Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain with a population
of around three million, and the capital of the region Catalunya, as written in Catalan.
During the Franco regime regional languages such as Catalan were forbidden, which is perhaps
partly the reason that the language is now used more widely than Castellano (the standard
Spanish spoken in
in the region, as the people try to maintain their culture. There are some movements for
independence in Catalunya, as is the case in a number of Spanish regions, in particular Páis Vasco.
Barcelona is one of my favourite places in Spain, the feel of the city appeals to me and there is
plenty to do. The bus tour of the city cannot possibly be done in just one day as there is just too
much to take in. One of the main tourist attractions is the collective works of Antoní Gaudi, scattered
about the city. He was one of the most original architects the world has seen, and nobody has
since been able to imitate his work effectively.
This was a temporary exhibit in the Plaza del Rey about
the work Gaudi has done, what with 2002 being the 150th anniversary of his birth. Here
his name is inscribed in neon across the Museu Frederic Mares in the Barrio Gótico.
Right around the corner from the Gaudi exhibition in the photo above is the
cathedral, central to the Barrio Gótico. Parts of it are modern reconstructions of the
original from the 14th century, other parts are from the 15th century too.
Barrio Gótico is full of lots of little lanes and alleys
like this one, with high buildings on either side, they are quite enclosed. It's
interesting to wander round and explore them, you never know what you might find...
Barcelona as viewed from the cable car up to the summit
of Mont Juïc. Outside of the old city the map resembles a chess board with countless
blocks all the same size and orientation. In the distance the spires of La Sagrada Familia
can be seen, along with the mountains which surround the city.
This funny little lizard beastie adorns surprisingly
many postcards in the city, and seems to be quite iconic of Gaudi. He sits in Parc Güell
and is nicknamed El Drac (the Dragon), and I had to wait for a very long time to take a picture of him
without some clown sitting astride his girth and having their own picture taken.
One of the little houses in Parc Güell designed by Gaudi, this is one of the houses
flanking the entrance to the park. A similar one on the opposite side of the gate contains
a gift shop. The roof is very typical of Gaudi, he never liked to use straight lines as he
said they didn't occur in nature.
The main entrance to Parc Güell is evidently a popular
place for newlyweds to have their picture taken, and it seems to be perpetually busy
with tourists. A lot of Gaudi's work is contained within the park, and one of his former
houses is located inside too.
Another of Gaudi's creations, Casa Batlló was perhaps
my favourite, it looks like it might have been made out of bones from a woolly mammoth or
other such long-extinct creature.
Gaudi's unfinished life work is the Church of the Holy
Family, or La Sagrada Familia. He took over the design and building direction in 1884
after previous architects couldn't quite cut it. In his lifetime
he saw only the crypt and one of the nativity towers completed,
(the one on the left) as he was hit by a tram
in 1926. During the civil war almost all of Gaudi's plans and models were destroyed, which
is making it very difficult to continue construction as nobody else can recreate his ideas.
This view generally isn't printed on postcards, but most of the building is still
an active construction site. At my visit in 2002, it was projected to be
complete by 2021, however by 2015 this had pushed back well into the late 2020s. The
newer parts are made from reinforced concrete, not stone like the original sections which
has sparked criticism. However I will definitely be coming back when it's done as this
will indeed be the greatest basilica in the world.
eat your heart out...
Here is the latest hideous gargoyle to be added to the
church. I am standing in one of the little pod balconies
off the side of one of the Nativity towers. It was a lot of fun
scrambling around the narrow staircases up and down inside the building, and peering over
great drops to the ground.
We visited the Joan Miró foundation on Montjuïc, which is replete with great
examples of his colourful and often highly abstract works. One piece that really caught my eye was
this little fountain. On closer observation you can see that it is not water flowing
but pure mercury - note the metallic surface and splatters round the edge by the writing.
Las Ramblas is the primary pedestrian precinct through the old city, running
from Plaça Catalunya down to the statue of
at the port, it is where the action
is no matter what time of day. Full of street entertainers, stalls selling anything from
chocolate and churros to parrots and chickens (live, but I don't know what tourist would want to
buy a live chicken on holiday). During all my visits to Barcelona in the 2000s, I
stayed in hostels just off this street.