Sitting down to write about Barcelona has been on my mind ever since I came back from there. Half a year went by thinking, postponing and giving in to laziness. Until a wonderful Sunday when I decided for the thousandth time that I should sit down, write and never stop writing. (Then, I postponed again. A few months later, I had to come down with the flu to find the time to finish this.)
Personal struggles aside, I am turning back in my mind to a great week in a magical city…
In October, it was high summer in Barcelona. Sunlit historical buildings, yachts in the harbour and the vast blueness of the sea, all mixed up with the quick, passionate sounds of the language of Catalonia. Because when you are in Barcelona, you are not only in Spain, you are a guest of Catalonia. A fact, reminded to you by the countless Catalonian flags waving from narrow balconies full of flowers overlooking busy streets.
Barcelona, a city of Gaudi
It is hard to imagine going to Barcelona and not falling under the spell of artist Antoni Gaudi. Artist, because the word ‘architect’ does not seem to convey the full magic of his creations. Modern, with an imagination beyond words, and perhaps not fully understood by his contemporaries, Gaudi left his touch to the city of Barcelona, making its skyline instantly recognizable.
Although La Sagrada Familia is the first thing to come to mind when you say ‘Gaudi’, it is merely one – however deeply impressive – of the numerous buildings created by the artist and standing so beautiful and yet so peculiar and disturbing the imagination and senses. Natural forms, leaves and bugs, shattered glass and perfect union of functionality and artistic expression – all these leave one breathless and wandering what it is about genius artists that makes them so ahead of their time. Or, better still, creators outside of the ordinary definition of time.
Barcelona, a city of tastes
One of the best ways to get to know a place is through its food. Every traditional dish with its specific combination of tastes gives a unique glimpse into the lives of the people who have created it centuries ago and still love it today. From Barcelona, I took with me the taste of crema catalana, a delicious brulee-like dessert that made me love caramelized creams; also, I took the great idea of tapas – small dishes that allow you to taste different things instead of eating just one big meal. Combined with a glass of sparkling wine, tapas are a culinary expression of the desire to have various experiences and to literally taste life.
Another interesting thing about the Catalan cuisine is that incredible love for meat that has lead to the creation of a salad of salami. In Spain, I also tried my first salad of fruit and meat – a combination, I was told, that is also typical for Italian cuisine. This particular salad consisted of two slices of melon and a few slices of prosciutto.
And, of course, sea food. Lots of it. Enough fish, shrimps, mussels and such to satisfy even the most dedicated lover of Mediterranean smells and tastes.
Barcelona, a city of old and new
If I try to describe everything that has impressed me in that one-of-a-kind place, it would take not a blog post but perhaps a novel. That’s why I’ll try to summarize it in the best way I can – Barcelona is a city of old and new living together in leisure and harmony. The Gothic buildings and the majestic medieval churches stand together with the creations of newer centuries, with La Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera and also with Camp Nou, the Olympic Park, the modern harbour and the cable car that takes you over the blue waters of the sea to the nearby hills.
There is a monument in this magical city that for me best fits that description – a perfect metaphorical blend of old and new. It is the gigantic statue of Christopher Columbus (or Colom, as they say in Barcelona) pointing with its finger to the New World.
Old and new, Gothic and modern, tapas and crema catalana – it all adds up to a fantastic melting pot of smells, experiences, and an imperative desire to come back one day. (Which I intend to do and then write about, without wasting so much time. Oh, good intentions…)