Thursday, September 21, 2006

Barcelona Part I

We flew RyanAir again out of Milan and ended up at another airfield in the middle of nowhere, over 90 kilometers from the Barcelona city center. Because we arrived at night, the bus trip didn’t give us much a view of the countryside, but about two hours later we pulled into the city. As soon as I started walking to the hostel I had a good feeling about Barcelona. I had heard good things – it’s many travelers’ favorite city – so my expectations were once again high. This time, the city didn’t disappoint.

Our first order of business the next day was to check out La Sagrada Familia, an “interesting” bit of architecture and probably Barcelona’s best-known landmark. In essence nothing more than a church, it is Gaudi’s most famous building in a city full of famous Gaudi buildings. And though it was started over 100 years ago, it is still actively under construction. You won’t be able to grasp the scale or detail of this structure without seeing it person – it’s unlike anything you’ll ever see elsewhere. Two guidebooks call it a once-before-you-die experience. When it first came into to view, about the only thing I could say was, “what the fuck?” It seriously looks like something out of a cartoon.

The front facade of La Sagrada Familia is over 100 years old.

The rear facade is equally "interesting".

I don’t quite know how else to describe it. Gaudi pulled his influence from nature, and many of the themes are present all over the building. There are baskets of fruit atop various spires, a tree with doves in it atop another, and what looks like “snow” draped over many of the edges. Inside, the entire space is meant to look as though it sits under a canopy of trees, and quite frankly it does.

A concrete canopy of trees.

Because it’s still under construction, they have several, very technical displays set up explaining how the various features are designed and constructed. Given my limited background in math and engineering, I was able to wrap my head around most of it, but some of it also slid over. I think any architecture student would have loved it the way my brother loves Star Trek conventions. Definitely see it if you ever get a chance.

Gaudi’ed out for the day, we next headed down to Las Ramblas, which is basically just a massive street market. It’s like the Taste of Chicago, but every day and without the delicious pizza and ice cream. Instead, they sell pretty much anything you could ever want here: live turtles, chinchillas, roosters, chickens, iguanas, flowers, plants, all sorts of fresh fruits, fish, and meats, clothes, and jewelry.

YUM! Whole dead pigs!

A food market off Las Ramblas.

There are also scam street artists everywhere and kiosks for at least a mile. I was “lucky” enough to be called out to participate in one street performer’s act where he pretended to put a lit cigarette out in a rolled up handful of my t-shirt. When he pulled the cigarette out, it was extinguished, but there was no mark on my shirt. Everyone laughed. I looked like a jackass because I couldn’t figure out how he did it. Those people make me angry. I refuse to post the picture of it here.

We also went out later that night, first to a bar and then to a club. Red bull and vodkas were E9 and I thought it would be awesome to drink several. It was. I met some people from Brighton, England, and, just playin’ around because I was bored, said I had been there (I obviously haven’t). When they asked what I was doing there, I mentioned I was passing through on my way to another city. But unbeknownst to me, Brighton is on the southern coast of England, and it is completely out of the way from everything else. There’s no reason anyone would ever pass through there while moving on to another city. So I kinda got called out. Oops. But they all kinda sucked at life and I’ll never see them again anyway. Awesome.

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