The best part about traveling during the holidays is that you get to see how different cultures and cities decorate and celebrate yule.
When I arrived in Barcelona, a city on the water and thereby warmer than the others I wound up visiting, I wasn’t really feeling a winter-y vibe. As I wandered the city, I saw several decorations and locations where Christmas markets were being erected.
I decided to wander the city a bit to get a better feel for it before making any spurious Christmas-type judgments.
In the end, all it took was the sun going down to see just how seriously Barcelona takes their Christmas festivities.
In my daytime wanderings, I journeyed through much of the gothic quarter (Bari Gotic) and in the neighborhoods surrounding Plaza Catalunya. I happened upon a Christmas market outside of the Catedral de Barcelona:
From there, on a mission, I went on a quest to find Sinagoga Major de Barcelona, arguably the oldest synagogue in Europe (no really…a hotly contested topic.) The synagogue in question is a two-room, private, underground synagogue in what used to be a heavily Jewish quarter of the city. Ironically enough, nowadays, across the street is a fairly large tattoo parlor. There goes the neighborhood…
(The 12 colors in the stained glass represent the 12 tribes.)
The synagogue was completed in the 3rd or 4th century and though it wasn’t always used as a place of worship, (the Spanish Inquisition caused most Jews to convert to avoid persecution — there was a massacre of the Jews in 1391,) it reopened as a museum in 2002.
After visiting the synagogue, I was determined to visit all of the Antoni Gaudí locations that I could manage.
Antoni Gaudí was an architect in Spain from 1852 to 1926. With obsessive attention to detail, Gaudí considered and integrated nature and religion into his buildings using ceramics and stained glass (among other things…I’m 100% convinced he was on shrooms and utilized sorcery to achieve his vision…)
You cannot fathom the sheer size of this building; the tallest spire is 560 feet tall (just shy of the neighboring mountain…as Gaudí believed that man should never aspire to be higher than God.) Construction started on this building in 1882. Its estimated completion date is some time in 2026-2028. (At the time of Gaudí’s death, less than a quarter of the basilica was actually complete.)
The Nativity Façade, depicting the birth of Jesus:
The stained glass windows represent the changing seasons and are optimally placed to allow light to hit literally every nook and cranny of the basilica…including the parts of it that are underground.
The interior supports are designed to look like trees in a forest.
The building has been under construction for 134 years.
As an athlete and a huge admirer of the Olympic games every four years (I’ve never really found even a passing interest in the Winter Olympics. Sorry!) I knew I had to visit the site of the 1992 Olympics while in Barcelona. It was a bit of a trek and (surprise, surprise,) it started to rain atop the Montjuïc hill, so I wandered into the warm (and dry) Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport. Within, the museum housed a lot of memorabilia surrounding the Olympic games. Though the information practically dead-ends at the 2008 games, it was still fascinating to see so much sport history in one place. Additionally, they had a very large collection of Olympic torches.
From there, I went to the stadium to see the large torch!
I then slowly made my way back down the mountain, passing several gorgeous buildings and sites on the way down.
Fonts de Montjuïc
My Food Adventures
My first meal in Barcelona, I’m not even remotely sorry to say, was McDonalds. I’ve made an effort to visit good ‘ole Mickey D’s in every country I’ve visited. (Best: Israel, Worst: Czech Republic.) In Spain, they offer a wider variety of coffees and desserts. Also, they are very stingy with their condiments.
Additionally, throughout much of Europe, McD’s has rolled out automated ordering. It’s kinda cool! You order at a machine and take your ticket to the counter to pick up your food.
For dinner on the first night, another girl in my room, Saga from Sweden, and I wandered down Las Ramblas until we stumbled upon an awful Italian place with some choice people-watching opportunities.
My second dinner was a tad more traditional. Though the waiter wanted me to eat Pincho Gilda (anchovies, chilies, and olives; clearly he didn’t know me at all…) I did manage to find five different types of Pinchas (similar to Tapas). I even ordered a second of a mushroom one that was delicious. (I accidentally ate duck liver. That was not okay!)
Finally, the waiter judged HARD when I ordered three desserts. Don’t judge me! You don’t know my life! xD
My final day in the city, I had just enough time to wander through an artists’ fair, the chocolate museum, the Picasso museum, and the Arc di Triomf before heading to the airport for Madrid.
While at the Picasso Museum, I discovered another artist who painted using cubism and I fell in love; Juan Gris. I really like his use of lines. Whereas I feel like Picasso was mainly on drugs, Gris’ art looks linear and things are (get this…) actually recognizable! 😮 I’ll include some of his art in my next post about Madrid.
Midday, I made my way to Madrid after roughly 2.5 busy days in Barcelona. I quite enjoyed the city.