A brief account of Catalonia’s capital city
Without any doubt one of Europe’s most enchanting cities, I immediately took a liking to Barcelona as I hear all travellers do. There is much to see and do within, from the world famous art museums (Picasso’s for instance) to perhaps watching the city’s football team (which one could argue are the best club in the world at present) play at Camp Neu, the second largest football stadium worldwide. A great deal of famous people have made their name from this city, the artists for example such as Gaudi, who designed many of Barcelona’s buildings, most iconic of all being La Sagrada Familia. If I ever had the opportunity, let me just say now, I would definitely live in Barcelona, I can picture a nice flat in an old building, nestled within the intriguing little streets that contain art galleries, coffee shops, book stores – it is a very bohemian setting, which suits me entirely.
I spent a lovely day in the city with a group of Catalans (including the best barber I’ve ever had – Enrique) whereupon they took me to see all the sights. To begin with, ‘La Sagrada Familia’ or ‘The Sacred Family’ cathedral was our first destination after arriving in the city via train from Figueres to Barcelona. I would describe the cathedral as a true ‘icon of the Hispanic world’. Its sheer enormity, awe and architectural brilliance make it so, thus enabling its comparison with places like Machu Pichu in Peru as sites of globally renowned splendor within the Spanish speaking world. This is the capital of Catalonia, yet Barcelona has a greater attachment it seems to the outer world, a portal connecting the millions of tourists, immigrants and native citizens by its allure, a city rich in culture, prosperity and good lifestyle.
I felt a strange yet warming inner feeling when inside La Sagrada Familia; it was as if I had entered the heart of ‘el mundo Latino’. Much renovation is being currently undertaken upon the cathedral, the outer towers are being expanded, yet the inside is truly humbling, one of the most impressive feats of architecture ever accomplished in the history of mankind. The Picasso museum we also visited, certainly a fascinating place, however for me it was more the location that appealed. Located within the central part of the city, this is where you will find all those intriguing little streets complete with the bohemian atmosphere, the mixed ethnicities of Catalans to Americans, Latinos to Asians, Africans to Spaniards, even Liverpudlians to Middle Easterners, all of whom hustle and bustle within, for their many different reasons. From the Peruvian immigrant working as a bar waiter to the outrageously appalling ‘shouldn’t be allowed to travel’ Brits abroad (the unsightly ginger bearded Englishman and his stag do mates drunk and dancing up on strangers in transvestite outfits were the only spoilers of the day) all pound the lovely cobbled streets of this wonderful part de la cuidad.
The Catalan flag hangs proudly from many terraces; balconies and rooftops yet interestingly alongside those too from Cuba, Mexico and Argentina I recall, showcasing the cities growing Latino presence. ‘La Rambla’ and the grand ‘Plaza de Catalunya’ (every Catalan town and city seems to have one of the latter though) are both combined with the grand cathedral, they’re places that symbolize Barcelona the same as Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly do for London. I thoroughly enjoyed La Rambla, a huge walking zone that stretches roughly from the statue of Christopher Columbus (identical in its image to Nelson’s column) to the Plaza de Catalunya. The carefully planted and well matured trees grant a peaceful shade over the Rambla, as one strolls pleasantly past the many stalls, street vendors, theatres and famous attractions situated all around. It is overrun of course with tourists, yet comes without the ‘violent’ rat race onslaught, which so ruins London to make my last comparison with the English capital. I must also mention that the vast majority of streets are clean, well looked after and efficiently attended too, making a visit to Barcelona all the more enjoyable, as filthy streets do few favours for people. It cannot be compared with other Mediterranean cities therefore such as Athens, my proud birthplace yet unfortunately not the healthiest of metropolises.
To make conclusion of my memorable occasions within Barcelona, I shall describe it as a place that begs for revisit upon revisit, as mentioned I would indeed not pass up the opportunity of residing there for an indefinite spell. However, as is the norm within this world of ours, the only factor determining all that is dear old money…which one painfully needs in Barcelona I'm afraid to say. Perhaps that is one of the few obvious negatives to the city alongside what could be a potentially difficult to fathom metro system for tourists, I found the underground rather complicated personally. I do hope for another trip to this splendid city, I have no idea when and at what time the next possibility may arise, yet Christopher Columbus beckons me from his tower top as I picture myself standing below gazing up in the direction of the Americas as the stone sculptured, long gone sailor points toward the city’s port, an historic point of departure…
July 14, 2015