Barcelona :: Where mosaic goes to die
– Freddie Mercury
We started out well, even though it was fairly early and I am by no means a morning person. I’d packed my little, red bag and felt pretty good about having packed so light. No, this is not a build up to how much I’d regret that decision, I had everything I needed the entire trip…
…Until I bought a bigger bag. Because I liked that bag. It had prints of newspaper all over it and me being a graphic designer, well… Long story short, I fit my little bag in my new, big bag, and brought it home. 18 euros well spent, I say. (Yes, it was, shut up).
I’m pretty sure that Spain being so hot the people there (besides having their heads boiled regularly) one day found out that stone burned by heat could hold yummy colours. Yes, I realize this is somewhat simplyfying the whole “burning ceramics in the oven”, but bear with me. As soon as I set foot in Barcelona the mosaic hit me. There is so much of the decor that relies on colourful ceramics shattered into a billion pieces and stuck to other rock surfaces.
It’s like Gaudi and his workers dropped several tons worth of tiles from the top of La Pedrera and shouted “Free shit!”. Every person went for it, damn the colour combinations, and decorated their buildings with what they could get their hands on.
The thing is, it looks awesome. The city of Barcelona has some really colourful parts, some toned down and some really weird spots, but always there is mosaic. Plenty of cities have mosaic decor, but Barcelona looks undeniably like herself and no other.
Barcelona is a huge city and like many other huge cities there are contrasts everywhere. The buildings are mostly really tall, several stories high, and made of stone, brick and the likes. The residential buildings are riddled with small balconies, looking quite like they do in France, (I’ll let them fight about who built it that way first).
Barcelona also has the extreme contrast of walking for half an hour through really narrow side streets framed by tall, brick buildings before emerging… at the beach. Here we go: Tapas, shopping, get sweaty wandering around the maze that is the backstreets and top it all off with a swim in the Mediterranean. We did this and loved it (well, my roommate had a short dip, I mostly sat in the sand, enjoyed the summer warmth and read my book, aaaah!). We saw the beach on our first day, but opted for the cable car across the harbour and some Gaudi and left the beach for the next day.
On the way to the cable car another contrast pointed itself out to me: the lushness of Barcelona. It’s very warm and dry, but the parks are gorgeous. Same feeling, you emerge from a narrow “land of stone and bricks” into a green paradise. Palm trees and green grass where the locals make the most of the moment, I can’t remember how many times I saw a guy propped up by a huge palmtree, having his siesta in the shade. It looked lovely though, almost mesmerizing… But that might be because I should have brought my sneakers instead of my ballerina shoes and my feet were in the process of committing suicide at that point…
The harbour cable car can be taken from right next to the beach or from Montjuic. Round trip costs 15 euros (single trip 10 euros). Worth it. “Hello all you guys sunbathing on the hotel roof, you’re gonna be on Facebook in your undies!” ^_^
But enough dillydallying. It was fairly obvious early on that the works of Gaudi would take up most of our time in Barcelona. En route to our hotel/hostel we passed Casa Batlló [pron: kaa-saa Ba-yoh] and I squealed, took pictures and let out my inner tourist. Since this was my first time in Barcelona it stands to reason I’d only seen works like La Pedrera, and La Sagrada Familia in pictures. The pictures are amazing, but they don’t do the buildings justice. Today was La Pedrera Day. No, not officially, just, you know, for me…
We were told to start on the roof and work our way down – suited us fine, we trotted up all the stairs and emerged onto a fantastic roof terrace. I immediately understood the “Star Wars”/”Stormtrooper” references people had been citing since the beginning of time…
To the random tourist (and probably one or two locals) Gaudi looks like he was either perpetually drunk or just needed some serious professional assistance to get over whatever was torturing him at night. The only straight things in his buildings are the floors… and sometimes they tilt too.
Gaudi was originally a Catalan, but spent most of his life in Barcelona where he also died. So, naturally, he employs the enormous power of the mosaic(!) in his works of art. Like I said, I saw lots of mosaics in Barcelona, but the amount of it in Gaudi’s works was mindblowing.
The rest of the day was spent walking through the inside of La Pedrera and trying to consume at least a small part of the information available on Gaudi and his projects. The info guides are really well set up and there are miniatures of the building to look at as well as a short rundown of Gaudi’s life with video presentations. Mostly, though, I just enjoyed walking around, touching the textures and “feeling” the history…
The fourth floor of La Pedrera is an apartment recreating the home and life of a bourgeois family in Barcelona in the early 20th century. it’s fitted with furniture and other elements not made by Gaudi (though he made various furniture too in his lifetime), but Gaudi has designed many of the smaller features like doorknobs etc. It was interesting meandering throught the rooms and I fell totally in love with one of the balconies that twisted and stretched the whole of two rooms.