Flight to Barcelona
I woke up at around 3:30am to get ready for the flight to Barcelona. I had slept at around 10:30pm the night before in order to not feel absolutely terrible in the morning. We took the first train out to the airport at 4:40am and got there about an hour before our departure at 6:45am. While going through security, I forgot to take of my belt and because of that, the security personnel checked me with the metal detector wand all over the place. For some reason, he seemed to also have a huge suspicion that I was hiding something in my pants. Once he let me go, we were on our way. On the plane ride there, I tried by my best to take a nap, but this little kid cried for the whole duration.
After dropping off our stuff at the hostel, w went to the Sagrada Familia, an unfinished church that began construction in 1882. When I saw it, I thought it was really weird that the construction crew used modern cranes to build architecture of the old style. We tried to go inside, but there was a huge line up.
After wandering around town a little bit, we came across this market that sold all sorts of things. Apart from pretty normal items like clothing, vendors there sold N64’s, used power tools and even military regalia. A lot of that stuff was probably stolen. We walked around some more and then headed down to the beach.
The area we were in, the Barceloneta, was a stretch of beach coastline looking into the Mediterranean Sea. It had the nicest beach water and sand – even better than what I saw in Volos. Looking around the beach, I learned that it was legal for women to sunbathe topless. It was actually quite prominent. The weather was really hot too – perfect beach weather I suppose.
I lay down under an umbrella on a beach towel while the others went for a swim. I ended up falling asleep. I suppose that made up for not having a good sleep on the plane. After spending about an hour and a half at the beach, we went on a walking tour.
The Walking Tour
The first destination in the tour was in the Gothic Quarter. We reached the memorial for Eulalia of Barcelona, a 13 year old girl that was brutally subjected to torture from the Romans for refusing to give up Christianity. She died from the 13th and final torture that involved her being put inside a barrel with blades shoved inside it and then having that barrel rolled down in incline. It is said that a dove flew out of her dead body as she ascended to Heaven.
The next destination was the oldest synagogue in Europe (as opposed to the one in Prague, which is the oldest active synagogue). From the outside, it doesn’t look anything like a synagogue. It just blends in perfectly with the buildings around it and the building itself doesn’t have any valuable looking ornaments or decorations either. The only things that separate it from the other buildings is sign in Hebrew on the doorway and some signs for tourists to know that it’s there. In this Jewish district, the tour guide mentioned the expulsion of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. I thought it was kind of amusing when I was caught by surprise at the mention of it – kind of like that quote from Monty Python.
Afterward, we went to Plaza de Sant Felip Neri. The significance of this place was that the plaza was the site of a air attack from Italian bombers during the Spanish Civil War. Shrapnel damage from the bombs still scar the walls of the plaza. On another side of the plaza, the bomb damaged was repaired but one can still see the slight difference in colour between the bricks which shows how much of the wall had been destroyed.
One thing about the streets in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is that a lot of them are really narrow – probably only about 10 feet wide. We walked through these streets for most of the tour. In one of those streets, we came across a mosaic of Space Invaders. Apparently, there is an artist who goes all over the world putting them up.
The next destination was the Placa Nova, which used to be the location of the city gates back when the Romans lived in Barcelona. The remnants of the gate and the aqueduct still exists. Across from the gate is the City Architecture School, which has a joke drawing by Picasso splattered over it.
After walking some more we saw the Barcelona Cathedral which housed the tomb of Eulalia of Barcelona and also the Placa del Rei, the historical location where Christopher Columbus reported his discovery of the Americas to the Spanish royalty. We also saw some Roman ruins after climbing a mountain with a height of 16.9 meters (that’s what a plaque actually said) as well as the Placa de San Jaume, the political center of Cataluña (the area of Spain that Barcelona belongs to).
The tour guide also talked about the origins of the flag of Catalonia (Cataluña is the name in Catalan). It is said that a great warrior Wilfred the Hairy, after being wounded in battle, drew stripes along a copper shield with his blood-stained fingers, hence the four prominent red stripes on the Catalan flag.
We also walked along La Rambla, a popular tourist street in the city. The tour guide also showed us a city square that featured some of buildings designed by an architect named Gaudi. Apparently, his designs are all over the city.
Next was the Placa George Orwell. As a memorial to him (he was involved during the Spanish Civil War), the city named a city square after him. Ironically enough, this plaza used to be under 24 hour surveillance kind of like Big Brother in his book “1984”.
