125 Years In the Making and Still Not Complete

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
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Trip End Aug 21, 2011


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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Friday, November 12, 2010

Barcelona is a beautiful seaside city in the Catalonia region of Spain. It's the second most populous city in Spain (Madrid being the first), with about 1.6 million people.  Barcelona has been around, in one way or another, for probably over 2000 years, and today is a major economic and cultural center of Europe.  It is also significantly warmer than London, which is an added bonus.  Unfortunately (depending on what language you speak), Barcelona, as being part of the Catalonia region, officially speaks Catalan, not Spanish, and there is a lot of separatist drama surrounding the language barrier.  The Catalan folk could be a bit snooty (in the same kind of French Quebecois way) about their language, and, when asked a question in Spanish, you would receive an answer in Catalan.

After riding the train in from Sant Cugat, our first destination was La Rambla.  La Rambla is a long street that leads directly to the Mediterranean, and it is lined with an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, vendors, and street acts.  Namely, they have several pet stands set up along the way, which I thought was little cruel.  They also have those awful people who paint themselves one color and stand still or do something "entertaining" and you can take your picture with them if you give them some change.  If you could get past all the touristy tacky stuff, the street itself is quite beautiful.  It’s lined with intricately detailed buildings and monuments.

A little ways down La Rambla is an offshoot to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria which today is a market that sells just about anything you could want to eat.  Originating from 1217 as a meat market, you can now get fruit, candy, meat, souvenirs, and basically anything else.  They have a lot of seafood too, and, of course, it’s the kind that is still moving on ice when you buy it.

At the end of La Rambla is the Monument a Colom (in Catalan) or the Mirador de Colón (in Spanish) or the Columbus Monument (finally, in English) dedicated to none other than Christopher Columbus.  The monument lies where Columbus returned from his first journey to the Americas.  If you will recall from elementary school, Columbus initially wanted to circumnavigate the globe to Asia.  Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain thought that the prospects of a trade route with the East could be a very lucrative deal and funded Columbus’s travels to Asia.  Thus, the Santa Maria set sail to essentially change history forever, especially among the kingdoms of Europe.  The monument has reliefs on it that detail the first voyage, from meeting with Isabella and Ferdinand, to meeting the Indians for the first time.

Past the Columbus Monument is Rambla de Mar, a continuation of La Rambla that stretches out over the Mediterranean.  A shopping center than includes an IMAX and the Aquarium was built out on the port in the 1990’s and connected to mainland by La Rambla de Mar.  La Rambla de Mar is a nice work of modern engineering that allows pedestrians to cross over to the mall (Maremágnum) but also twists sideways to allow boats to enter and exit the port.

From here, we took the Metro inland to visit the Sagrada Família (officially Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Catalan, or Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, in English).  This is an enormous church with a lengthy construction history, and it is still not yet completed.  The architect behind the project is the famous Antoni Gaudí (who designed many other buildings and places that I will cover later).  The Sagrada Família is more than over-than-top in ambition.  The project started in 1883, but construction was interrupted by numerous delays (Spanish Civil War, lack of funds, and Gaudi’s own death in 1926 when he was hit by a train).  Construction is planned to be completed in 2026, but with over a hundred years in the making, we’ll see if that actually happens.  Once completed, the edifice will have 18 spires, rather than the 8 that are complete now, and upon completion will be the tallest church in the world.

The detail of the Sagrada Família is astounding.  Gaudi designed the every detail of the church to be symbolic.  The outside of the Sagrada Família has three different façades that are each symbolic: the Nativity Façade, Passion Façade, and Glory Façade.  The Nativity Façade was the first one completed in the 1920s.  The face of this side of the building details in statues the birth of Jesus.  It features the Tree of Life and other naturalistic themes. The Passion Façade is dedicated, of course, to the Passion of Christ.  It is carved very harshly and not colored in any fashion as compared to the Nativity Façade.  This face of the building is meant to display the sins of man and appear quite harsh, and it indeed does.  Everything on this side of the building appears to be carved from bone.  Finally, the Glory Façade is the most recently under construction and will become the main entrance to the cathedral.  Having just recently started constructed in 2002, there is not much to see yet beyond the construction.  It will depict none-other than the glory of Jesus and will undoubtedly be as intricate as the other façades.

If you thought the outside was complicated, just wait until you get inside.  The sheer size of the building becomes apparent.  The massive columns that suppose the ceiling brand like trees, and the style of the interior is uniquely Gaudí.  Though the interior is not complete either, there is important attention to detail inside, including alpha and omega symbols everywhere signifying that Jesus is the first and the last.

Using the Metro again, we moved from the Sagrada Família towards Parc Güell, another Gaudí creation.  That park sits up on the hillside and offers spectacular views of Barcelona.  Not only that, but you don’t even have to walk all the way up to the top.  They have installed outdoor escalators that whisk you directly up. The park’s architectural elements were designed by Gaudí and feature man mosaic works of various animals, the most famous being the dragon at the entrance to the park.  Gaudí also designed a row of seating that circles part of a terrace in such a fashion that, when it rains, the water would fall into a small depression that contained a raised portion that was uncomfortable to sit on and, therefore, you wouldn’t get wet when you sat down.  It also features bird nests designed by Gaudí.

After a long long day out, we were ready to head back to rest up for another day of exploring Barcelona.  Be prepared for another entry on Barcelona before I head back to England.
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