Swati – Barcelona, March 2018
They say a tourist finds only what he is looking for but a traveller sees it all!!
I went to Barcelona as a tourist with only Gaudi on my mind but found so much more. Chelsea football team wandering in my hotel lobby (thank god for their official dress that helped me identify who they were… I’m not a big football fan), a family fruit stall business operating since 1897, an Indian restaurant named Mahatma Gandhi (I always thought this name was only reserved for roads….across the globe restaurants are usually Taj Mahals, Indian tandoors or even Punjabi tadkas, but never a Gandhi!) , the beautiful street fountains and life (part of Europe where shops are open till 8 and people eat a late dinner and roam the streets no matter what day of the week) and more….my Indian self suddenly felt at home!
However when I did find Gaudi, I must say, I fell in love with it! I usually dig nature and not too many man made wonders make me go crazy…. not the Great Wall of China nor Stonehenge nor the Eiffel Tower did it for me but Gaudi’s work is just exceptional. I fail to understand how Sagrada Familia has not found its way into the 7 wonders of the world. The last time I was so awestruck by anything man made was the Taj Mahal!
There is something so modern yet traditional about the architecture in Barcelona. And Gaudi’s work screams balance – that’s it. I know architecture has a principle to balance but I haven’t seen such harmony and blend of abstract & real and old & new and science & art in one place and not looking awkward or misplaced. He has managed to create balance despite not much use of straight lines. All my friends who are engineers or physicists will enjoy it as much as architects or artists.
An Aerial view below of the beautiful Sagrada Familia …it’s a picture of a postcard which truly does justice to the scale-
The Sagrada Familia is under construction since 1882 and has taken longer than it took to construct the pyramids. I was reminded of something that I heard on the TV show, White Collar (guilty of binge watching some) – an artist and a con man are always working towards that one last perfect heist and so much so that it becomes an obsession not allowing a way out… I feel for Gaudi, because the Sagrada became just that. The last obsession that he kept adding to trying to achieve perfection! I just hope that one day this piece of perfection would be completed for the world to admire and I do hope it’s in my lifetime so that I could once again get the chance to admire this beautiful piece of art.
On the other hand the famous street La Rambla was a disappointment. I spent lots of time walking up and down trying to figure out what I missed. Truth is that the streets surrounding La Rambla with the hidden squares and the corner triangle built up plots (a symbol of Spain), roadside restaurants and the flower adorned streets, the ham shops and the architecture of the houses have so much more to offer. Also a secret- I found the side streets to be far safer than La Rambla, which truthfully seemed like a perfect spot for tourists to be mugged… I myself escaped a mugger by getting into a shop. If you do visit La Rambla, keep your eyes open.
Another interesting thing happened when at a square somewhere close to La Rambla I felt like I had been there before – a Deja vu moment. And then I realised that panama old town has the same feel and architecture and I was reminded of my time there. Panama was a Spanish colony in the 1800s. It’s so fascinating how the empires in those days carried their architecture with them and tried to create mini homes in their occupied countries. Strangely I don’t see much of British architecture in old towns in British occupied colonies, for them it was mostly about building parliaments and government buildings, but looks like the Spanish and Portuguese carried their homes with them :)))
The trip to the Mecca – the FCB stadium is a must for all the football fans. Despite not being a fan I was tempted by the atmosphere as Chelsea was playing them the day I was there. If I do have a next time I would check the schedule and try and catch a game just to participate in the pride that city feels when their team plays.
I spent a lot of time walking in the city and would recommend anyone visiting for the first time to do so. The Hop on Hop off is a good way to commute to tourist spots. Do remember to hop off at – Catalunya square, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Placa D’Espanya and Port Vell. Also in summer you could spend time at the beach and the beachside area. I encountered cold weather and thus preferred to be indoors sipping on sangria and enjoying warm tapas.
A city where I went as a tourist looking for Gaudi but the vibe and offerings of the city quickly transformed me to a traveller!!
Keep traveling and always keep your eyes open for surprises!!