BARCELONA, CAPITAL OF CATALONIA.
Barcelona, capital of Catalonia on the Mediterranean coast, is a large city where the old and the modern, the legend and the fact weave into a beautiful today. Some legends say the city was founded by the warrior Hannibal’s father in the third century BC. A train from the airport will take you to the railway station, and right across the square from it there stands the wonderful Gran Torre Catalunia Hotel. Besides being very comfortable, it boasts a large restaurant on the 23rd floor. You can have an incredibly sumptuous breakfast while enjoying the sights and taking as many pictures of the city panorama as you wish. Both famous cathedrals can be seen in the distance, as well as some amazing ultra-modern constructions. A lovely park is laid out right down below, you can have a leisurely walk along its many paths before embarking on the exploration of the city. The subway station is next to the railway terminal. Emerge on La Rambla, one of the main streets, and take a moment to admire the pavement which creates an illusion of being wavy (it isn’t). Naturally there is an old university, plenty of museums and theaters in this crowded city. The old Gothic Quarter is a thrill in itself; one can practically touch the buildings on both sides by simply spreading one’s hands. The 13th century huge Cathedral is a perennial attraction, with tourists streaming in when it’s open for observation. A brisk trade is going on right near the main entrance: in Spain, quite often a woman cannot get inside a church if her shoulders are bare (bare legs and a décolleté seem to be fine). The short walkway to the door is lined with vendors selling scarves for 10 euros. Be sure to have a scarf or some throw-on in your bag when you go to see the Cathedral of Barcelona. Afterwards, walk around to visit the magnificent gardens right behind the cathedral, with amazing flower arrangements, and swans, geese and ducks gliding slowly on little ponds. There is also a public toilet tucked into a corner.
One can see Antonio Gaudi’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia cathedral, and walk to it from the old center. It was begun in the 19th century, and the construction is still ongoing. It largely depends on the amount of funds raised for the building. One can easily see the original parts, which look as if somebody built a great sandcastle. It is impossible to comprehend how a human being conceived of such a design, and how he had it done. Outside and inside, crowds of people stare, take photos. Many tourists lie down on the floor to take pictures of the ceiling and various ornaments. It is possible to climb up, to see the city surrounding this amazing monument to human genius. One can also visit the museum and look at original photos which show more than a century’s work.
Barcelona is also a large port, and it has plenty of beaches. It is better perhaps to walk down to the beach, and to take a subway train or bus back, so as not to have a long tiring climb.
Naturally there are lots of shops, markets, cafes and restaurants. It seems that the locals are never in a hurry, and this attitude is contagious. Don’t rush, after a long day of exploring, sit down in the shade, relax and enjoy!
Not everybody speaks English, but some people do. You won’t have any problems at bus and train terminals, in hotels, shops and cafes.