Barcelona – Like a jewel in the sun!

Heading to Barcelona, you should know few things. First – your high school Spanish wont help you a lot. In Catalonia they speak Catalan, which is not that similar to the Spanish they speak in Madrid (Castilian). English is not that useful either. Spanish people do not speak foreign languages. However, they are always polite and ready to help. Second thing – Barcelona is very tourist friendly city, as I like to call those European cities where you can’t never be lost. Most signs are written in both Catalan and Castilian and there are many tourist information centers in the central part of the city.  The staff of the museums  speaks several languages and with a simple map in your hand you can use the public transport without problems. Different types of services are offered for the convenience of the tourists.

One of them is  a card for a special type of bus. It runs  through the center of Barcelona and pass by the most of the major attractions in the city. You can use the card for 24h.. It goes wth a little book in which you can find infos about museums, galleries and others. This book gives you 10, 20, 30% discount of the entry ticket. If you are a student, however, I advise you to use some type of international student card – you can get even 50% discount.

One last thing you should know about Barcelona and Spain in general – they do siesta. It’s a rest that the most people takes from 2 to 4-5 o’clock. During this period only some tourist shops remain open. You should know – Spanish people love resting. They love peace and quiet. You will never see them nervous or in a hurry. Spanish people love that state of the main that we in Plovdiv call “aylyak”.  Maybe that’s why they live longer than any other naion in Europe – they just don’t worry about little stuff. They also love to have fun. In Spain there are more festivals and holidays than days in the year. And indeed, in Barcelona they  know how to have fun. They organize big public events with music, dancing and other attractions – pyrotechnics and more. In Spain everybody drinks wine. A typical wine you must try is sangría. From the dishes – you should try paella. In the restourants in Barcelona you can find a wide range of seafood prepared in many different ways. Finally, in Spain there is one religion – football. During a football game eberyone is at home in front of the tv or in a bar to watch his favorite team. Spanish people gets very emotional when they watch football – every victory is a national holiday and evert loss – a big tragedy.

Enough with the introduction. My stay in Spain was not that long so I will not pretend that I know too much about the Spanish culture, but I hope I will be back there again.

Let’s start our tour around the city. The name you’ll hear often is that of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. He is resposible for the most of the tourist attractions in Barcelona. He is famous with his Sagrada Familia cathedral. In fact, construction began under the supervision of architect Francesco Viljar but then quickly falls into the hands of Gaudi. His style is very different from anything known at that time. For religious temple Sagrada Familia looks too modern and strange even today. Unfortunately Gaudí failed to see comlete the wok of his life. He died in tragic circumstances, the cathedral stays unfinished today. The architect didn’t leave drawings and plans after his death, and there is other obstacle – no enought money. The construction of Sagrada Familia continues thanks to the money funds collected from entrance fees and donations. So if you visit the cathedral, the ticket that you will buy will help for building it. The price of the entry ticket is about 12 euros. It is true that the facade of cathedral is unique, but you should see the inside as well. Inside is placed the coffin crypt of Gaudí. You can also go to the balcony – from there you can see magnificent view of Barcelona.

Antoni Gaudi was the man who designed the Park Güell. The place is named after the man who funded the project. Güell aksed his friend Gaudí to build a residential complex in where the rich Spanish people will be able to buy luxury houses. At that time, the place is located outside of the city and the interest in the project was small. Thats way Gaudi finished only few houses – one of which he made for himself. Today the place is open for visits. No entry fee. This is one of the favorite places of the citizens where they can enjoy the nature. Actually, the nature inspires Gaudi in his work. Many of the elements used in his architecture, he copied from the animal life and the naure – bee hives, branches, pods, petals. In the Park Güell everything fits together in such harmony that it is hard to tell what is done by human hand and what was just there. You will see massive columns, terraces, staircases, playgrounds, fountains. The place is huge, so save at least several hours if you want to taka a nice walk.

