Today, I spent the whole day in Barcelona. Much like a child’s trip to the zoo, this day trip to Barcelona filled me with wonder, excitement, and exhaustion. I saw so many interesting things, filled with both history and art, that I have been convinced that one day is not enough for this city. I must make another trip to let these sights sink in more.
The first area of Barcelona we toured was the Palau Nacional Barcelona (Barcelona National Palace) and surrounding buildings. Near the palace stands an old arena which used to hold bull fights, but now has been converted into a shopping mall. In Catalonia, bull fights are illegal. But because the building was rich in both history and art, converting it into a shopping mall preserved both of those things. The outside of the building has seen no changes, only the foundation and the inside has changed. From the top of this building, you can see the palace, a grand fountain in front, and the surrounding buildings. The view was spectacular. I saw the palace in the background, rising proud and tall. In front of the palace were various large fountains. One of the most incredible fountains was placed in the middle of a roundabout furthest from the palace. This fountain was tall and had many statues, both big and small. After seeing this grand view, I could not wait to see the palace and fountains from a closer view, so my friends and I exited the arena and walked up to the palace. As I got closer, the size of these buildings really surprised me. They made me feel so small, in comparison to their boldness. After reaching the top of the stairs to the entrance of the palace, I found out that the palace now is used as an art museum. I really wanted to go inside, but considering that we had much more to see, my friends and I decided to save that adventure for a different day.
After visiting the palace, we took the metro to the Sagrada Familia church. Upon rising the steps out of the metro, we raised our eyes up to the massive church just next to us. I have never seen anything quite like it. Different than the Cathedrals I have been used to seeing, based on the Gothic style, the modernism of the Sagrada Familia took me by surprise. In the center of the church in front, a statue of a tree, encircled by dove statues, rose under a grand statue of a dove. To the sides of this tree, two spires rose erect, ending in crosses. On the sides of the church, more spires rose. But instead of ending in crosses, these spires held statues of fruit and other food. Along the sides of the church, various saints were honored in statues, not to mention the Holy Family (Sagrada Familia in English). On the other side of the church, an image of the crucifix was displayed in statues. But instead of Jesus’ face, a block of almost unshaped cement symbolized the unlimited forms of Jesus’ love in the world. Due to both our lack of time and the arbitrarily high entrance fees, my friends and I did not tour the inside. From both my friends’ descriptions and Google images, the inside of the church has definitely been placed on the list for the things I need to return to see.
Next, we walked along a wide street of peculiar looking buildings. I use the word peculiar because they truly were strange – unlike any buildings I have ever seen before. Modeling the modernistic style, these buildings had different shapes, decorations, and colors. We saw at least two more buildings from the same architect as the Sagrada Familia (Antonin Gaudi), named the Botllo and the Pedrera. The Botllo was my favorite because it was adorned in many colors, it had curvy balconies, and because it had an unusual roof. The Pedrera stood across the street. Named similarly to the word used for “precious stones” (pedrería), the Pedrera looked like it was carved out of one great rock with metallic balconies forged into the sides of it. None of the balconies were exactly the same, giving each apartment a unique feel.
After walking around this street, my friends and I took a break from the hot Spanish sun, and ate Tapas (appetizers) in a restaurant. We ate fried calamari, fried octopus, and patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a cheesy, vegetable sauce). Recharged from the food and the air conditioning, we were back outside in less than an hour, optimizing the empty streets during siesta time. We walked to a major street in Barcelona, where many vendors set up their souvenir booths and sold very much the same things. After walking down this broad road, we walked to the Plaza where supposedly King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella welcomed Christopher Columbus back from his journey to America. Around the corner, we saw the outside of a gothic Cathedral. Because of the same reasons why we did not enter the Sagrada Familia, we did not venture inside this Cathedral. But, it was neat to see from the outside. It was very large and reminded me of the gothic styled churches from Prague.
After seeing the Cathedral, we took the metro again. This time, we took the metro to right above Parque Guell, another of Antonin Gaudi’s famous creations. We stood above the park, at a Barcelona look-out point, and climbed down into Parque Guell. Unluckily for us, we had to have purchased tickets to enter the park beforehand, so we could only see the park from the outside. What we saw was amazing, nonetheless. Strange statues rose arbitrarily through the park, covered in mosaics or flowers, waves, and designs.
Tired from all of our walking and sight-seeing, we dragged our legs to the nearest metro and sat speechless during the ride back to the car. I contemplated on all of the mysterious buildings I had seen that day. Barcelona surely deserves more than just a day of touring, and I am sure I will return shortly.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.