Barcelona, the European theme park

Barcelona, the European theme park

A view of Barcelona from Park Guell

A European theme park“, a guy from bike rental shop told me in Madrid. I asked him to describe Barcelona in one sentence. Some say that the capital of Catalonia has nothing to do with the real Spain. One thing is certain. Barcelona is a unique and vibrant city, which not for no reason attracts more tourists every year.

Early in the afternoon I look at perpendicularly intersecting thoroughfares of the city. Bustling life stops for a couple of hours and people rest before the second part of the day.

I visit a residential area supermarket. My attention is focused on the big and fat beef thighs. Hanging on a wall with grease quietly dripping they await being purchased. No need to buy the whole thing. A sliced jamón Iberico and jamón curado are also available. These are two most common types of Spanish ham valued for its exceptional taste. This is a unique product for its long aging process and fact that you do not need to store it in a refrigerator.

Jamón Iberico is a premium product. Ham comes from meat of black-hoofed animals whose quality is guaranteed by a specially-chosen diet, consisting mainly of acorns. We buy shrimp, fresh strawberries and a few slices of ham for a bit late breakfast.

Sagrada Familia, a major tourist destination

On the coast of the Mediterranean Sea a lot of people rest, ride a bike and run. The wind blows, so also some kitesurfers show up. We get to know one guy from Italy. He says living in Barcelona is great. He works in a bar, however he eventually hopes to find a job related to his field of study. There is no hurry, because until then he has time to surf during the day. His keynote is “If you want to live in Barcelona, do not come here with your girlfriend. This place is great and so are the girls.” We help him to launch his kite and head off along the coast to the south.

I see a vast and smooth sidewalks. Immediately longboarding here comes to my mind . This place seems to be perfect. I promise myself that one day I will return here with my longboard.

Beside a wide promenade there is hangar converted into a local surfshop (there is a possibility of the building being a converted barn). On a top floor I find a cabinet with chronological history of surfing. Evolving since 1900, surfing is the oldest ‘boarding’ sport of the world. It was surfing to give birth to skateboarding, snowboarding and windsurfing as an alternatives to the conditions in which there are no waves.

Stall with eggs at La Boqueria

La Rambla is one of the most famous streets in Europe, as well as the prominent center for street artists. A constantly being shaped product of a contemporary pop culture. Definitely the most interesting thing to see is a breakdance show which already made its permanent presence on La Rambla.

On a covered bazaar La Boqueira vendors offer fresh seafood, various nuts, dried fruit, Moroccan snacks, a meat straight from the butcher’s, fish, Iberian ham, fresh tropical fruit and many other delicacies.

The twilight comes. We meet with a friend at the Placa de Catalunya. Smoldering lamp in the square, together with increasingly less sun behind the clouds create a charming atmosphere. We talk about Barcelona, an international city that has become a major travel destination for Europeans.

People of Barcelona passively value their identity. The basic means is a bilingualism of Catalonia. The usage of Catalan language, being partially a hybrid of Spanish and French, is heavily promoted here. Due to the presence of tourists it is more likely to have an English rather than Spanish conversation.

Barcelonetta, a city beach

The city at night comes back to life again. Crowds of people line up to enter clubs even at late night hours. I notice some kind of scheme, according to which the individual clubs tend to fill with people. At 1 AM a club may still be closed, while others have crowds of people. It closes down after a few hours and we all move to another place. The moral is that anyone seeking for fun in the capital of Catalonia would always find it. You do not have to look far.

We take a modern and well kept underground straight to the most famous basilica in Spain. A very unusual and specific Sagrada Familia has been designed in the nineteenth century by Antoni Gaudi. You can see a great hand-made precision of every single detail, giving the building, like the other of Gaudi’s creations its own unique style. Gaudi has mastered to the perfection combining pointed elements with smooth sandy-colored contours .

We keep walking to enter increasingly steeper streets leading us to the famous Park Guell, also designed by Gaudi (nota bene, Barcelona is sometimes referred to as “the City of Gaudi"). A lot of misleading corners, however we consistently move upwards to reach the viewpoint. Wide picturesque panorama of Barcelona stretches to the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the city is covered with low buildings and therefore it is pretty easy to pinpoint Sagrada Familia and Torre Agbar, a tower of typical round shape.

Our friend takes us to his favorite chicken place. We sit at a bar. Each of us gets a big, fat piece of chicken. Following the other customers I order strong espresso with a shot of brandy. May it be regarded as a typical Spanish dish? By far and definitely not.

Longboarder on his way to job

We reach one of those places where the youth meet in the afternoon. Some stay chilling-out while the others skateboard and ride BMX. Number of skaters explains that Barcelona is for a good cause considered to be the best European city for street sports. Suddenly the sky is overcast, a few minutes later it starts to rain heavily and all the folks run away. So do we.

April 2008