The Pearl of Cataluña

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_0Barcelona is among the grandest cosmopolitan cities both in Europe and worldwide. It’s supposed to have been founded by Hercules 400 years before the establishment of Caput Mundi. Another legend related to the origin of the city tells that the city was created and established by Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca (Hannibal’s father). Consequently, the city was named Barcino, after his family, i.e. the Barca family of Carthage. No matter how old the megapolis is, today’s city of Barcelona has everything starting from impressive history and culture, historic monuments and plenty of amazing architectural works, museums and galleries, traditions, beaches, cuisine and interesting people. In other words said, there’s something for any taste and for anybody.

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When it comes to Barcelona, one of the first thoughts to come to my mind is the city’s architecture. Why? It’s because the city is the one and only city in the world to have received a RIBA Royal Gold Medal. It’s an international award for architecture granted by the Royal Institute of British Architects. And what is so amazing about the architecture of Barcelona?

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_10Firstly, there existed a revolutionary, too utopian master urban plan, called Eixample and proposed by Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer, for the expansion of the city in the middle of the 19th century. The introduction of the plan aimed at an unusual architecture around the streets broadening at every intersection and octagonal blocks of flats laid out in a grid system. The buildings were also constructed with cut-off corners. All this was originally projected for the accommodation of a system of steam trams (unfortunately, they never became a reality) that would have a larger turning radius. The cut-off corners had to provide greater visibility and open spaces as well as better ventilation. On the other hand, each of these characteristic blocks planned was supposed to be a self-contained community with much more green space.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_11Secondly, Barcelona is marvellous and charming in terms of architecture and its charm is mainly due to Antoni Gaudí i Cornet’s innovative and creative construction methods inspired by nature and religion and blended with his love for beauty, colours and extraordinarily irregular forms. The talent of the best known Spanish Catalan architect ever has been greatly inspired by nature and the spectacles it offers. Most of his masterpieces are housed in the Catalan capital city of Barcelona and in the region. The examples of his genius are too many in the Catalan city. Let’s virtually visit them here.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_12I will only add one thing about Gaudí to this post. Of course, it’s related to the hallmark of Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia Basilica. You know it’s still been unfinished due to fund raising obstacles (it’s been built only with people’s donations). By the way, the great Egyptian Pyramid of Giza was erected with the usage of ancient tools for 20 years only while Gaudí’s holy place has taken about 200 years to be constructed by using modern technologies. And last thing here. The architect believed that La Sagrada Familia should be of the same height (984 metres) as the city’s highest point, i.e. one of the seven hills, namely Montjuïc.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_13The hill is maybe the most famous one as it gives the best bird’s eye views to the city as well as houses the Palau Nacional and the colourful and singing Fountain of Montjuïc. Font Màgica de Montjuïc was constructed for the Great Universal Exhibition in Barcelona and its first performance was in May 1929. Its designer was Carles Buigas and its constructors were some 3000 workers commissioned to work on it in the course of less than one year only. As a result of their hard work and the genius of its designer, nowadays we can enjoy a spectacular outdoor show of music and ballet, colours and illumination. And all this with no booking in advance. You should only be in Plaça de Carles Buïgas in the certain evenings of the performances between April and October.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_14Apart from architecture, Europe’s largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast has a lot more. The city ranks among the ten best beach cities in the world. Believe it or not, Barcelona didn’t have a coastline and beaches until the 90s of last century. Today’s beaches were run over by industries and works. Locals and tourists alike couldn’t take advantage of the proximity of the sea in terms of recreation. But when the city decided to host the Olympic Games, everything changed and nowadays Barcelona has a 4.5-km coastline with several splendid beaches dotted by bars and restaurants, and of course, hotels. If you are on a beach vacation in Barcelona but you can’t stand the high temperatures that can reach 25° to 31° in July and August, take a stroll in the very centre of the city. If I were you, I would start with Acqua World.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_15L’Aquàrium de Barcelona is situated at the port of the city and its spacious building could be easily recognized from a distance. It’s considered the biggest and largest Mediterranean-themed aqua-park in the world consisting of 14 aquaria. Two protected areas of the Spanish coastline are presented there (i.e. Ebro Delta and the Medes Islands). The marine life is extremely diverse and it’s easily enjoyed by visitors when they start their walk along the 80-metre underwater tunnel. I can assure you it’s the best feeling ever to move along the tunnel and see sharks and piranhas around you and “swim” with them.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_16Going outside again, you might really have a pleasant stroll along the promenade of the Port Vell. If you make a stop at Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (the History Museum of Catalonia) you will get to know the history of Catalonia chronologically, spanning an era from pre-history to the present day.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_17If you don’t do it, just indulge in the sun beams and the gentle and relaxing murmur of the sea while walking until you reach the Christopher Columbus Monument. The 60-metre column was constructed in 1888 in honour of the great Italian explorer who found the New World in the Year of Wonders, i.e in 1492. Columbus was depicted with his right hand stretching and pointing towards the New World while holding a scroll in the left one. This is, actually, the general notion but it’s not true because the Americas are in the opposite direction. Most probable explanations are that the discoverer points either towards India (his original destination which he wished to reach via a new route but (un)fortunately, he discovered new overseas lands) or Genoa (his hometown).

