My days in Barcelona, in the company of my lovely, fun, spirited, generous and all-around amazing friend Slavka (same one responsible for my visit to the city last spring) and another couple of glee-inducing and wonderful friends, passed as a whirlwind. Perhaps because of the manner in which the whole trip took place – fortuitously, with neither a set plan or agenda nor a precise ending point, every moment and every glimpse felt like an unexpected accident of grace.
I often gazed down and took pictures of different grounds, without thinking of a system in which to arrange or write about them. Now it turns out that they all, somehow, go in pairs – some are straight-forward couples, and other are twosomes of the odder kind, but twosome nevertheless.
So, in no particular order, they were:
On Plaça de Catalunya, one of the city’s most touristy areas, where the pickpockets are as numerous as the pigeons and, in turn, the “rats with wings” are just as fearless as the pickpockets…
… or in Gracia, at the end of the one of the nights of the neighborhood week-long fiesta, when the trash-covered streets are the only reminder of the reckless abandon with which Barcelonites celebrate.
H2O and H2eeeew
The water fountain in La Barceloneta, to rinse the sand from the nearby beach off one’s feet…
… and the stale, cigarette-butt-filled puddle – a testimony to the summer rain that fell the night before.
My interest in all things pedestrian has been well-document on this site (here specifically). I am always fascinated by how public space is shared, divided and claimed, especially though the delineation of ground surfaces and Barcelona was especially interesting in that respect. In an effort to reduce pedestrian-related incidents, which apparently constitute one third of all traffic accidents in the city, this long and detailed written warning calls for walkers’ attention at almost every crossing before they set foot on the road and exclaims that “We are all pedestrians!”
There are also enormous markings for the tramways, in case one failed to notice their tracks buried deep in the lush green grass:
Initialed, signed and stamped
Whether it was the enormous ‘E’ from the beginning my first name, inlaid into the sidewalk by La Barceloneta’s harbor…
… or the rain-water filled initials of my first and last names, seemingly hand-carved onto a sidewalk manhole cover.
Red circles and scarlet hearts
Throughout the center of the city, if you gaze down at all, you are bound to see red circles set into the pavement, which indicate the Route of Modernism – an itinerary through a total of 115 modernist works by Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch – from palatial residences, impressive museum buildings, a hospital, school, music house and an entire park to more everyday buildings and city objects such as chemists’, shops, lampposts and benches (here is a full list of the works, marked on a map of Barcelona).
… while the stenciled, half-scratched red heart, which wasn’t part of any particular route but which I nevertheless took as a flirtatious wink at me by the city.
Botany lessons in passing
In addition to guiding people around its modernist landmarks, Barcelona seems intent on informing its residents and visitors of its rich plant life, with labels featuring not only the botanical binominal names of various tree species and their genus, but also their common names and places of origin and even a little stylized drawing of its leaves. In this case, what is commonly known in English as Southern Catalpa, Cigartree, or Indian Bean Tree, the Catalpa bignonioides from the Catapla genus is known in Spanish as arbol de las trompetas and originates from North America.
… or the Koelreuteria paniculata, which in English is known as the pride-of-India, China tree or varnish tree and in Catalan as sapindo de china and which comes from…. as you may have already guessed, China and Japan.
Speaking of trees…
I was startled to see so many fallen brown leaves on the ground in August, when it was still possible to more or less successfully banish thoughts of the impending autumn to the back of one’s mind and bask in the glory and carelessness of summer…
… though it must be said that the leaves looked especially beautiful on Gaudí’s ornate pavement tiles as a background.
… and backward forward in Catalan, which itself seemed to me kind of like a language you’d get if you tried to read Spanish or French in a mirror, without knowing either of them particularly well.