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Published: October 14th 2007
There I am at the Monument a Colom
Although we had been in Europe for more than one full day by the time we reached Barcelona, it was here that I first felt that our trip had actually begun. It was Barcelona where I became focused in a way separate from the Standard Operating Procedure at home. Even Madrid seemed to be a part of the stepping stone process that was necessary to reach our stated goal, which turns out to be a feeling and state of mind as much as any geographical place.
We arrived in Barcelona on the 14th and our train from Madrid was an early one, se we didn’t get much sleep but I don’t think sleep is going to be a top priority anytime this trip. Amy was still feeling ill and the up before dawn wake up and requisite hike to the train station did not help much.
Luckily on our arrival to Estacio de Sants (1 of 2 Barcelona stations) there were lockers for us to store our backpacks in since we had several hours to kill before meeting up with our hosts, Pablo & Elena. Pablo and his brother had actually lived a short time with Reuel for two summers
Full picture of the Monument a Colom. A bit phallic, but more aesthetic.
in Galesburg, I think, and Pablo and his wife Elena had offered to put us up and show us around a bit while we were in Barcelona.
Rather than go into a detailed account of everything we saw and did for the four days we were there, I am going to try and ignore any set timeline and just describe a few of the things and experiences we shared that I found most interesting. Not easy, but I’m guessing most of you are not enamored with the minutia of our meals and waiting-in-line moments.
So Barcelona has what can be appropriately described as a huge cock like monument at the port end of La Rambla (a major thoroughfare) dedicated to Christopher Columbus and thus called, Monument a Colom. Apparently this came about because of a contention that Columbus had been Catalunyan rather than Italian, and what better way to emphasize this point than by building a big dick at the end of the street? Odd or not, the monument was impressive, and if it says anything about the Catalunyans….
No, in all seriousness, it was a cool monument and I heard there is a plan to try and
Across from the Monumen de Colom
undertake genetic analysis to determine exactly what the ancestry of Columbus might have been.
Following through with the genitalia theme, we also went to the Museu de Erotica, which was interesting and absolutely unique in our museum going experience. They had items dating back to Ancient Greece up through modern history. All centered around sexual practices and fetishes, with manuals, devices, pictures, movies, and machines. There was even a porno from the silent movie era before talkies, though thankfully without accompanying letter boards between scenes to spell out ‘dialogue’ and ‘plot’. Some of the more interesting items were a few old large dildos made from a variety of material like bone and wood (no pun intended on either account). Maybe that is where our euphemisms originally came from? It seemed like an awful place to get a splinter, but I guess they had to use the materials available to them. It was great to see that what some call perverse is really just sexuality and has been around for a long, long time.
The museum may not be for everyone but La Boqueria (Mercat de Sant Josef) is not to be missed. This is a huge covered market
Our first meal in Barcelona was at a place called Cafe de l'Opera. They gave us a huge bowl of olives that we couldn't finish, and we both love olives.
that is a kaleidoscopic riot of colors, smells, noise, people, and activity. Stands hawking fresh fruit, raw meat, pungent cheeses, flowers, nuts candy, drinks. Just about anything you might buy could be found in there. The seafood was iced out and still gasping out it’s last drowning breath in the air. Butchers cracking bones and filleting meat to order, cheese mongers slicing huge chunks from wheels and blocks of a variety of cheeses. The photos we took will never do it justice, but we’ll post a few anyway.
One of the meals we had with our hosts was a more traditionally Catalunyan one. Amy was still feeling sick when we had it and my eating part of a pig’s foot did not help her stomach issues. Among the things I ate, the Catalunyan sausages were really delicious, as was nearly every other item I ate. But the pigs foot… In all fairness, it didn’t really have much of a taste. If you combine this with the cultural prejudice I could not overcome about EATING a pig’s foot, I’d say it wasn’t something I will probably order in the future. Maybe if it had been a really tasty morsel, but
This was taken from inside the Museu de l'Erotica of Amy overlooking the street below and a huge market we went to later called La Boqueria (Mercat de Sant Josef) which was incredible. More photos of that later.
alas, it was not. Still, I’m glad I gave it a go.
We did check out a few Gaudi buildings, which are really stunning. The Casa Batllo and Sagrada Familia were the two big architectural pieces we went to see. The Sagrada Familia is still in the process of being built and as Gaudi died without finishing it or leaving a set of plans to work from (he was building it primarily from his imagination), the artist who has taken over the project is trying to follow as best he can. The difference in the structure that was built by Gaudi and that which is still being constructed is evident, from the pollution, if nothing else. We’ll post a couple photos but check it out online if you can.
The same goes for Casa Batllo, a remarkable work of Modernist or Modernisme architecture. I have no idea what the difference is in Modernism versus Modernisme, but Casa Batllo is an extraordinarily beautiful and thoughtful piece of art. It seems to be inspired from nature, and there are virtually no straight lines in the entire building. The materials that Gaudi used and more particularly the way in which he used
Flower stand right outside La Boqueria
them was astonishing.
