Monday, April 2, 2012

Barcelona, Spain

My 500th blog post.  Lucky for me it doesn't look like I'll run out of material to write about anytime soon.
I was really looking forward to visiting Barcelona.  Miran and I decided to visit the city for his birthday.  Of course, when we originally planned out trip we had no idea that we would arrive a couple of hours before a 24-hour general strike or that I would have a terrible cold.  On our first day public transportation was limited due to protests over the government's austerity measures.  So we just rented bicycles and rode all over the city.  Barcelona must be an awesome city because I loved it, even while riding a bike through traffic with a chest cold.

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and with +1.6 million people it is the second largest city in SpainThe Barcelona metro population is 5 million people, just like Atlanta.  Founded as a Roman city, it now seems that Barcelona is one big showcase for the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí.  The whole city has a unique vibe to it.

The main landmark is La Sagrada FamíliaIt's simply amazing!

La Rambla is the main pedestrian boulevard filled with restaurants, performance artists and vendors selling flowers, birds, lottery tickets, etc..  Along the sides are some very cool looking buildings.  This is also where you can find la Boqueria which is an awesome open market for fruit, mean, cheese, vegetables and lots of fresh seafood.  The tree-lined street is 1.2 km (0.75 mile) long and runs from the Gothic Quarter to Port Vell.  It gets very crowded so the best time to enjoy it is early in the morning.

At the end of Las Ramblas is the Columbus Monument.  It is 60 meters (197 feet) tall and was built in 1888.  It marks the location where Columbus returned to Spain after his first voyage to the Americas.

The Barri Gòtic is the center of old Barcelona.  Most of the buildings date from the 14th and 15th century although there are also some remnants of the Roman settlement.  The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is the Gothic cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.  Construction lasted from the 13th to the 15th century.  It is one of the country's greatest Gothic structures.

The Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul was built between 1901 and 1930.  It was a hospital until 2009 and it is currently undergoing restoration to be used as a museum and cultural center.  It is one of Barcelona's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall that was built between 1905 and 1908.  In 1997, it too was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site but, unlike most of the other sites in Barcelona, Gaudí wasn't the architect.  It was designed by Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

The Triumphal Arch was built for the Universal Exposition in 1888.

The Park de la Ciudadella is a great place for a relaxing walk (or bike ride).  The gardens and fountains were designed by Gaudí.

The National Art Museum of Catalonia is housed in the Palau Nacional which was built for the World's Fair in 1929.  There is a 15 minute fountain show in front of the museum that runs every 30 minutes during Summer.  Lucky for us the weather was great and the fountain shows were already running.

The Olympic stadium at Montjuïc was completed in 1929.  It was intended to host an anti-fascist alternative to the 1936 Berlin Olympics but it never happened due to the Spanish Civil War.  However, it was finally used during the 1992 Olympics.  Wow!  Has it really been 20 years since the Barcelona Olympics?

As I wrote before, Barcelona really is a Gaudí showcase.  One of my favorite spots in the city was Park Güell, also another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Originally it was supposed to be a private estate but instead it ended up as a public park in 1922.  There is a park bench in the shape of a serpent that is the longest bench in the world.  Park Güell is just so over the top wild that you can't help but enjoy it.

La Pedrera, formerly known as Casa Milà was built by Gaudí from 1905 to 1910.  The façade has a wave effect that is emphasized by elaborate balconies.  It was controversial at the time.  Heck, it would still be controversial today but it just looks so cool.  In 1984, it was added to the UNESCO list.

Casa Batlló was built in 1877.  The front has no straight lines.  It is also called the House of Bones because it has a skeletal feel to it.  It too is on the UNESCO list.

Here's a Rick Steves video from YouTube that does a far better job than I could ever do describing Gaudí's Barcelona.
©Rick Steves

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