"In Barcelona you will eat the best fish of the Mediterranean. Add to this the true art of preparing dishes, which I do not hesitate to call philosophic and Homeric." - Salvador Dali
04.07.2011 29 °C
With a population of approximately 3 million people, Barcelona is the most important city in Catalonia. It is also the administrative capital of Spain and the largest city on the Mediterranean Coast. In the early 1900’s the Nationalist party, led by General Franco, banned the Catalonian language. In 1975 Franco died and with the crowning of King Juan Carlos I, the Catalonian language and culture has been allowed to flourish again. The people in Barcelona are immensely proud of their Catalonian culture. Barcelona is also famous for being the host of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Montserrat Caballe, who famously sang the theme song of the '92 Olympics with Freddie Mercury, is from Barcelona. Barcelona is also the home town of the famous Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique and Pablo Picasso moved here when he was 14 years old.
"Barcelona - How can I forget, Barcelona - Such a beautiful horizon." - Montserrat Caballe & Freddie Mercury (Barcelona).
Las Ramblas is a very popular area of Barcelona. Las Ramblas is in fact a series of short streets with different names, hence the plural name of Las Ramblas. It is a 1.2km long stretch of tree-lined boulevard that stretches from the waterfront right to Plaça de Catalunya, which is the Catalonian Square. This street is the centre of activity in Barcelona. It is very crowded and a lot of people just walk up and down, eating ice-cream, watching the human statues and drinking sangria. In Spanish rambla refers to an intermittent stream of water flow.
“It is the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” - Federico García Lorca (Spanish poet).
1. Las Ramblas
At the beginning of Las Ramblas stands the Monumento a Colon. This is the Columbus Monument and stands at the place where Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from his voyage to the Americas. This was his most famous trip and the monument is a reminder that Columbus returned to Barcelona to report to Queen Isabella about his trip. The monument is a straight-up column of 60 metres with a decorated base of angels. Black lions flank the steps. A favourite photo moment seems to be to climb onto the lions. I almost tried to jump on a lion when no one was looking. In fear of flashing my bum or breaking my arm, I decided not to. The kid before me was crying so hard when his dad didn’t help him off and he had to jump off himself. Those lions are high. I suspect he may have broken something.
2. The Columbus Monument and Lion Climbers
But, I quickly passed all of this to make my way to the Sagrada Familia. As Antoni Gaudi is a famous architect from Barcelona and this is one of his most famous works, this is probably what you have to see when you go to Barcelona. The walk is quite far, but instead of taking the subway, I walk to the cathedral and enjoy the scenery. Barcelona is a big urban city with a lot of beautiful, old buildings. It reminds me a lot of Cape Town. The difference is that the roads are much wider, where Cape Town has a lot of narrow one-way streets. The result is that you get this open feeling even though you are in the center of a big city. It's still early in the morning and shopkeepers are setting up for the day. A man is repainting the door to his shop after graffiti artists / vandals used it as a canvas for their Spray Can Expressionism.
I finally reach the cathedral after a 45 minute walk. The cathedral was started in 1882 and even though Gaudi died in 1926, it still isn’t finished to this day. I find it so ugly that I don’t even want to stand in the queue that stretches around the block. Just because something is famous, doesn't mean that it needs to be admired by all. I start to make my way back to Las Ramblas.
3. Outside the cathedral
On the way back I walk past a little church. It is much smaller than the Gaudi cathedral, but it has a lot more charm. This is the church of San Francis of Sales. This is considered the masterwork of Juan Martorell Montells. He was Gaudi’s teacher and I am much more impressed by the master than the student. Yet again, a beautiful church that most tourists overlook. No entrance fee and no queue. Every time I am amazed how all these little churches on my trip brings me a sense of calm and how easily all the sound from the city outside is blocked out. All I'm hearing is the choir practicing in a room somewhere. No cars and no people. Just peace.
4. San Francis of Sales Church
On the next few blocks across I walk across the Plaça de Catalunya. This is generally considered to be the city centre and the place where old and new meet. Most of the important streets of Barcelona meet here. Here are some beautiful statues of women, which seems to have a Greek influence. They are surrounded by beautiful fountains. I stand around a little and watch the kids, including the little Messi, chase the dozens of pigeons that crowd the square. As this is the home of FC Barcelona, the red and blue colours of the team can be seen throughout the city.
5. Placa de Catalunya
6. Little Messi and his pigeons
The shopkeeper I passed earlier today is still painting his door. Graffiti is scribbled everywhere, even on statues and buildings that are supposed to be part of their heritage and history. I rightly believe in freedom of expression, but vandalising beautiful old buildings does put a frown on my face. Today at the Plaça de Catalunya, graffiti actually made me laugh a little when I saw one of the female statues received a black spray can full of hair on her nether regions.
6. Artistic expression about body hair?
7. La Deessa by Josep Clara
I buy Stracciatella gelato and indulge in the heavenly hazelnut flavours. While eating I notice a group of photographers surrounding a couple. They must be someone famous, but I had no idea who it was. Every move they make sends the paparazzi into a frenzy, so I also jump into the crowd and try and take my photo. The combination of ice-cream in the one hand, camera in the other, shortness and ten other photographers pushing me around, made my first and last paparazzi moment a bit hard.
8. Some famous couple with the demon human statue
9. Floating human statue
I walk down Las Ramblas and sit at the Columbus Monument, eat my ice-cream and soak up some Vitamin D. I reflect on the brilliance of Barcelona. There are still tourists here, but they seem less than in Italy and the Spaniards are friendlier by miles. For lunch I buy a Falafel Shawarma at a little place for 4euro.
With Shawarma in hand, I walk through the St. Josep La Boqueria, a fresh produce market place. A variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and smoothies can be purchased here. The colours of the fruits and vegetables are so vibrant that they look like fake plastic food.
10. St Josep La Boqueria and its bright food
I walk past H&M and have to pop into this massive 5 level store. The store is so crowded, with a million girls pushing each other out of the way and pulling clothes from racks like beasts. The reason: You can buy very cute dresses here from as little as 3euro. That is less than what my lunch cost! Exiting the store, it suddenly starts to rain. Totally unexpected to me, but the locals are ready and whip their umbrellas out. The good thing is that the rain leaves as quick as it came and clears up in less than 10 minutes.
11. Rainy Barcelona
By that time I was exhausted and the time had come to, unfortunately, head back to the shuttle bus and leave magnificent Barcelona behind.
12. Last walk down Las Ramblas
Next stop: Ibiza