Gaudi’s style is unmistakable. To decorate the facades, windows, chimneys, the architect used broken tiles and colored glass. A fine example of his imagination are two houses – Casa Batiyo and Casa Mila (better known as La Pedrera). Both are placed at the center of Barcelona, close to Plaza Catalunya. The entrance fee is about 15 euros for each. If you have to choose just one – choose casa Batiyo. Its facade looks like scales of a dragon. Interesting thing about its architecture is also the fact that nowhere, inside and out – there are no edges and right angles. The house has several floors. Some floors are occupied by residents, others are free to visit. Including the roof. Casa Mila also has charm, but the architecture is not that original.The  Interior is more like a museum.

While you are in this part of the city, you can take a walk on Rambla street. This is the most famous pedestrian street in Barcelona and it brings together people from all over the world. There you will find all kinds of souvenirs – illegal traders will try to sell you handbags, sunglasses, jewelry. On the Rambla street it is placed the famous indoor market La Buqueria – with many stalls with fruits, nuts, spices, cheese, sausages, fish and seafood. Most of these products you can buy at  pretty decent price and if you decide to cook something from there you will get everything you need.

At the end of Rambla street, you will see the famous monument of Columbus. Near by is the port of Barcelona – one of the largest  in this part of Europe. Here it is located also the Aquarium.  I didn’t visit it, but if you are interested in the sea world, take your time and do it. Personally I prefer the cultural, historical and religious sights, so I left the aquarium and the zoo aside. I chose to take a walk around Bari Gothic – Gothic quarter of Barcelona. There the architecture is different from that in the modern part of town. The streets are narrow and buildings are built close to each other, which creates the impression that the neighborhood is always in the shades. There is the Picasso museum, which exposed many of his most famous works – from his earliest years until his last years.

In the same region is the Cathedral of La Seu, which is the largest functioning cathedral in Barcelona. Admission fee is 6 euros, but they will let you inside only if you are properly dressed (wear a scarf in your bag to cover your shoulders). The cathedral is huge – with a crypt, where is situated the coffin of St. Eualiya, and a roof, which is open for visiting.

You can’t take a tour of Barcelona without visitng Mondzhuik hill – one of the nicest places in Barcelona. There you will find some cultural sights – Joan Miro Foundation, National Palace and Spanish village. At its foot on the square Spain there is the famous “singing” fountain. Usually the show is every Saturday and lasts an hour and a half. Often ends with the famous song by Queen – Barcelona.

For the football fans Barcelona offers another major attraction – the Camp Nou stadium. Even if you go with the idea that you will take a quick tour, it will take at least two hours to see everything. The entrance ticket costs about 20 euros and includes a visit to the stadium and the museum. Inside you will see the Golden Ball of Hristo Stoichkov (*bulgarian football legend) and other titles won by the club and the players. Unfortunately, the experience can not be compared with visitng a real game, when the Camp Nou is filled with almost 100,000 viewers, but certainly worth it if you are football fans. The citizens of Barcelona are very proud of his team, and the merchants are selling all kinds of materials with the image of Leo Messi – from scarves and shirts to plates and cups. And the people proud of their town. And for good reason. Barcelona is one of those modern European towns whre you can see at one place technical progress, culture and history.

The transport in Barcelona is are very well organized. The metro will take you anywhere you want. And with the train you can go quickly to the resort towns of  Costa Brava and in many other places in Catalonia and Spain. As a truly modern city, Barcelona combines different traditions and cultures, and the people there are friendly and tolerant. Gay marriages are allowed and no one is afraid to express yourself. At the same time people respect others – smoking in closed spaces is not allowed. In an attempt to shown themselves as modern people, they even banned the bullfight. In the time when I was in Barcelona it was hold the last bullfight in the history of Catalonia – the price of tickets in the black market reached 2,000 euros. For better or worse Barcelona grows quickly and at this point looks like one of those cities that can offer you everything. Do not be surprised by the statistics that rank it among the most visited cities in Europe …

By Neli

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