Published: June 30th 2008June 16th 2008
So Barcelona is large, but is still surprisingly walkable like it seems all European towns are. We started the day heading to the famous Los Ramblas street/market. This place had by far the most street performers of any place I’ve ever been, including any place in New York or Los Angeles. Most were not very interesting, but some stood out. A pair of people, one draped completely in white, one in black, would randomly pop out and frighten people (always fun). One was a man painted completely in white who sat on a toilet statue and made crude noises with appropriately inappropriate gestures (one has to wonder how he got the huge set-up out there) that drew huge crowds while the extravagantly-dressed dancers next to him were ignored (how depressing that must be for them). Possibly the most impressive was an older man with a “singing” and “dancing” marionette skeleton who did a pretty good Little Richard impression (video to come). I actually let some money go for that one (and not even silly American money!).
At the end of the street there is a huge pillar/statue commemorating Christopher Columbus, illustrative and epic sculptures alternating abundantly around its perimeter, and
a huge manifestation of the man himself on the top, not quite pointing in the right direction for the New World (but hey, who’s counting). The man was great, regardless of what today’s teachers would have you believe and in spite of his atrocities… but I dunno if he’s quite this great. This is only the first example of Spain’s fascination with the Americas, as we ran across more than a few more sites celebrating the place. I, of course, don’t have a problem with this, but it’s interesting. I guess if I were responsible for funding the expedition that almost discovered a place that had been found a half-dozen times before by less well-funded and expansion-minded people and subsequently began a hugely successful expansion/invasion I might commemorate it a bunch too. Just guessing.
We continued onwards towards the shore, through a large mall and sculpted stone grounds, where I bought some Starbucks and got a couple of really weird looks when I asked for raspberry syrup in my Frappuccino. C’mon people, they even used to sell Raspberry-Mocha frapps. Why is it suddenly weird? : (
This is also where I started trying something that continues through the
rest of the trip. Something Kevin had been doing all along and of which I highly approve. Stereoscopic pictures! So if you can do magic eye stuff, prepare to start seeing some of my trip as if you were actually there (omg). The first one ever is of a weird sculpture garden outside the aforementioned mall.
We walked from the mall down through a mostly empty park towards Barcelona’s version of the Triumphant Arch which is really pretty due to its construction from red brick, which is a pretty stark difference from the standard stone stuff I’ve been seeing. Plus the surrounding walk of trees that looks straight out of San Diego is nice as well.
We walked through a park, by some buildings that were I guess important but not as interesting as the wild parrots that seemed to follow us (escapees from the closeby zoo perhaps?). We then moved on to what was easily one of the most impressive things I’ve seen on this whole trip—the Sagrada Familia.
The Sagrda Familia is a Gaudi-designed cathedral that isn’t even close to being finished (and I doubt it ever will be) but that is still impressive in
the extreme. We easily spent 4 hours gawking at it and could have spent longer. There’s nothing that looks even remotely like it in the world. The front wall of the church is covered with a huge array of sculptures telling the story of the Crucifixion in a style I’ve never seen anywhere but which was really impressive. It’s impossible to describe it without writing a book, but I’ll point out some interesting specifics. There was a 4x4 perfect square (look it up) for the number 33 (Jesus’ age when He died) with many “bonus” possible combinations. The bronze doors were incredibly intricate, with a billion little symbols each holding an appropriate meaning. The entire thing had little snippets of meaning hidden around for those who spent time with it, which I’m sure was the intent.
We continued inside, t which point the incompleteness of the place becomes evident. The entire center of the building is host to a large pile of construction materials and equipment, and a good third of the inside is scaffolded out of sight. They’ve apparently been building the thing for more than 100 years, and looking at the final plans for the place, they’ve
still got a ridiculously long way to go. I mean the plans call for a 60+ foot tall cross made of crystal for crying out loud. I think Gaudi was either insane when he designed this (quite possible) or he went all out knowing that it wouldn’t be complete during his lifetime anyways. I say all the more to him. What you did get to see on the inside ground floor was a few completed stain-glass windows embedded with text and constructed with mathematically-constrained polygons in a way I’m not sure has been duplicated but which is really interesting. The ceiling also displayed a brightly shining gold-and-copper covering—whether those describe metals or just colors, I don’t know. They also had an exhibit describing the materials used, which was interesting because they purposely used a variety of materials to try to reflect variety in nature (with the pillars being trees and such), with the innermost pillars supposedly being made of the strongest natural stone in the world (excluding gems I suppose?). The pillars, according to the excellent audio guide, have a slight twist to them in order to increase stability and avoid straight lines that would usually require a computer to
simulate and calculate. Guess Gaudi was just that good.
We then took the elevator up to the top of the finished portion. The view was nice, and fulfilled my apparent subconscious desire, evidenced by my photos on this trip, to get as high up in every town I go to as I can. It also gave a good view of the unfinished-ness of the cathedral, with a large construction zone right in the center where supposedly a huge central tower twice as tall as the ones we were in would eventually be placed. The surrounding smaller “exodus/hosanna” towers were covered in what looked like gauze. The bell towers also held large speakers instead of actual bells, which as far as I know is by design (if Gaudi was about 60 years ahead of his time). The openness of the trip between the towers was a bit scary but not too bad (as long as nobody thought they could put their weight on the supersketchy plywood separators).
Going up was still a good experience, even with the surrounding construction. But when we got down and went around to the side opposite the Crucifixion wall, we were back in full-blown
awe mode. This side showcased a sculpted masterpiece of similar complexity to the other side, but of a much more standard style. This one concentrated on the Virtues, with appropriate scenes from the Bible illustrated amongst a lot of extra ornamentation.
We decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the Montjuc/Olympic area, where Kevin had seen an amazing show around the fountain there the previous night (the pics for which are placed after in the collection as it’s more appropo). The sun was setting by this time, and it cast a reddish elongating shadowmask over an already very large and spacious area. The large building atop the fountain step (which I think was the city hall) crowned the area really imposingly and impressively, so I was looking forward to seeing the fountain show that Kevin had given us a preview of earlier. Since he show wasn’t scheduled (we thought) to start until 9 or so, we decided to make a quick trip to the Olympic complex right up the hill.
To get to the complex, we rode a series of large outdoor escalators to the top of the hill, which was a unique experience in itself.
We killed a few minutes in a pretty little walled garden at the top (with some spritely kittens running round) and then walked into the site itself. The place was amazingly deserted, given that the tower, stadiums and tower-lit grounds were all still powered and obviously well-kept. The grounds themselves were somewhat imposingly large, seeming to go on forever into what looked eventually to be an industrial district far in the distance. We took some stereoscopic attempts here, and then headed back to see the fountain show. Unfortunately, we soon learned that the show was apparently only on weekends, and this being Monday, would not be seen. Somewhat disappointing, but to be honest Kevin’s pictures and video were good enough that we could visualize it pretty well.
We headed to our last goal for the day, a large and apparently famous bullet-shaped building called the Torre Agbar which is visible from everywhere in Barcelona. This was a ad disappointing as we thought it was supposed to light up in a bunch of colors overnight but it did not. It was raining at this point anyways, so we headed back to the hostel, where we made plans to hit the
Mediterranean the next day. Guess I need to get something to swim with. Tomorrow!
There are more photos below