I began Friday with one mission: La Sagrada Familia.
Quick history lesson.
Antoni Gaudí is one of the world’s most famous and most respected architects. He was born in 1852 and died in 1926 in Barcelona. His modernisme style combined his passions for architecture, nature, religion, and Catalunya, the province of Spain of which Barcelona is the provincial capital. His style is truly unique and can be found all over Barcelona. Since I don’t want to bore you with too many art history stats, you can read more info about Antoni Gaudí here if you’re so inclined. The main thing you need to know is that I was so drawn to Barcelona because it is a cultural center covered in art that is both extremely unique and extremely beautiful. Above all of the other Gaudí architecture in Barcelona, though, I went there for his masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia.
Since the beginning of it’s construction in 1883, La Sagrada Familia has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a consecrated basilica by Pope Benedict XVI, and the most visited monument in Spain. It is currently still under construction and is due to be completed in 2026. Really, it’s amazing and I’ve been waiting years to go there.
So after a short subway ride, I hopped in the already 30 minute line to enter the gates and gain access to the inside of La Sagrada Familia. Now, I was a tad bit short on cash as I had just bought a two-day subway pass, and was hoping that Spain’s most visited attraction would accept credit cards. I mean, that’s logical, right? Halfway through the line, I encountered this very nice looking lady, accepting donations for a ministry program. She seemed pretty legitimate, and seeing as I was heading into this massive church, I thought that a 50 cent charitable donation was an appropriate way to start the day.
Do you see where this is going yet?
Turns out, no, La Sagrada Familia does not accept credit cards and I was short exactly...you guessed it...50 cents. Though I contemplated going back and demanding she fork over my donation, I decided it would be in bad taste and, luckily for me, the nice man in line behind me was feeling charitable that day too.
In my “teaser” post on Friday, I wrote that I would tell you why I cried in a church that day. Here’s why:
|Statue representing the kiss of Judas and the cryptogram can be broken into over 300 ways to make the number 33, the age of Jesus at his death.|
|Inside the workshop of the Sagrada Familia|
On top of La Sagrada Familia being absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, I had one of those moments when you realize that what you really wanted is actually happening. I was in the place that I’d read countless websites and articles about for YEARS, but never had the means to get there. And combined with this ever-present feeling that sort of catches me off guard sometimes of “I-can’t-believe-how-happy-I-am,” I got a little teary eyed. I would liken it to the viral video on YouTube of a man crying hysterically over the beauty of a double rainbow, but minus the rainbows, the hysterical crying, the obvious drug use, and the ridiculous sentiments he expresses. So, it wasn’t really like that at all. Bottom line: It was beautiful and I’m happy.
When I returned to my hostel after getting lost leaving La Sagrada Familia (streets all look alike and the road-nameless map doesn’t help), I found the place abuzz with talks of a riot in the Plaça de Catalunya. The short background story is that hundreds of people have been “peacefully” protesting the low pay for many workers and high unemployment rates in Spain for the last two weeks. As the Spanish elections were last week, the Barcelona city government left them alone in their tent city situated in the Plaça de Catalunya, not wanting to stir up trouble. But, as a tradition in Barcelona, when there is a big FCBarcelona (Futbol Club de Barcelona) match, like the European finals Saturday night, thousands of people gather in the Plaça de Catalunya to watch the game on big screens. So after multiple warnings to pack up and head home by the Barcelona city government, with “peaceful” protesting still occurring, the police were ordered to clear out the “tent city” so that cleaning crews could restore it to it’s usually beautiful self. Riots ensued and over 100 people were injured. I wasn’t near the Plaça at the time, but when I headed in that direction later in the afternoon to visit Las Ramblas, hundreds of people had gathered and were parading through the streets carrying signs and chanting. After snapping a couple photos, I made a bee-line in the opposite direction, not wanting to get involved in the trouble. If you’re so inclined, you can read more about the riot here.
|People gathered in the Placa de Catalunya|
As beautiful and amazing as Barcelona is, it’s known throughout Europe as a city of thieves. I spent four days clutching my purse to my chest, which was effective as I still have all of my belongings (as far as I know). The highest concentration of pick pocketers is at Las Ramblas, a 1.2 km busy stretch of shops, markets, hotels, and other cultural places. I was at Las Ramblas at some point every day, and was stunned by all the different things people were selling; seeds, flowers, souvenirs, ice cream, candles, jewelry, chickens...wait, what?!
Yeah, little baby chicks. And baby ducks, and baby turtles, and baby bunnies. And I felt so sad for them all cramped in these little cages on one of the busiest streets in Spain, surrounded by fake statues (I’ll get to that later), pick pocketers, and tourists (blach!). And I wanted so badly to just take one of the little baby chicks home and love it and squeeze it, and teach it to sit on my shoulder like a parrot and do stuff for me. In the midst of my daydreams of having a multipurpose chicken parrot, however, I thought about how Amparo would kill me, Zipi would eat it for breakfast, and even if we both survived THAT mom and THAT cat, we would not live through the American mom and cat waiting for us at home. So I left the chicks on Las Ramblas, in the hopes that someone in a better-suited-for-chickens situation comes along and starts daydreaming about the perks of having retrieval poultry, or guard hens, or their own start-to-finish omelette maker (lays the eggs AND cooks them).
Got you thinking about it now too, didn’t I?
Attached to Las Ramblas is the Mercat de Boqueria, an open air market that sells everything from tropical fruit to pig brains to emu eggs to red hot chili peppers. Also, delicious fruit smoothies for 1€. This was pretty much my photography dream under one roof.
Friday night, I met up with Ben and Anna at a little cafe near the Barceloneta beach. Afterwards, we ventured out for a few drinks and called it an early night. As Friday was supposed to be my last night in Barcelona as I had originally planned, I wanted to get up early to try and change around reservations so I could stay in the city for the big fútbol match Saturday night.
|Anna, Ben, and I|
That's all for today, folks, but stay tuned for tomorrow's thrilling conclusion to the Barcelona adventures! And as always,
Thanks for reading,