Viva Barcelona - I am not the first one to cry so. But I am happy to join Barcelona lovers club, if there is one.
I visited Barcelona with my family (wife Rama and son Siddharth) and we fell in love with the city for multiple reasons – the atmosphere, space, variety, grid-based- architecture, bold-unique-modernistic public arts, multiple transport options, sun, sand and the sea.
Space: First thing that strikes any visitor, especially those from crowded cities like Bangalore and London, is the space. You feel relaxed and enjoy higher per capita air.
Order and Simplicity: There are only a handful of circles or round-abouts – so, less confusion. And to make matters further simple, there is only one diagonal road cutting across whole the city with motorway at one end and the sea at the other – aptly named, you guessed it right, “the diagonal”.
Sadly, all these order dissipate into a canvas of chaos when you see the city from either of the hills and from atop high raised structures. The sight reminds me of some areas of Bangalore with fewer trees.
Variety: Barcelona has a variety to give you. It is not just one city – it is a whole package deal. Two hills, warm beaches, take-life-easy type of metro, cycle friendly roads, many museums, gardens, environment friendly smart-trams, two cable cars, funicular rails, Olympic village with a surprisingly small stadium, impressive port of call for luxury cruise liners and so on.
Like in India, shops stay open longer – upto 10 or 11 PM. There are loads of huge shopping malls. And many small Bangalore-shop like outlets for small scale buyers. Pace of life seem to be slow, but, people talk so fast – makes you wonder why! May be they want to finish all possible conversations quickly so that they can get back to relaxing.
Art: Then there is art. I don’t mean the “gallery” type of arts. It is there in rich form too. But I am referring to public art. You know – buildings and metal or concrete thingummies that occupy intersection of major roads and square open spaces. I saw strange designs – tetris kind of objects, Olympic rings that seem to have buried half into the ground, humanoid metallic beast, Mobius strip kind of shapes that warp and bend effortlessly. And there are fountains – lots of them. That too in working order! Not like a few we have in Bangalore that works, well, on hard-to-guess schedules.
To me, the Barcelona public art and design looks like an “expression” of the city. It seems to say “Yes – I am young and modern. I am interesting and occasionally weird. I have it all. Love me for what I am.” One can see clash of cultures, mix of methods, controlled chaos in these works of art.
Tributes: The city pays tribute to its famous residents as artistically as possible through impressive museums, statues. Some of the famous residents include – ceramic and stain glass designer Antonio Gaudi whose creations are all over the place (La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia etc.), the great artist Pablo Picasso, one of the three tenors José Carreras, cellist Pablo Casals (listen to this impressive piece of music – Song of the birds), former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch (I was stunned to see the accolades he received as IOC president – now hosted in Olympic museum) and Barcelona Football club founder Joan Gamper.
Even few visitors are honoured. For example, there is a statue of Christopher Columbus on a tall column. Though he is pointing in the wrong direction of the “new world” – America, the lions at the base of his statue are proud nevertheless!
My vote for “My favourite city so far” still goes to London. But now – Barcelona is emerging as a serious challenger. I appreciate London for its leafy suburbs, culture and “predictable” metro. I almost went crazy as Barcelona metro didn’t tell me when is the next train due. May be I was looking at the wrong display or one must be a bit Spanish to ignore it.
Like life, everything was not hunky-dory during our visit. There seem to be innumerable places to eat and drink. But, vegetarians and vegans are likely to have a tough time. Our options were pastries, breads, buns, fruits and vegetables, edible cardboard (aka pizza), expensive Indian restaurants or potato based junk such as “Patatas Bravas” or “Fritas”. Confident vegetarians try vegetarian versions of Tapas and Paellas but vegans – beware. Overall, it is an expensive place. I was wondering at the price of ordinary things such as Patatas-Bravas (3 to 4.5€ per plate of 10-14 potato wedges). For a change, McDonalds felt cheaper than road-side shops!
Just before leaving, I couldn’t help noticing a sign of frustration of a Barcelonan with tourists!
Equating a tourist to a terrorist is a wee bit too much. But it is okay, we are thick skinned. I say, neat handwriting and a good choice of colours!
Few more Pictures
On Road and Off-Road beauty
Cute Cycles for hire
Long Walk to Freedom
Keep it straight son
Multi Road Intersection
Early 19th century road lamp
Olympic Ring based public art?
Son, Sun and Sand
Beach side piazza?
A part of 4 km beach
Sea for yourself
World Trade Centre
Especially expensive boats need covering up
Old Port - can you see my boat? It is the second one from left on the third row
Landmarks and Buildings:
Arc-de-Triumf - hardly crowded
Completing Gaudi’s unfinished project – Sagrada Familia
Europe’s Largest Football Stadium – FC Barcelona – can seat 100,000 people
Crucifixion – Sagrada Familia
Barcelona Olympic Gold Medal
Reverse Auto - you can hire it and drive it yourself
Are they AA Batteries or LR6?
Maroon colored building?
Cars “downloaded” and ready for delivery – is one car missing in the grid?
Snow Peaked Mountain close to Barcelona?
No leaves, only fruits
Amma Tower, Paapa Tower and the yellow post box
Where is the God in this mess?
Reference to Bangalore:
A road in Malleswaram?
A new layout in Bangalore?