Δευτέρα, 28 Φεβρουαρίου 2011

Barcelona again (chasing ghosts of voyages past)

By sundown I had reached the Estacion Franca, and was in the process of searching for the hostel. Once again I was lost. The hours past and I was becoming more and more disoriented. Yet Barcelona still mistyfied me. I was still looking for a way to join in the decadant and vibrant atmosphere of the town. Barcelona still sinks to a mindboggling beat. After seemingly hours of searching, I found some metro station and started following directions to the hostel. Upon my arrival another problem appeared. I had booked a bed, but from the next day and on. Finaly I managed to get a bed for the night, and left my belongings in there. I was just into my clean clothes and looking for something to eat, when one of the German students staying in the hostel barged in through the reception and said something about a nude guy appearing in the deli nextdoor. I went in and watched the commotion. In reality nobody was reacting. This is Barcelona, anyway. Someone can get into an establishment of any sort, butt-naked, without anyone even blinking an eye. Locals tend to be very open about a lot of things.

I wrote about Barcelona’s unique architectural style in previous posts. But in fact, I had not seen even half of the city’s monuments. I had to do the rounds once more. After all this was my reason for being in town, Barcelona was not a pit stop this time. It was something more. And while I was still chasing away memories of my previous stay there, I had my mind set on visiting whatever I had missed out previously.
So the first place to visit that was in the stay’s orders, was Park Guel. One of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces. Comissioned by wealthy count Eusebi Guell, the park is divided in two sections. The botanic section, wich is the biggest one and offers a splendid view of the city and a quiet walk for people who want to wind up, and the monument section, which is the focus point for all tourist groups. Inspired by the Garden City movement, Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland”, and the sea, full of cave-like arks and recycled elements from an older housing estates. And all these seem strange if one takes into consideration the fact that Gaudi himself was very religious. His house, is a simple structure, the only decoration of wich, is a portrait of the pope opposite to Gaudi’s bed.
The exploration of the Park, continued for the best part of my day. At some part of the walk around I saw a very familiar scene. An anarchist squat. The anarchist movement has a great tradition in the Peninsula and especially around Catalunya, since the beginning of the 20th century. I will not comment on the history of the anarchist movement, but I saw a banner that got me thinking. “Tourists Go Home” , it wrote. I think this is very contradictory. How can one wjo envisages a world with no borders and free mobility of people, tell some foreigner (even a tourist) to go? Is this for real? On the other hand this seems to reflect on the attitude of some of the locals. La Rambla is full of tourists, thieves,dirt,drugs. Only the sea of neon lights could be missing. But then again, this is Barcelona, and all this can still be overlooked. In the mean time, the night of Sant Joan is approaching, and I hear homemade fireworks everywhere.
The night is a big party that concludes with the burning of the huge statue of Sant Joan somewhere near Barceloneta. Before that, the statue is being moved through the city streets, accompanied by runners, cyclists and marching bands. The night is long and uneventful.

The next day was dedicated to sports. Sort of. I had decided to pay a visit to the hills. Montjouik the hill of Jews in ancient Catalan. The area houses the biggest park in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, a 17th century castle overseeing the port, a big part of the 1992 Olympic Complex, the Miro Museum and the Palau Nacional. Probably it is the perfect example of Barcelona’s mix and match architectural style. The architecture of the castle (wich was a prison for political prisoners including the infamous Salvador Puig Antich, during Franco’s rule), is combined with the Belle Epoque Styled Palau Nacional, and Santiago Calatrava’s Olympic ring are all situated within a 3 mile radius. The castle can be reached via monorail (the Funicular) or, if you are into walking-cycling, through the local streets (which used to be the Montjuic Street Circuit, until the mid seventies). It took me 15 minutes to reach the castle with the funicular, and some 20 minutes downhill to reach the Miro Museum wich was close to the start of the Funicular. I gave about twenty euros to what seemed to me the most lifeless and boring museum ever, wich gave me no feeling of the era when Miro operated, even though the collection was a really good assortment of his work, wich expanded from architecture to painting and modern sculpture. Miro was one of Barcelona’s profilic architects, though overshadowed by the mighty Gaudi, and certainly one of its grandest painters. Mind you though, the museum doesn’t serve him right.
The following night I followed a lone Quaker to a local pub. He was good company and turned out to be a good conversationalist for a 19 year old American. Looks like Quakers can be very liberal. By the end of the night I was kinda wasted, and falling a victim of the mugger patrol. Thank god I found out fast enough and chased the thief’s away screaming things about chopping their heads of in Spanish and various nice things I would do to their families if they did not leave my wallet. In the end I was just some thirty five euros short, and they had left my wallet and cashcards there. The end of the night had come. And the end of my last day in town. I had spent some nights in Barcelona, and emerged unharmed and able to continue my quest. Gosts chased away, and nightmares run over, I was ready to move to Valencia.