing view of the city. It is wonderfully whimsical and an artistically beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Hospital San Pau
Hospital San Pau is about a 10 min walk from the Sagrada Familia. It was built between 1902 and 1930 by Lluis Domenech i Montanerand and is a masterpiece of Catalan Modernisme; it is basically a city within a city. It was built with its own urban layout with the intention of construction 48 pavilions (buildings), but in the end only 12 were built. Symmetry is the common denominator; the pavilions are arranged the same from east to west and north to south; each one is isolated, but they are all linked by underground passageways. The pavilions are beautiful. Red brick was used as the primary construction materials, the roofs are covered with Spanish clay tiles in a variety of color and placed in different patters; there are also ventilation shafts on the roofs that are hidden by glazed ceramic or decorated stone; the domes are covered with scales in different colors, placed in decorative patterns. It reminded me of the church in Budapest with its beautifully decorated roof. Each buildings also has a variety of sculptures and reliefs. Integrated throughout the site are gardens that were meant to create a cheerful and optimistic atmosphere for the patients. It’s a shame hospitals aren’t like this today.
Saturday: On Saturday we woke up late after being out all night. We had breakfast/lunch at this really interesting healthy restaurant; the kind of place you’d find in Brooklyn. After lunch Hannah showed me around the Gothic quarter (the downtown area of Barcelona). It is the oldest part of the city with narrow winding streets. We went to the cathedral, but didn’t go inside; stopped at Placa Real, which was a really old and cool looking Plaza (also the spot where we went out on Friday). We walked to the port and along the beach and then to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. Santa Maria del Mar is a gorgeous Gothic Cathedral that was built in the 1300’s. Aside from being awesome, one of the most amazing aspects of the cathedral is that it was built in only 55 years. This is during a time when church’s took more than a century to complete.
Later that night, the Championship game for the European Cup was being played and Barcelona was playing in it; it was a big deal. We went to some park in some part of Barcelona to watch the game on a “big” screen. What they call a big screen really wasn’t big at all for the amount of people there watching it. In the game Barcelona took an early lead, in like the first 5 min and then not much happened afterwards for some time. However, the whole time people were chanting and singing. Every once in a while someone would start a song about how Real Madrid sucks, even though they weren’t playing Madrid.
Then catastrophe struck.
On the screen a 2 min count-down timer appeared, it would shut off in 2 min unless someone did something. But for someone reason nobody did, everyone was watching the timer hoping it would go away, but it didn’t. As it got closer. people started yelling and screaming louder. the timer was still going, 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and the screen shut off; the people went crazy. It was off for about 5 min. When it turned back on, they were showing the replay of the goal scored by the Italian team, the game was tied and people were even more upset. For me it was funny. Later on Barcelona scored again and everybody went crazy. In the end Barcelona won 2-1. After the game we went to la Rambla to celebrate with the rest of the city. There were thousands of people chanting, yelling, climbing on things and lighting flares; it was wild. Overall my experience couldn’t have been better, I was fortunate enough to stay with a friend, I saw everyone I wanted to and Barcelona won, which for me didn’t really matter, but it made everyone else happier.