Barcelona



Modernist Stained glass at Sagrada Familia

Main Altar Sagrada Familia

Gigantic columns supporting the tall ceiling of Sagrada Familia

As one approaches Barcelona from air, it is apparent that it is a special place. The turquoise blue water of the Mediterranean Sea splash over the long golden beaches of Catalonia. Immediately there are short hills and one can see a train line snaking along the coast.  It looks like as if one is looking at the Island of Sodor from the Thomas Engine animation series. 
Underground Roman ruins of Barcelona on display at MUHBA
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain. But it wants more. It rivals Madrid in the quantum of art, culture and social milieu on offer. Socially it is a more easy going place and identifies itself far more with continental Europe than traditional Spanish attitudes. It is the capital of the Catalonia region where there has been significant demands for independence from Spain, of late. This is reflected all over Barcelona and not so subtly. So the signs, announcements, and official communications are in Catalan first and then in Spanish and occasionally in English or French. One can spot the Catalan flag over official buildings and at other places. The unofficial flag of independent Catalonia is also conspicuously present although less so. The yellow ribbon signifying the demand for independence, is worn by quite a large number of people and a naive person is often tempted to ask what it means. The people are more than friendly. Wherever one goes, the people are eager to strike conversations. Even when they can't speak English. They would often identify themselves as Catalan rather than as Spanish. And they are a chatty lot. Once they start talking there's no going back. Several people including some immigrants from Morocco unabashedly said they would prefer independence.
The massive imposing interiors of La Catedral

Roof Top view of Barcelona against the spires of La Catedral
The Central Dome of the Liceu Theatre
Barcelona is city with eclectic sights. Since it has been inhabited since Roman times the layers of historical buildings are unparalleled. Almost every major square has sights which will delight any connoisseur of architecture. But the crowning glory goes to the structures built by Antoni Gaudi. His primary works are in this city. And even a casual visitor is not unimpressed by the sheer imaginative scale of his varied works. It would take several days to see all of Gaudi's works but I include three in my itinerary: La Padrera (of Casa Mila); Sagrada Familia (the unfinished church) and the Park Guell. All require patience, energy and determination to appreciate the finer details. There are long queues and I thank my foresight in booking online tickets beforehand. The guided visits are very elaborate and highly recommended otherwise one is likely to miss the details. However, even without the guides the structures are awe inspiring in their imagination, scale and some might say absurdity! One can appreciate the permissive social environment of the city of the late nineteenth century which allowed Gaudi to carry on with his works which were ahead of its times by atleast half a century. The primary thing that one learns is to utilise nature and her techniques in the art and design. And yes, it does inspire one's inherent nascent artist!
The Hall of Mirrors at Liceu Theatre
Exhibit at Museu Picasso
Arguably, the heart of Barcelona is the La Rambla strip. It is a pedestrianised cobble stoned road that has major tourist attractions on its way. It inches its way from the Mirador de Colom on the piers to Placa de Catalunya, a bustling square. On it and beside it, there are bars, restaurants, performers, flea markets and a huge holiday crowd out on a stroll.  The May sun shines brightly and there is a cheerful holiday mood all around. Underneath this, several metro lines criss cross it and there are multiple stations less than a kilometre apart. 
I take the Liceu station to explore this. It is in front of the imposing building of the Grand Theatre of Liceu, the second largest Opera in Europe. It conducts an hour long tour of the Theatre when the performances or rehearsals are not on. The massive stalls in red livery, which seat nearly 2500 people, looks very grand. The technical details of the stage and lighting and its accompanying orchestra beat me but there is no denying that it is indeed a magnificent institution. The host in his talk goes to great lengths to say that this theatre was built by the people, the bourgeoisie, of this rapidly booming city in the 19th century. He emphasises how it was a people's opera and not of the elite. It also includes a stunning hall of mirrors which is used for social function connected with the performances.
The forest like innards of Casa Mila (La Padrera)
The annexe of Casa Mila inspired from the caterpillar

Nearby is the humdrum of Mercat de la Bouqueria, a vegetable and provisions market giving one a slice of the everyday life of the Barcelonians. A variety of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish are on display and one is tempted to buy! We buy strawberries and bananas.
There are a plethora of museums, churches, art galleries, markets and sights within a 15 minute radius of the Liceu. Primary among them are the MUHBA (Museu d'Historia de Barcelona); La Catedral de Barcelona; Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar and the Museu Picasso. The MUHBA provides one opportunity to walk among the underground Roman ruins and gawk at their complexities. La Catedral is an imposing basilica. One should climb its roof to have panoramic and windy view of the city. Even for a philistine like me, Museu Picasso provides an overview of the master's works and his techniques. Interspersed within these are several buildings built in the Gothic and Neo Gothic style. The array of narrow cobble-stoned roads which leads from La Rambla to Placa de St Jaume are full of shops which sell a variety of memorabilia. There are coffee shops, bakeries, and bars. Indeed one can spend a week here and not repeat a street full of wonders. Over three days we must have crossed this area at least a dozen times and scarcely did we walk on the same street or see the same shops! 

Comments

pallavi_13 said…
Nice one...one can get a view before visiting or making plan.
Mrigank said…
Your description fills awe and wonder in the eyes of reader...
You should attempt a novel with a nourishing theme or even a compilation of your own blogs...
Really happy to read your expression and use of diction everytime...
Great going
Anonymous said…
Very nice...it's tempting to visit Barcelona or at least read about it...
ED said…
This is wonderful!
It was nice to read about the place,culture and people.
Would like to read more👍
Keep sharing
effervescence said…
Excellent... Pics along with the writeup says a lot
Shashank said…
Excellent presentation. Outstanding pictures

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