13 March 2009


I arrived in this Spanish city on Wednesday around noon. I´ve been in luck with my hostels because they continue to offer free Internet access. Of course, I think you can understand if I would prefer to keep my time in front of the screen short in order to get outside and go exploring.

On my first day I walked around the center city area and along the beach. The city´s most famous street is the Las Ramblas, a curious collection of stands selling everything from chickens to cheap souvenirs set up on a wide median in the street. Throngs of people could be found on the street: locals walking to their destination, visitors gawking at the sights, merchants selling their goods, and others seeking money either through street-art or (likely fixed) games of chance.

Along the Las Ramblas is the St. Joseph´s Market, in which vendors sell a wide array of produce, meats, seafood, and other foods. Some of the more exotic items behind the glass counters were cow stomachs, pig legs from the knee down, sheep heads skinned but with eyes eerily still peering at customers, and various brains and hearts. Of course, other less "strange" food was available. There were several colorful fruit stands offering fresh juice, candy vendors with vast displays of chocolates and confections, and small stands that prepared delicious looking seafood dishes, some with crustaceans and mollusks that one couldn´t find on the menu of an American restaurant.

A stroll along the beach and harbor after the market provided fresh air and a calmer atmosphere.

Yesterday was spent admiring the architecture of Barcelona´s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. Throughout his career he was inspired by the organic forms he saw and admired in nature. He attempted to recreate these elements into his projects, for example, spirals like those on seashells. Undoubtedly his most famous work, and the internationally recognizable icon of Barcelona, was the Sagrada Familia. Construction on this Catholic church began in 1882 and continues to this day. Not mere cosmetic work remains though, the structure is only about 50% complete and Mass cannot even be held inside yet. Visitors to the construction site, perhaps one of the world´s most famous, can enter the church, but are separated from the areas where construction crews stay busy. If I remember correctly, eight of the towers are complete, but ten remain unfinished or not started. The church´s construction is paid for through private donations and, now, tourist entrance fees. Gaudí saw only an even smaller percentage of the chruch finished; he died an untimely death when struck by a streetcar in 1926. By the way, during the whole visit not a sign, pamphlet, or anyother source in the accompanying museum dared to project when construction on the Sagrada Familia would conclude.

Next I headed to a public park in Barcelona which Gaudí designed and intended to be a neighborhood. The neighborhood concept failed, but the architect´s unusually shaped structures remain. Visitors walk though, around, over, and under colorfully built forms that twist and turn in all directions. Unfortunately, much of the park was closed for renovations.

For the rest of today I will take my time to wander around more of the city. Tonight I will board an overnight train to Cordoba. I will remain there for a few days and take day trips to the nearby cities of Granada and Seville.


Anonymous said...

Oh no!!! So sad about Gaudi park... Did you at least get to see the bench? My favorite place.


Nick O. said...

Nata: Yes, that portion of the park was open. If it's the bench that you are talking about (a long one that curves around the entire viewing point over the city), then I can understand your liking for it.