(Only now getting around to posting about my Barcelona stay. Jeeze, it's been what, half a year?
Oh and by the way, if anyone's curious, I got a Twitter account at www.twitter.com/elyandarin - I reasoned that since I was composing bite-size chunks of text ANYWAY...)
Me and my brother were stuck in Barcelona for three months, since Erik developed a kidney-stone and wanted to get treatment for it. Accordingly, I had a lot of time to spend there.
We were unimpressed, to say the least, by the months-long waiting time for kidney-stone treatments - until we returned to Sweden and found that the doctors there didn't want to treat it AT ALL.
"It's too small. You'll piss it out eventually."
"Ma'am, Renal Cholic is by consensus the most excruciating pain known to man. It'll go on for months. And I've got TWO stones in the same kidney. And the treatment takes fifteen minutes with your ultrasonic thingie. I could do it myself if you lend one to me."
"We can give you pain pills."
So, long story short, Erik went back to Spain.
Anyway, small snippets of my Barcelona experiences:
THIS place has some actual artistic feeling to it - looking at the grafitti you can see that there are some artists living here.
* * *
"Augh, these people don't know ANY English. Just out of spite, I'm not going to learn any Spanish. See how they like THAT."
"That does not even make sense. If they don't speak your language, you should speak theirs."
"Hey, I'm perfectly fine with them not speaking Swedish. But I worked HARD for my English skills."
* * *
...The thing about Barcelona is that the city is sort of passive-agressive. Maybe a post-Franco thing; Catalonians were treated atrociously by the rest of Spain; it makes sense they would resent Spanish tourists. The rest of us just get bundled in, I suppose.
Anyway: Everything is designed to inconvenience people who haven't already lived there for a month. (Staying there for more than a month, I was able to tell.)
Buses don't tell you what the next stop is; you'll have to recognize it by sight. Stores display their opening hours only when the store itself is open. The first two weeks you stay in a hostel, you pay a special tourist tax. And of course, the city is known as the Capital of Pickpockets.
EDIT: Having visited more south-European countries, I can say that many of these problems are endemic to all of them. I'm now putting it down to people being stupid and thoughtless, rather than a conscious effort on Barcelona's part. Which is actually more depressing.
* * *
"I guess people in Mediterranean climates just don't know how to handle winters properly. They're all like: 'Well, the other three seasons of the year you would be GLAD for our always-open windows. If you're cold, just take an extra blanket.'
...I'm going north for the winter so I can stay warm."
* * *
There's this sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt and an all-you-can-eat option for 10 Euro (around lunch, 15 in afternoons / on weekends). It is pretty much the first time in my life that sushi has been affordable. Barcelona is *great* when it comes to all-you-can-eat places.
...And I'm going to Spain and eating Asian food. Huh.
* * *
"Hmmmm.... Everytime I see some cool object in Barcelona, I get the feeling that they did it not because it's smart and cool, but because they venerate Gaudi. Stone couches with actual lumbar support? Gauidi made one for Parc Guell. Streetlights in cool shapes? Gaudi-style.
The weird lack of public toilets? I guess Gaudi never designed a public restroom - if he had, they'd be all over the place."
* * *
Warning: snooty art criticism below.
I sneer at buildings composed of straight lines, square angles and flat surfaces (which is to say, I sneer at 99% of all buildings today). My math and physics instincts inform me that arches and curves are way more efficient for carrying the weight of a building. Meanwhile, exposure to modern 3D games has ingrained a response in me which complains: These cheap-ass faking level designers didn't want to strain their budget, so they painted textures on a block - REAL designers use curves!
My first experience with Gaudi's buildings was seeing the Sagrada Familia, and going: "Huh, reminds me of my sandcastles - this guy has style!"
The second experience was walking past Casa Battlo and stopping to say: "Wow. For once a building where the design doesn't suck."
When I finally looked Gaudi up after hearing other tourists talk about him, I was all set for making wordplays on "gaudy" but I discovered that, yeah, I actually like this guy, (for all that he overuses bright cheery colours so the wordplay would be apt).
Being a somewhat egocentric, overly critical nitpicker (with, as a saving grace, self-awareness), the greatest praise I normally hand out is: "I would have done the same thing." What's really freaking impressive to me, though, is that Gaudi lived a HUNDRED YEARS ago - the attitudes and influences that shaped me into liking his kind of style would not be available to me were I to live in his age! He did it all by his lonesome, inventing several building techniques in the process.
So yeah, Gaudi was more like me than *I* am. High praise indeed
Some Gaudi things I experienced:
Price: Free. Experience: Good.
Nice stuff, though it included a lot of walking. Nice landscaping, viaducts... The caves had these snazzy artificial stalactites that looks great, but will undoubtedly someday crack and mash someone's head. The regular wall design in this one place meant there was a nice sitting perch for one singular pigeon every meter or so - basically all occupied - so it looked kind of like the budget version of gargoyles. It was cool. The stone sofa meant you got some hands-on experience with the ceramic-shard-mosaic technique Gaudi pioneered.
Casa Batllˇ (House of Bones)
Price: 20 euro. Experience: Good.
Took the time to listen to a guide recording as I went through the house. Cool descriptions. Overall a cool building, both exterior and interior. Gaudi even designed the furniture - that's classy.
Also, dat roof. Woof woof.
Price: 13 euro. Experience: Meh.
Slightly disappointing. See, Gaudi never finished Sagrada Familia - what's more, his workshop was smashed to bits and burned, and before they started to complete the building, architects had to moonlight as archeologists and piece his models together like they were Cro Magnon skull fragments.
The efforts of the subsequent builders has resulted in a finish that feels... BARE. The stark geometric shapes leave me with a feeling that I'm looking at a model in minecraft or Google SketchUp, which as impied above is a feeling I dislike. All I'm saying is Gaudi would TOTALLY plaster the insides with pottery shards in organic patterns. Look at that tower! LOOK at that friggin' TOWER and tell me otherwise! Though of course Sagrada Familia was still under construction as I viewed it, so maybe they haven't gotten around to it yet. (A German friend had some very scathing things to say about the work morale of anyone who can work on the same building for over fifty years without finishing.)
And as for the pseudo-Sovietic overly stylized statues - bah. Bah, I say.
Though that one staircase is exquisite, computer-generated or no. (No, not the one all over the internet. THIS one, which I only found on some guy's blog)
Price: ~50 euro. Experience: N/A
Are you kidding me? What's with that price?
Over-all, Barcelona was a nice place. I didn't lose anything, though my brother lost his cellphone and was nearly mugged about 17 times or so, escaping through the grace of strong legs and a good sense of danger. Then again, Erik likes to take shortcuts through shady neighborhoods at 5 AM. *I* take the bus.