My own minor infatuation with Barcelona, or rather the idea of Barcelona, started with an Afrikaans setwork entitled “Sol y Sombre” (Sun and Shadow) written by Uys Krige, probably sometime before WWII. I was a senior schoolboy and, although I can hardly remember a single fact from the book, its evident passion and the quality of the writing has remained with me ever since.
So when the possibility of a family trip to Spain came up, I was determined to visit Barcelona. As luck would have it our close friends from Copenhagen, Ulla and Eric Magid, were available and willing to join us for a few days in early November, so we had the additional good fortune of spending our time in Barcelona with the most congenial travelling companions I can conceive of.
This is the broad promenade just outside our apartment and abutting on the waterfront. The next image shows Eric waiting patiently for us just outside Park Guell. This was to be something of a pattern since Sheila and I were dealing with the infections picked up just prior and during the trip which depleted our energy levels alarmingly.
My memories of Barcelona fall under the a convenient set of headings: fatigue; narrow streets and alleys beset by tourists and buskers, partly alleviated by some broad and spacious promenades and plazas lined with stately, traditional buildings; petty crime and some obvious poverty; some quite brilliant public spaces and institutions and exposure to the extraordinary genius and energy levels of artists like Antonini Gaudi, Miro, Mariscal and Picasso.
I have tried to include as many photos as possible but the 40 odd will probably be too much for a single post. Go to my Flickr site to see them properly (bearing in mind I was shooting semi-blind with my most irritating Point and Shoot). The next little set shows some street scenes.
Buskers and tourists jostled together down the famous Avenue Las Ramlas and we kept a sharp lookout for pickpockets. We were lucky but Ulla and Erik were not so fortunate having been scammed/robbed of all their documents and cash before they reached the apartment. Someone else was actually mugged at the entrance to the apartments late one evening and we were witness to a petty theft at one of the stores on the Waterfront.
Food quality varied greatly from little dives on the tourist routes to one really marvellous meal at an upmarket restaurant in easy walking distance from our apartment. That set me back R250 each which is not our norm.
One walk took us up Montjuic, a large but gradual hill, topped by a fortress and housing the Olympic Stadium and swimming pavilion plus a number of museums, including the one we went to focussing on Miro.
I found both the position and the contents really impressive and although tiring it was a throughly worthwhile excursion. We came down via the funicular, though there was a cable car which may have provided more spectacular views had we found it at the time.
Miro was one of the 4 great artists (three, if one excludes the extraordinarily versatile Mariscal) we were exposed to in Barcelona. One of the most visible is Antonini Gaudi, architect and designer, whose work is all over the city. A visit to the famous Sagrada Familia was spoilt by the reconstruction in progress (seemingly forever) and the hordes of tourists. I’m not sure I liked the excessive ornateness and obsessive fecundity of his decorations.
I prefer more spartan, linear architecture whether in gardens or in buildings.
But here are some pictures. We also visited Parc Guell and Le Pedrera, both examples of Gaudi’s work and with much that is appealing.
On our last morning we visited the Picasso Museum and one night we walked the waterfront – impressively spacious and with imaginative and appealing modern design. The warm evenings were a delight for the visitor and local alike.
The explosion of original art brought home to me that artists and writers as much as scientists are engaged in a process of exploration and discovery; only their domains of interest and the tools they use differ – and even there considerable overlap occurs. But one thing is certain – exposure to the intensity and energy of true creative genius in whatever field is an exhilarating experience and intuition is at the core.
Sun and shadow defines Barcelona to this day
(as suggested by this image), but it seems that progressively the shadows lessen with Barcelona slowly revealing its glorious riches. May the process continue.
Once again go to my Flickr site for all the photos.