I’m gonna cut right to the chase on this one and say that my recent trip to Barcelona was absolutely amazing. As a destination, Barcelona is hands down my favorite place that I have visited in Europe thus far, and as a place to live it comes second behind Berlin.
Despite the weekend getting off to a rough start when our flight to Barcelona that was supposed to take off around 7 didn’t even begin boarding until around 10, but all the frustration and discontent melted away once we landed at El Prat. The first thing that struck me and got me excited was the fact that Barcelona is essentially surrounded by mountains. I grew up in a valley (an incredibly wide, incredibly shallow valley, but a valley nontheless), and I always love seeing rugged terrain because they remind me of all of the hikes and adventures that I had when I was a kid. In fact, I usually can’t stand it when the land all around me is flat, Berlin being the exception, but I digress.
After making our way to the AirBNB and getting settled, we journeyed back out into the heat of the city to explore, and for some of us to visit museums while others of us hunted for wifi for an hour and a half in order to use Pokemon Go to find landmarks in the nearby area.
Sidenote: Pokemon Go is actually an excellent tool for travel for this very reason. Without it, I would never have found such cool sights as these:
After our respective adventures came to an end, we walked back to our place to regroup for dinner plans and to make some plans for the next day. After running into a couple of snafus with dinner planning and not getting into a restaurant until about 10:30, we all really enjoyed our first real Spanish meal in the city.
Since dinner took so long, we didn’t get to bed until later than we expected, so our Sunday got a much later start than any of us expected. That didn’t put a damper on our spirits though, and from our AirBNB we walked towards the Barceloneta beach for about an hour, enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful sights along the way. My favorite sight of the day, though, would have to be the beach itself.
I had heard that the beach we ended up at was going to be very busy, but upon arrival it really wasn’t that bad at all. In fact, it was pretty damn gorgeous if you overlooked the occasional piece of garbage that were sparsely scattered across the sand, and considering that the beaches I’m used to aren’t nearly as nice (shout out to my beloved trash hole of the Ocean City, MD boardwalk), it was a pretty simple task.
Even taking into account the sparkling turqouise water of the Balearic Sea, the best day in Barcelona turned out to be our last full day in the city. Early Monday my friends John and Zewei and myself decided to hike up Mount Tibidabo to get an aerial view of Barcelona (and incidentally investigate an amusement park that happened to be located at the mountain’s summit). It wasn’t until we reached the top (or close enough to it so that we can legitimately tell other people that we made it to the top) that I realized the true size of Barcelona. Like Berlin, Barcelona is a sprawling city that seems much smaller when you are inside of it.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spend a very long time at the top of the mountain, since we had tickets to go visit the famous under-construction basilica La Sagrada Familia (which I learned means the Holy Family, after Mary, Joseph, and Jesus). The basilica was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a visionary architect that incorporated natural themes and features to his designs.
The basilica, while currently unfinished (and will be until around 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Antoni Gaudi’s death), is still an incredible and fantastically creative structure, but what impressed me the most was the interior. As previously mentioned, Gaudi worked nature into his designs, and the interior of La Sagrada Familia was no different. Walking in felt like entering a huge stone forest, with massive columns that branched out at the top (I learned during the audio tour that this was the intention). The effects of sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows, cool colors for theafternoon and warmer for the morning, were perhaps the most stunning result of manmade construction that I have yet to witness in my life.
The basilica won’t be completed for another 10 years or so, but you can bet your ass that once it is, you will find me back in Barcelona, ready to take it all in once more.
Afterwards we took the metro up to Park Güell, which is a park located at the top of one of Barcelona’s many impressive hills, and made our way down through it towards our AirBnB. Park Güell is full of architectural features made by none other than our boy Gaudi, and it was really an enlightening experience to see the origins of Gaudi’s organic architecture before their refinement and implementation in the Sagrada Familia.
After having some time to recharge in the apartment, we split up again, and John, Zewei, and I made our way towards La Rambla, a famous central street in Barcelona, to explore it and the nearby gothic quarter. While significantly less impressive than the other sights of the day, the area was still interesting in its own right. Because Berlin got decimated near the end of the second world war, it underwent a major facelift that involved widening of the stereotypical streets that one would expect to be everywhere in Europe. The gothic quarter was full of these tight narrow alleyways, and I appreciated the chance to experience exploring these alleyways in a way that Berlin just can’t allow for.
The day ended with a reunion of the 5 of us at the Búnquers del Carmel, which were the remains of some old air raid bunkers left over from the Spanish Civil War. The bunkers sat on top of a massive hill in the middle of the city, and at sunset the views were absolutely breathtaking.
I fell in love with Barcelona in a different way than I fell in love with Berlin, and I know with certainty that this will not be the last time I experience this magnificent city.
Adam “Had to bring it back from being too sincere” Hayes