All great experiences follow with some not-so-great experiences. Barcelona was a topsy-turvy ride with contrasting emotions, family-sized Texas bonding, inexplicable stench, some trippy architecture and a whole lot of touristy tourists.
My sister, the true Madrid-ite that she is, left me with minimum expectations from Barcelona. Almost everyone else I met said exactly the opposite. Barcelona is known for its glamarous, explicit beaches, it’s Modernist architecture and some solid nightlife. Let me highlight some highlights that lit my little trip:
1. The Stench: The first thing I noticed about Barcelona was this lingering drainage-inspired stench that filled most of Old Town. Coming from this country called India that is also known for its stench, Barcelona was a little less worse. Apparently, the general slope of the land in Barcelona tilts towards the ocean and thus, all the drains seem to flow towards old town, hence the stench. According to a tour-guide, a lot of chemicals are used to nullify this stench, but alas, to minimal effect.
2. The Thieves: Barcelona is full of silly pick-pockets, cunniving theives and annoying people who love to ruin things by stealing things. My dormmate’s camera was stolen. My other dormmate’s 600 Euros were stolen. A friend I met in Amsterdam had his wallet stolen, and almost had his phone stolen too. The Texas friend I met in Barcelona dodged an attempted con that would have had his money and passports stolen. Also, my phone was stolen. So, perhaps my negative bias towards Barcelona is somehow born out of this personal catastrophe. It was wiffed away from right in front of me. I was watching the oh-so-incredible England v Italy game. I had placed my super-precious phone in front of me on the bar, and in literally two minutes, it was gone. It just disappeared. Oh, the agony. It was so difficult to fathom that it had just disappeared. I have always been paranoid about my personal belongings, and it took me little less than a minute to realize it was missing. Oh how I looked at every one around trying to figure out who this dastardly culprit was, but staring doesn’t solve things. It was gone. I don’t know what I am more upset about – losing my phone or being affected by the loss of my phone. Attachment to lifeless objects is pretty pathetic.
3. The Young Americans/Australians: I met a LOT of Americans and Ozzies in Barcelona. A LOT. It was like going to Barcelona was a fad that everyone just had to embrace, so Facebook and the world could embrace the craziness that had just been unleashed on them. Young Americans/Australians love Barcelona because Barcelona knows how to party, and all Young Americans/Australians want to do is party, and talk about how hungover they are the next day, and how much alcohol they’ve consumed over the past few days. And, if that’s their definition of fun, sure. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty much a “young American.” But, I feel what I want from this holiday is more than just partying, alcohol and hangovers. I have had enough of that in Austin, TX. I didn’t suck enough culture out of Barcelona, or I didn’t seem to find enough.
4. The Architecture: This entire post makes my experience in Barcelona seem more negative than it actually was. Amidst all the drama, there was some serenity. Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona is so intriguing. It’s daring and extravagant and his magnum opus, the Sagrada Familia is breathtaking. The attention-to-detail, the passion and life that something so stationary and inanimate can exude is definitely worth checking out. I biked around Barcelona and saw most of his buildings. I think the most interesting part about Gaudi is that he seemed so ahead of his time, and so bold in his designs. There is this general theme that distinguishes geniuses from the rest – they can see the future like no one else.
5. The Rebellion: The concept of a country within a country is fascinating. Catalunya, where Barcelona is, craves to NOT be a part of Spain. Catalan desperately wants its independence and pretty much functions like its own country with distinctly different traditions and culture. This notion of desiring independence seemed fairly obvious to me, and I was in Barcelona only for two days. Small things like giving precedence to the language Catalan over Spanish, and big things like not supporting Spain in the Euros make the local dynamic so unhealthy. The current economic crises is not really helping the situation either. Blaming the Spanish government for the current unemployment madness becomes oh-so-easy. Behind all the glory and beauty of Barcelona, there is a lot of trouble and pockets of rebellion. Maybe, “rebellion” is a more exaggerated expression, but there is definitely some unrest.
The whole purpose of this Eurotrip is introspection. Corny as it sounds, I want to get out of my comfort zone because I feel that handling discomfort teaches me a lot about myself. The ups and downs that came with Barcelona exemplified this. This city also gave me some incredible conversations with daring people. I met an accomplished individual who had just quit his lucrative job to travel and do some soul-searching. And our semi-intoxicated, sublimley genuine conversation about the ambition behind life was extremely refreshing. I also got to spend some quality time with a friend from Texas I really admire, and his father. We bonded over the reason we first became friends – football.
Amsterdam is next.
P.S. Local beer = Estrella = nice. Forgive the aggresion in this post.