We finished the tour at a bar and socialized with other people in the tour group for a little bit and drank Sangria. I got to talk to these people who used to work at the same hostel we stayed at in Hamburg. It was such a coincidence.
Barcelona’s Skateboarding Fame
After that, we walked around the city to look for the skateboarding spots that Barcelona was so famous for among skateboarders. I’m not a fan, so I could not recognize the place from skateboarding videos, but it was cool to see a lot of skateboarders in one place showing off their tricks.
For dinner, we tried Tapas, a Spanish delicacy. Tapas are basically a small appetizer dish, but patrons generally order a few of them for a full meal. Along with Tapas, Paellas are another Spanish delicacy that’s also really delicious.
Sangria is Evil
That night, we spent a little bit of time at the hostel bar. We all drank Sangria and the thing about that drink is that it tastes a lot like juice, which means it is really easy to drink too much. And that’s what I did. I puked a bunch and got a pretty bad hangover the next morning. I never intended to drink that much in the first place.
While we were drinking, we talked with this black dude and he always had racist jokes to say. He went on about how white people could never get away with saying racist comments, which was so true.
I spent the next morning puking too which sucked a lot. We went to the beach again that morning, but I felt so bad at that time that I decided to go back to the hostel to rest up a bit before doing anything. I felt a lot better in the evening and so we all continued sightseeing and went to Park Güell.
Park Güell was basically a park that featured a lot of Gaudi’s architectural exploits. Since he hated the use of right angles in his work, much of the design had curvy edges. Spanish architecture here was so different from the architecture I’d seen everywhere else. It was really distinct and unique.
A Less Intense Night (at Least for Me)
After visiting the park, we went to the hostel bar like the night before. Except this time, I didn’t do any crazy drinking. We met the same black dude from the night before again and this time he went on about how much he loved eating fried chicken, which just made me crack up so hard. He perpetuated that stereotype. Once the hostel bar quieted down, my friends went out for clubbing while I stayed at the hostel and went to sleep.
I found out later that they returned at around 6 am. Two of them were really high on weed apparently when they came back too (weed is legal in Barcelona so long as one possesses less than 50g). They missed the hostel breakfast that morning and slept in until 12pm. Once we all got ready, we went out for lunch at a mini-sandwich restaurant.
The place had so many varieties of mini sandwiches and they all looked and tasted delicious. I wanted to try all of them, but I was pretty certain that I couldn’t eat that much since I wasn’t hungry for lunch yet.
After eating, we went up to Montjuïc. The mountain had a lot of really nice architecture, just like a lot of places in the city. Also on the mountain was the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. We walked around the Olympic stadium and got a really good view of the city.
We walked further up the mountain and reached the fortress at the top. At the time, we didn’t know there was a gondola that took us up there, so we walked the whole way, which was super tiring in the intense heat that day. Fortunately, seeing the fortress was worth it. From there, we got a really good view of the entire city, all the way around.
After walking around so much, we all got really hungry and took the gondola back down and looked for a place to eat.
After trying Tapas on the first day, we decided to try Paellas this time around. Paellas are basically a rice dish and consists of either vegetables, seafood, or different varieties of meat depending on the type. We ordered one with seafood and chicken in it.
Being able to pick meat off bones and peeling the shell off of shrimp was so satisfying. It was totally unlike the German dishes that involve none of that peeling whatsoever.
Writing at the Beach
We spent the rest of the night at the beach to get one last look at it before leaving the next morning. When we got there, the sun was already setting so it was quite comfortable at the beach without the sun constantly cooking us.
As the sun set, it actually got really cold. While sitting at the beach, I started writing bits of this blog entry in my notebook. Writing on the beach was really satisfying.
My Joint-Rolling Experience
When we got back to the hostel, two of the people I went with wanted to use up the rest of the weed that they bought. I refused to do any weed when they offered it to me – even if it was legal here, but I did want to try rolling a joint. They passed me some of the weed and rolling paper and then taught me how to do it. In the end, I rolled a better joint than both of them and it was only my first try too. They called me a “stoner prodigy” and said how I’d be a really good stoner if I ever did weed. No way I’m going to smoke it for real though even if rolling a joint was an interesting experience. When the others started smoking the rest of the weed, I returned to the hostel and went to bed.
The next morning we all woke up at 6 am to get to the airport for our flight back to Stuttgart. For pretty much the entire trip home, our whole group barely talked. We all had this zombie look on our faces from waking up way too early and not sleeping enough. It took a few hours for us to return back to our normal state. We all felt it was a good trip – except for the part where I had too much Sangria.
More photos here