The Barcelona bubble

The Gaudi experience is unmissable

The Gaudi experience is unmissable

The eye-catching tiled domes of Cases Rocamora on Passeig de Gracia mark the former residence of the Rocamora family.
The bronze Crucifixion of Christ hangs inside Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished magnum opus, the Sagrada Familia cathedral.

Bubble vision

As you amble down the streets of Barcelona, in that just-arrived tourist haze, the first sight that will have you frozen on the pavement are the buildings. Turning down a wee calle (pronouced kai-ya) behind the cathedral, you are instantly met with “bubble vision”.

Meandering colours whirl up walls, dizzying patterns roll down columns, and irregular shapes of all descriptions pop out from the colour. This is largely the work of the Catalan modernist movement and the city’s former “creative decorator”, Gaudi. Contrary to Holland’s Van Gogh or France’s Monet, Gaudi’s preferred medium of architecture ensures the “in-your-face” accessibility of his work.

From the melted-icing cake roof of La Pedrera to the skeletal window frames of Casa Batlló, modernist art meets the eye around each corner of Barcelona’s cityscape, a free bubble-vision experience you can’t, and won’t want to miss.

Emotion

Not only will the Barcelona bubble tease your eyes, it’ll toy with your emotions. As bubbles provoke childish enchantment and ecstasy, so too does the city of Barcelona. In fact, the whole town appears to float on a youthful bohemian spirit. While alternative clubs, bars, cafes and boutiques, satisfactory to the most ardent hipster abound, the true bohemian spirit floats through the parks.

The first time I wandered through the city, I ended up in one of Barcelona’s bohemian hives. Entering Parc de la Ciutadella I was instantly entranced. Catalans and tourists alike lay, sat, danced, meditated and “slacklined” in clusters and open circles as others filled the park with music. In the distance, young couples and families rowed boats on the duck pond.

It felt like a communal-living sanctuary from the 60s crossed with a future, child-friendly Glastonbury. I was alone, yet I felt completely included, caught up in the youthful spirit of fun and freedom that Barcelona exudes.

Detail

When I finally enlisted myself on a walking tour I had already been in Barcelona for four days. I was well acquainted with all the tourist stops and the winding streets you took to get there. What I hadn’t noticed were the subtle but significant sites scattered throughout these streets. While refashioned palaces and remnants of the Spanish inquisition can be discovered across the city, the most intriguing site is tucked away in a small residential building.

On Carrer de Marlet 5, an uneventful street in “El Call”, the city’s historic Jewish quarter, hides one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. Subterranean and disguised, you wouldn’t be blamed for missing this historic site, thought to date back to the 4th century.

In fact, the importance of the site was officially “missed” by the whole town up until 1995 when it was first discovered by an intuitive historian. Tracing an old route taken by a 16th century tax collector, the historian became suspicious when he noted a then-warehouse that fitted all the architectural dimensions of a Jewish temple.

Staying true to its modest history, the now visitable site doesn’t sport a large ticket booth and no signs will guide you to its whereabouts, but it certainly warrants the search. Hiding in the shadows of the more proclaimed traveller checkpoints, the synagogue is an underrated detail of the bubble worth magnifying.

Unique

While observing Barcelona is like watching a bubble, entering the city after travelling through Spain is equivalent to stepping inside that bubble. Gone are the white and blue cave houses of Granada and the expansive plains of Andalusia — suddenly the traveller is met with avenues of apartments, boulevards of boutiques and a well-connected subway system. This can all be expected of Spain’s second largest city.

What one may not expect are the striking differences in language and culture that greet you in Barcelona. Sitting in a bar sipping on a cold cerveza you might be amused by some locals’ idea of Spanish. You have tirelessly perfected your “gracias” and they just don’t seem to be saying it right. Before you pop over to give a quick language lesson, check they’re not speaking Catalan, the native and second official language of the region.

Derived from vulgar Latin and estimated to date back to the 9th century, today Catalan resembles more of Italian and French than modern day Spanish. The use of “merci” will be a give-away sign when you do start listening.

After you’ve stopped eavesdropping, head to a park and witness the city dwellers’ unusual recreational activity. While bull fighting is a notorious Spanish pastime, Catalans have traditionally shown more interest in the sport of human pyramid construction. Taking a weekend stroll through one of Barcelona’s many parks you are guaranteed to stumble across a group of “castellers” constructing a human-filled masterpiece.

Not only do Catalans act and speak differently, they are different, and they know it. Wander through Barcelona’s residential areas and you will be drawn to the yellow and red-striped flags tumbling over balconies and dressing the streets in colour. Although you may initially mistake these political pieces for nationalistic pride, on closer inspection you will notice this is not the Spanish flag, but the flag of Catalonia.

For a considerable time, some would argue since the 12th century and the marriage of the Count of Barcelona and the Queen of neighbouring Aragon, a group of Catalans have been fighting to reclaim complete territorial independence.

Before the unification of modern day Spain, Catalonia was a self-sufficient entity with its own customs, language and traditions.

It is no wonder then that the Barcelona of today feels unique. Like the Catalonia of the High Middle Ages, Barcelona is a land of human towers and Latin tongues within a country of bull fighting and bravado, an enchanting Spanish bubble well worth the visit.

