Barcelona, Spain

April 8-13, 2000

All the good places to stay are booked... a sign that the tourist season is starting up. I crash for a night at the only place I can find and spend the next day looking for another cheap sleep (the place I was at only had that one night available and was expensive anyhow).

After checking five hostals and pensions, I found one in a great location. I also picked up another camera since the one my mom gave me died on top of a gusty mountain top in Southern Spain while barely in view of the snowcapped Sierra Nevadas and the sea on the other horizon.

There´s a decent deal for slide processing, so I drop off three rolls of film. It´s a 1 hour shop, but slides are sent out and take 3 days.

It´s rainy, but I head out to explore. Barcelona is the most beautiful big city I have ever been. (Sorry Mrs. Throndson, it beats Seville in my book). Still the all time best is Brugge, Belgium. When I´m done (or toured enough) to have a top 10 list, I´ll definitely share it with you and Cosmo, GQ or Playboy magazine for the 10 Most Romantic places in Europe.

Anyway, "Paco," (remember the Canadian guy I traveled with in Cadíz and Morocco?), wanted to come to Barcelona to see the Gaudí buildings. He didn´t have time though to catch the West African surf and more of Spain, so he made me promise to see them for him. They are also listed in the Weird Europe book my brother got me for Christmas.

I became quiet fascinated with his works too. Imagine the buildings and landscapes of Dalí paintings... the churches of Dr. Seus and an apartment appropriate for Willy Wonka and you´ve got Antoní Gaudí!

They have just discovered the mathematics behind the angled and spiraled structures in some of his buildings on the computer; however, Gaudí had his own way of designing things: with string and upside down.

He´d make the structure from cardboard, and strings would represent the structure, making a chandelere type design, with tower tips at the lowest point. Then he´d put a mirror below all this and see the structure of his building, each string that was higher (or lower for the building) had more stress than the ones it would support. Genius!

Perhaps the most genius of Gaudí though is that he´s so different, he´s inspiring. He designed a park, two churches, some homes, a cultural center, a school and a factory around here with spiraling chimneys and curves that make the Smurf´s trippy mushroom homes look like square boxes.

At the new place I´m staying at, there´s people coming to me for a travel partner for hours. I go off with a guy from Argentina (my Spanish may actually be better than his English!) and then later some Dutch guys. I come back a little earlier while they stay at a bar and a fellow asks me the time. He was a Moroccan guy who, but looking at his teeth, had too much sugar in his mint tea. He then puts his feet next to mine and tries to show me some sort of fancy dance step. His hand slips into my front pocket (where my wallet is), so I grab his wrist and give it a hard twist. He backs off as if to say, "calm down, I´m just showing you a dance step."

Now for me, no one, even if you are showing me a dance step, is allowed to put their hand in my pockets and feel around. Well, ok, maybe some people are, but that´s only if we´ve been dating for awhile.

He tries to show me ´the step´ again, this time with one leg in front of mine and two of his fingers in the pocket. I bend them back, smile at him and wave good bye. He runs away, probably to find a more drunken tourist to dance with.

Despite that, this place feels pretty safe, but the police do get 100 reports of missing wallets daily.

There´s a cathedral near my hotel which is enchanting. A central court yard with white swans, a gentle flowing fountain and some candles set the stage easily for a religious experience. A piece of bread gets me a good picture of the quakers, then I find a quiet spot, pull out the book I´m reading (The Dharma Bums) and must look as though wrapped up in scripture to the passing tourists.

The next day is time to go. I have some stuff to mail back to the states, including the new picture slides once I pick them up. It´s raining (the whole time here has been rainy, but today it´s really soggy).

They aren´t in. They´ll be in at 7pm the next day. I have no hotel. My mood is not good.

I go to the post office to mail back what I have anyway and they don´t take it. The box needs to be wrapped in nice paper and tied with string the postmaster says. A book shop across the street does this for me for 250 pesetas and I´m back.

"¿Cuanto dias?" I ask. "¿Dias?! ¡Mas! Dos o tres." He answers. So Mom, your Mother´s Day candy won´t make it home until two or three months.

I look for a room in the back streets. My plan, BTW, if I do not find a place was to take a train to Monserat and sleep in the wooded hills nere the monk´s old place, then return to Barcelona the next day.

I found a room in Barcelona... and the next day is great! It´s not raining and I take a great walk past the marinas, up a hill for a view of the city, then back down, read a bit in a small plaza, wander about and then spend a few hours in the Picasso museum.

It´s mostly paintings, but he did some pottery. It´s mostly some dishes with a smiley face in the middle and a few of them prove that not everything Picasso did would be considered masterpieces.

I´m pretty ignorant of art, I´ll admit. That´s not something to be proud of, but it´s not something to be ashamed of. That being said, I enjoyed the Barcelona stages of Picasso. It has his early days of study, when he was apparently a cocky lad and was upset that he couldn´t learn from any one else is his teens. His realistic works are great, but then you see his style develop to the famous bent noses and disaligned eyes that now decorate coffee houses worldwide.

The top floor (Suite 156) has his erotic tributes to Dega (another great). Sex and distance, the model, an exhibitionist and the artist, a voyeur where a gaze is the only action depicted. Dega did it better. Personally, I´m a Vincent van Gogh man, but Picasso is still a master.

This reminds me about the Barcelona Art School exhibit, which is fantastic. It´s great to see such talent existing today and you can talk to some of the artists there!

On the other hand, there is an experimental exhibit hall playing a video tape of a guy trying to make himself puke, which I really couldn´t see the artistic value of, but it got a grant.

Oh, I just got the slides. A role from Portugal, one from Morocco and another from Los Molinos. They look fantastic if I may say so myself, but I´ll tell you again, what do I know? I´m ignorant of art. :)

another's impressions

more impressions about Barcelona, this time from Christos Ioannou, a member of the BTCV/Sunseed/Los Molinos experience, who gave the OK to broadcast:

Hi Dan! ...Although this message may reach you post-Barcelona, it is worth telling you, just in case you are still there. Some of the imformation may be out of date as I went a couple of years ago, and is by no means a comprehensive tourist guide to the city.
The Gaudi apartment building is called La Pedreda and although the entire building is very impressive, the roof is the breathtaking centrepiece. Just below the roof is a museum which is definately worth seeing.
The Olympic village and Stadium are impressive if you have time to see them; the site is worth exploring. The Joan Miro Foundation is one of the best modern art galleries in Barcelona and contains a lot of work by Miro himself and others. Search out Alex Calder's Mercury Fountain and a piece by Liza Lou in the basement, called 'Back Yard' - it is a recreated back yard wrapped in shiny stuff. The gallery is excellent. Barcelona Stadium is the biggest in Europe and is overwhelming in size.
Gaudi's Park Guell is fantastic. It is a perfect combiation of nature, architecture and sculpture. Try and leave a good few hours to explore the large site; it is well worth it when you come across a hidden gate or sculpture. Museu Picasso is another great art gallery. It acts as a biography of his work, from beginning to end. Upstairs, when I went, was an large collection of Egon Schile's paintings which is very good, so check it out if you are in the gallery.
La Sagrada de Famillia is Gaudi's amazing unfinished cathedral, visible from most of the city. Spend a good while exploring the site and going up the towers for the best views of the city. The detail of the exterior can only be appreciated closely, even when you need to be at the top of a tower to see it at all. This is a must see. Have a great time in Barcelona - we certainly did.

Have fun, Christos

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