My brief interlude in Barcelona

I wasn’t the only passenger trying to figure out how to buy a multi-day ticket. Luckily, the staff at the station was helpful to first-time visitors like me. I got my ticket and waited for the train to arrive. I got on the next available train. There was only a trickle of passengers that boarded with me.

However, as the train moved closer to the city center, more and more passengers came and went. As the train approached my stop, I became eager and curious to discover what Barcelona has to offer.

Gaudi’s World

The most prominent attractions and buildings in Barcelona are works designed by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi was a devout Catholic that used Christian symbols in his designs. He also frequently drew inspiration from nature and organic forms.

When you think of Barcelona, the most likely landmark you would recall is the Sagrada Familia. When I saw it for the first time, my jaw literally dropped, no exaggeration here! Seeing it in person was a different experience. The details of the story of Jesus’ life and his family were depicted on the exterior of the church. The interior was just as beautiful. There were times that I felt like I was in a forest while inside the Sagrada. Gaudi drew inspiration from the natural environment while using odd and non-linear shapes in his designs.

The Sagrada remains unfinished with plans to complete it some years from now. Many other architects have left their own personal style on the Sagrada, but all have remained faithful to the vision of Gaudi. If you want to make a metaphor out of this unfinished project, the church may well be the symbol of the city, with the continuous reinvention of its people and their endless search for beauty that takes your imagination as far as you want to go.

The Sagrada isn’t the only Gaudi work that will grab your attention. Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are two other architectural wonders you’ll find while exploring Barcelona. Lluis Sala Sanchez commissioned the work for Casa Batllo. The construction was completed in 1877. The Batllo family bought the house in 1903. The casa has a distinct appearance with curved lines, an arched roof that looks like a dragon’s back, and colorful ceramic tiles covering its façade. The Casa Mila grabs your attention with its wave-like exterior. Ironically, the Casa Mila faced scrutiny and criticism at the time of its completion. Many critics said that it didn’t adhere to the style that ruled at the time. Fast forward to today, the Casa Mila is one of the most renowned buildings in the city.

City Walks

Barcelona is a “walkable” city even for tourists visiting for the first time. Whether I was traveling alone or with a friend, I found myself walking around the city for hours, only stopping to eat or to soak in the views.

My feet took me to the Gothic Quarter. This neighborhood is part of the sprawling old city of Barcelona. The restored buildings, churches, and the only decades-old neo-Gothic structures stand proud among each other. This was a recurring theme of Barcelona (and other well-maintained and restored cities in the countries I’ve been to). The city is in a constant state of reinvention while dipping into its past with an eye for today and the future. The narrow alleys connected with centuries-old plazas and churches, like arteries connected to the heart and other vital organs. These alleys eventually led to main thoroughfares such as La Rambla where I found numerous cafes, shops, and restaurants. I sampled a few croquetas here, a few churros there, a glass of beer here, and a plateful of Catalan paella. I have no Master Chef-like knowledge about food, I simply thought what I ate was delicious.

A few days in a new city is not enough to truly experience and know it. However, that’s all the time I had (3.5 days to be exact) when I visited Barcelona. I simply passed through. I did my best to see the city as a new acquaintance. I would love to return and see the city again. Maybe next time I’d get to slow down and not think about visiting an attraction. Maybe next time I’d run into an old friend and have lunch with them and walk around the city once more.

Image credits: Joshua Berida


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