Bubble vision

As you amble down the streets of Barcelona, in that just-arrived tourist haze, the first sight that will have you frozen on the pavement are the buildings. Turning down a wee calle (pronouced kai-ya) behind the cathedral, you are instantly met with “bubble vision”.

Meandering colours whirl up walls, dizzying patterns roll down columns, and irregular shapes of all descriptions pop out from the colour. This is largely the work of the Catalan modernist movement and the city’s former “creative decorator”, Gaudi. Contrary to Holland’s Van Gogh or France’s Monet, Gaudi’s preferred medium of architecture ensures the “in-your-face” accessibility of his work.

From the melted-icing cake roof of La Pedrera to the skeletal window frames of Casa Batlló, modernist art meets the eye around each corner of Barcelona’s cityscape, a free bubble-vision experience you can’t, and won’t want to miss.

Emotion

Not only will the Barcelona bubble tease your eyes, it’ll toy with your emotions. As bubbles provoke childish enchantment and ecstasy, so too does the city of Barcelona. In fact, the whole town appears to float on a youthful bohemian spirit. While alternative clubs, bars, cafes and boutiques, satisfactory to the most ardent hipster abound, the true bohemian spirit floats through the parks.

The first time I wandered through the city, I ended up in one of Barcelona’s bohemian hives. Entering Parc de la Ciutadella I was instantly entranced. Catalans and tourists alike lay, sat, danced, meditated and “slacklined” in clusters and open circles as others filled the park with music. In the distance, young couples and families rowed boats on the duck pond.

It felt like a communal-living sanctuary from the 60s crossed with a future, child-friendly Glastonbury. I was alone, yet I felt completely included, caught up in the youthful spirit of fun and freedom that Barcelona exudes.

Detail

When I finally enlisted myself on a walking tour I had already been in Barcelona for four days. I was well acquainted with all the tourist stops and the winding streets you took to get there. What I hadn’t noticed were the subtle but significant sites scattered throughout these streets. While refashioned palaces and remnants of the Spanish inquisition can be discovered across the city, the most intriguing site is tucked away in a small residential building.

On Carrer de Marlet 5, an uneventful street in “El Call”, the city’s historic Jewish quarter, hides one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. Subterranean and disguised, you wouldn’t be blamed for missing this historic site, thought to date back to the 4th century.

In fact, the importance of the site was officially “missed” by the whole town up until 1995 when it was first discovered by an intuitive historian. Tracing an old route taken by a 16th century tax collector, the historian became suspicious when he noted a then-warehouse that fitted all the architectural dimensions of a Jewish temple.

Staying true to its modest history, the now visitable site doesn’t sport a large ticket booth and no signs will guide you to its whereabouts, but it certainly warrants the search. Hiding in the shadows of the more proclaimed traveller checkpoints, the synagogue is an underrated detail of the bubble worth magnifying.

Unique

While observing Barcelona is like watching a bubble, entering the city after travelling through Spain is equivalent to stepping inside that bubble. Gone are the white and blue cave houses of Granada and the expansive plains of Andalusia — suddenly the traveller is met with avenues of apartments, boulevards of boutiques and a well-connected subway system. This can all be expected of Spain’s second largest city.

What one may not expect are the striking differences in language and culture that greet you in Barcelona. Sitting in a bar sipping on a cold cerveza you might be amused by some locals’ idea of Spanish. You have tirelessly perfected your “gracias” and they just don’t seem to be saying it right. Before you pop over to give a quick language lesson, check they’re not speaking Catalan, the native and second official language of the region.

Derived from vulgar Latin and estimated to date back to the 9th century, today Catalan resembles more of Italian and French than modern day Spanish. The use of “merci” will be a give-away sign when you do start listening.

After you’ve stopped eavesdropping, head to a park and witness the city dwellers’ unusual recreational activity. While bull fighting is a notorious Spanish pastime, Catalans have traditionally shown more interest in the sport of human pyramid construction. Taking a weekend stroll through one of Barcelona’s many parks you are guaranteed to stumble across a group of “castellers” constructing a human-filled masterpiece.

Not only do Catalans act and speak differently, they are different, and they know it. Wander through Barcelona’s residential areas and you will be drawn to the yellow and red-striped flags tumbling over balconies and dressing the streets in colour. Although you may initially mistake these political pieces for nationalistic pride, on closer inspection you will notice this is not the Spanish flag, but the flag of Catalonia.

For a considerable time, some would argue since the 12th century and the marriage of the Count of Barcelona and the Queen of neighbouring Aragon, a group of Catalans have been fighting to reclaim complete territorial independence.

Before the unification of modern day Spain, Catalonia was a self-sufficient entity with its own customs, language and traditions.

It is no wonder then that the Barcelona of today feels unique. Like the Catalonia of the High Middle Ages, Barcelona is a land of human towers and Latin tongues within a country of bull fighting and bravado, an enchanting Spanish bubble well worth the visit.

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Stella - 7 months ago
What a beauty.... Been there last weekend. Even though it's a high season for the tourists, it is still worth seeing! All of the great Gaudi! No matter how many times you've heard of him - it's not about hearing. It's the music of the architecture, played for the eyes of the beholder. I don't know for the hotels, but we were staying in a cool apartment and mostly went out at night to dig through less people.

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