Barcelona September 2007
Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen. Its hard to catch on camera the lively atmosphere of this city, where people can be seen in the streets, and interact in a friendly manner. Its mostly the architecture which is easy to capture (if you want more pictures, or higher resolution pictures, let me know. We have about 250 4M-pixel pictures). However, you get a feeling of a city full of life, and many small details indicate that the municipality takes good care of the people (for example - free bicycles for the residets).
Barcelona is part of Catalunia: they are Catalunians first and foremost (Catalan is the official language), and most feel some affiliation of Spain. English is not generally spoken.
We stayed near the Gothic quarter, close to the Palau de la Musica
which was unfortunately under renovation. We did however take a tour inside - a must!
We took a guided tour of the old city, and were introduced to some unexpected delights: for example, a house used as a periscope (look at the top part - the sea can be seen, and this from a completely enclosed court!).
The most famous architect of Barcelona is Gaudi (emphasis on the last syllable!). Among his creations: Casa Mila - a huge estate now owned by a bank
but you can take a tour inside: the most spectacular are the skylights and passages. You can also visit some of the rooms.
The roof is also magnificent: the crazy sculptures are air-vents and, as is common in Gaudi's work, there is not a single straight line...
Then there is Guell (pronounced Goo-way) park, which was intended to be an exclusive residential area, but that part of the project did not succeed. It is nonetheless a beautiful park. The supports for the roads seem to be part of the rock, and provide large open areas which seem to be just nature.
There are Gaudi - designed public buildings
and the popular design of the time - with broken pieces of ceramics.
The lizard serves also as an outlet in case of overflow of water, but became a trademark of Gaudi.
and here is another fountain (featuring me!)
Then there is Gaudi's last piece of work - The Sagrada Familia. It was to be a monumental church, with its largest spire rising to 170 meters. Gaudi finished part of it, including most of the front
Some of his plans were lost in a fire. The hope is to complete this by 2023: at this point, another architect is working on the back side, which is cubist and uses a later idea of cavities
Finally (not in order) there is the "apple of contention" - three houses on one block, the first designed by Gaudi
and to its left a building designed by Montaner
Montaner was another famous architect of the same era. (His student Faladach build the third house on that block.) Another famous building by Montaner is the Hospital de la Pau.
Part of our visit coincided with the main festival of Barcelona (although they seem to have quite a few of them...) - La Merce, in honor of their patron saint. One tradition is to hold a parade of Giants.
and, unlike other places, such parades are not separated by fences and police -
people mingle with Giants. Another parade is of Dragons and other beasts - which are created and operated by local communities, including a band which marches before each dragon.
During the festival there was a display of fireworks, as well as of water at one of the fountains.
This was coordinated with music, which my camera could not catch...
Another tradition is a sport which is practiced only in Catalunia - towers of people. They actually have teams and compete. There are three types: a tower has only one person at the bottom:
although it is allowed to support from the sides. This one is 4 stories high (you don't see the bottom guy), and they even manage 5 stories. The second kind - "Castle" is limited to about 8 people at the bottom, and again you find two stories of "supporters". The three teams below compete (although I am told one is really better than the rest). The rules are complicated but the guy below the top can crouch, and the top person needs to climb over that person and raise the right arm, before construction is "complete". There are also points for going down safely... The teams below manage 8 stories: one attempted 9 but failed. It is interesting that the current record is 9 stories, while the record of 100 years ago is 10...
The third kind has a very wide base - we haven't seen one of those.
We went to the Caixa museum (A Caixa is a privetly owned bank. In Catalunia such banks are subject to special regulation - they must put a certain percentage of their profit into public services - such as museums).
For the olimpics, Barcelona constructed Poble Espangiol
a vilage respresenting the architecture and lifestyle throughout Spain. It was so popular that it was kept running. Some of the houses were turned into shops and restaurants.