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_18Well, no matter what the creator of the monument wanted to depict, this monument is a landmark in Barcelona offering breathtaking bird’s eye views of the whole city. An elevator takes you to a platform from where you can enjoy Las Ramblas, the yachting port in the Port Vell and Barcelona from above. After these awe-inspiring moments when you see the city from above, you might take one of the most important roads of Barcelona – Las Ramblas or Passeig de Colon. Well, I suggest you should have a walk along the first one.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_19Like every city in the world, Barcelona has its most famous pedestrian street dotted by restaurants and bars, souvenir shops and plenty of attractions like living statues and performing street artists. It is the two-kilometre boulevard La Rambla. As a matter of fact, it consists of 5 different ramblas, i.e. boulevards, avenues – Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Caputxins and Rambla de Santa Mònica, that are joined, thus making this long promenade stretching from the Columbus Monument by the waterfront to Placa Catalunya. By the way, that’s way the promenade is better known by its name in plural, i.e. Las Ramblas. So, being there, you can spend some nice hours enjoying The Flavour of the Mediterranean in one of the numerous restaurants and tapas bars especially during Hora Sexta. The heart of Barcelona is a suitable place for nightlife as well where the Catalans prefer contemporary rock-n-roll to Cante … Toque … Baile … Palmas. Even though Spain is extremely famous for flamenco, it’s not that traditional and well-known in Cataluña and Barcelona, in particular. If you want to watch an authentic flamenco performance you’d better take The Route of the Sun.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_20What is a city without its festivals and fiestas, especially in Spain? Well, nothing. Barcelona has two great festivals and they are … People of Barcelona have observed La Mercè on September 24 every year since 1871. It’s an official bank holiday of the city and is dedicated to the city’s Patron and Protector, namely the Virgin de La Mercè. The other national Catalan holiday is observed on April 23 and it bears several names. Officially it’s Día de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day) but it’s also called Día de la Rosa (the Day of the Rose) or Día del Libro (the Book Day). And here is why it is so. Sant Jordi killed the dragon of Montblanc before it could eat an extremely beautiful princess. Romantic,a? 🙂 That’s why Sant Jordi Day is supposed to be celebrated as a romantic occasion on which near-and-dear ones exchange romantic gifts – roses and books as a sign of love. A man gives his lady roses, why she bestows him a book in return. You yourselves understand, actually, this is Barcelona’s Valentine’s Day which incorporates The Book Day as well. Thus people from Barcelona have a dual celebration – of love and literacy. By the way, being inspired by Día del Libro, UNESCO declared the 23rd of April as the International Day of Books. Great 🙂 I wish I could have the chance one day to celebrate this holiday in Barcelona so I can express my love for both all my beloved ones and books.

174 The Pearl of Cataluña_21It won’t be fair if we don’t pay tribute to the Kick-the-Ball Game, having in mind that Spain is one of the most “football” (is there such an adjective? 🙂 ) country in the world. Well, even anti-football people (mostly women) know that the grand sportive club in Barcelona is FC Barcelona¸ or briefly Barça. So far, so good. Then it was founded by a group of footballers from Switzerland, Great Britain, Spain and Catalonia, lead by Joan Gamper in 1899. Today the second-richest football club is the only one in Europe that is capable of winning every possible important tournament in one year. The club has its own 600 Feet, i.e. its home stadium. The Camp Nou is the biggest European stadium, its capacity being for 100,000 spectators, and its museum being the most visited in Barcelona.

Our short trip in the city will end up with one weird and mystic attraction. More and more people (most probably lovers of horror films) visit one of the 12 abandoned stations of the subway and commuter trains. Enthusiasts visit those Ghost underground stations during scary organized trips. Even some of them insist on having seen ghosts at the abandoned “Gaudí” station. If you are courageous enough and have an imagination dive into Barcelona’s haunted metro stations.

Hasta luego 🙂

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