Pablo and Elena also arranged for us to spend some time with a friend of theirs, Vanessa, who had graduated from University with a degree in Art History and worked as a professional guide in Barcelona. We all went to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (a mouthful) which had several 11th-13th century Romanesque wall-paintings from Spanish churches, removed to protect from thieves. There was also a temporary exhibit of Art Nouveau works, from advertising for shows and aperitifs, to works by Alphonse Mucha.
The last two things I’d like to mention are the Palau de la Musica, which is still an operating music hall designed in a Modernisme tradition and Montserrat, literally “Saw Mountain”. The Palau de la Musica, unfortunately, has forbidden the taking of photographs inside the building, which is a shame because it really is an amazing work of art. There is a fantastic amount of detail in the design, mixing the natural world that so much of it has been inspired by and an encompassing of the musical traditions. You might be able to find some photos online if you do a search. All we have are some pictures of the exterior,
People ask why I'm not as tall as my brother and I explain that it all went to cock.
but they really are lacking most of the intricacy and beauty of the interior space.
Montserrat is about an hour or so outside of Barcelona. In the 11th Century a monastery was founded there, and over the centuries it has become a major site for pilgrimages of the faithful. You drive up these looping mountain roads and it is easy to picture the resistance fighters to Franco during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930’s. At the monastery itself there is an elaborate basilica and a side route you can line up in that leads through side chapels to La Moreneta, which Pablo said can translate roughly into “little black one” and dates back to the 12th Century. We actually did wait in line to view the statue and you can, if you are so inclined, kiss the statue when you reach it, which a disproportionate number of people did indeed do. Hundreds of years of spit and germs was not appealing to me, but the whole experience was pretty intense and it was easy to see how all of the beauty, grand structure, exquisite detail and generally overwhelming sense of order and power could be a source of
both inspiration and intimidation. Especially if you add into this the idea or belief that this man made institution somehow is an authority and has power to influence your fate in the hereafter. Behind La Moreneta was a separate smaller chapel not visible from the larger congregational area of the basilica. This small chapel was filled with sunlight filtered through stained glass windows depicting religious figures and biblical scenes. I think I actually found this chapel the most compelling and beautiful area of the entire building among a great many compelling and beautiful areas.
Our last night in Barcelona we watched Spain play Russia in the Eurobasket finals, then Pablo, Amy and myself went out to a club, Luz de Gas, to watch some live music. We didn’t get back home and into bed until after 0300 so we slept in a little later than usual before leaving for the train station the next day.
At the start of this entry I mentioned the lockers in Estacio de Sants, and when we arrived at Estacio de Franca, it turned out there were no lockers available in which to leave our packs. Since we had several hours before our
train arrived, we decided to grab some food from a grocer and walk to a nearby park, Parc de la Ciutadella, to relax and wait. We lay our damp clothes out to dry and ate a picnic lunch.
Eventually we walked around the park before finally heading back to the train station, and it was here that I saw what led to the title of this entry. At a very large fountain near the center of the park, we were sitting on some benches watching people and relaxing before we had to catch our train. Amy went to use the water closet and so I was guarding our bags while waiting for her on the bench. There were two young guys, clean cut, polo shirts, slacks, but acting a bit odd. I honestly thought they were trying to pretend they were customers of the little refreshment stand so that they could use the bathroom, but they were making me a bit nervous. I had my arms around the bags and kept looking over toward the restroom to make sure Amy was okay. When I looked back, one of the guys had sat down briefly and gotten back up. As he
Fresh seafood=in the process of dying
walked toward me he raised his finger to his lip, like you do when you are indicating someone should be quiet. I had no idea what he was doing that for and suddenly he and his buddy took off running. There were two couples that were sitting at the tables in front of me and they started looking around like they were missing something. I realized that one of the young guys had sat down on the far side of the couples while his friend approached them from the opposite side to ask a question. When they turned to talk with him, his buddy, out of sight, grabbed a bag and started to make off with the bag. Now before I even realized that is what happened one of the men who had gotten robbed, leaped up and spotted the two guys running off with his bag. He took off after them, and I was pretty surprised at how fast he was. It took about ten minutes but he eventually came back and he had managed to run both thieves down, deliver an ass whipping and recover all his stuff! It was amazing. Both couples were talking about how Holland
Hey! It's Bugs Bunny, folks!
Nice little added touch, that sign.
may be a small country but they were not to be fucked with, and that they were small but very tough. They had asked if I saw anything, and I told them I honestly didn’t see the guys actually take the bag, but would be happy to back them up to the cops since I’d seen enough to piece it together afterwards. After getting his stuff though, he’d basically let them go and so they just had to deal with a few bruises. Still, it was a pretty exciting ending to Barcelona.
Getting to stay with Pablo and Elena had been one of the most satisfying parts of Barcelona. We really enjoyed the city and culture and I’m sure we would have had a blast whether or not we had a host, but it added something more to an already wonderful time. Having the opportunity to peel back the insulation that most of us surround ourselves with in our daily lives and talk with people in other countries and cultures either slightly or largely different is invaluable.
So we’re off to Paris and hopefully more good times.
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