Barcelona. The name itself has a ring to it. When you say it out loud, you get that exotic image in your head, even though you may know nothing about it. A friend of mine who’s been there pronounces it like a dreamy-eyed girl thinking of George Clooney.
Naturally once you step into a city with that mindset, you expect to be blown away with the innate Barcelona-ness of the city. You’d imagine people don’t just walk on the pavement, they’d dribble past you and scream ‘Gooaaaaaaal!’ (Okay, that might be specific to people who know FC Barcelona better than the city)
What I mean is that one expects a full tilt cultural blast in every aspect. Reality was different as Barcelona turned out to be quite metropolitan. The roads are spacious and pristine enough for a flight to land comfortably. And being predominantly full of tourists at every hour, you’d find it hard to spot locals. In fact streets next to my hostel brimming with Indians & Pakistanis, and the rich aroma of their delicious food.
Like with any other city, Barcelona comes with a must-visit list of places. From TripAdvisor to the receptionists of the hostels you check-in, they all sing the same tune. A normal routine for backpackers is to start their experience of the city with a free walking tour, and then one by one ticking off the suggested hit list.
Now I had given a walking tour a try in Granada, and it was clear that I wasn’t interested in listening to stories, walking and stopping as instructed. In fact, throughout my three months in Europe, I didn’t join any other walking tours – free or not. Thanks, but I’d rather sing my own tune. I may miss a few notes, but hey at least it’d be original. It would be mine.
All other things aside, the one single thing I was looking forward to in Barcelona was watching my first ever live football match at the incomparable Camp Nou. Three of our company had booked tickets for Barcelona vs Levante, and we could hardly wait.
The day of the match, I showed up an hour early at the metro station next to the stadium and skipped the pre-drinking session with my friends, because really, isn’t it for evenings like this that God gave us adrenaline? Together we walked a road that gradually tapers down, and at the end of which the contours of the stadium were visible, with noisy crowds in sixteen million colors sifting in gradually. Inside the stadium, we are all now on our heels to our seats, with the announcer creating goosebumps with every word he uttered.
“Alves. Mascherano. Bartra.”
Roaring with the rest, we settled into our seats and enjoyed the 4-1 spectacle, with Messi scoring twice and gliding off the turf as if from an entirely different planet. We screamed, waved, chanted and soaked in the electric evening. It is incredible when nearly a hundred thousand supporters across borders and boundaries toast their lives to football as one.
The next day was unwisely planned by us for a stadium tour of Camp Nou. Being Barcelona fans, perhaps my two friends would’ve still thoroughly enjoyed it, but my excitement had peaked at the match obviously. How psyched can you get for visiting the same stadium again the very next day? Still, the tickets had been previously purchased, and the experience stood dim in contrast to my stadium tour at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. While Real Madrid allows to you practically walk anywhere you want, the access is highly restricted in Barcelona. They don’t even allow you to walk through their dressing rooms, which really was a let-down.
At this juncture, I parted from my friends for the day and went back to my hostel for quick nap. Once evening had set in, I fancied the beach all of a sudden. And the way I looked for the beach was by observing the blue on the map. Yep. In my earnestness to find the beach through such an indirect method, I ended up walking a lot and came across what looked like a port. Upon crossing a bridge with silvery-white sinew, I ended up in front of a shopping mall, right on the edge of the sea. The real sight of the evening however, was waiting right behind me. An empty bench invited me to savor in the view for a while. Such is the beauty of randomness, and the evening was evidence that it’s okay to not know where you’re going.
|Rambla De Mar, Barcelona
The next day my companions all went to scuba dive in Costa Brava, so it was just me and Barcelona that day. So I got dressed, packed a few things like my Kindle and camera into my backpack, and set off to the beach. It was bright, sunny, crowded, and teeming with sunbathing folk, most of whom were topless. (I don’t know whether there’s a nice way to say that) Of course being from India this isn’t your typical beach, but still you have to act all cool and be like, ‘Oh you are naked? I didn’t even notice.’ I found a grocery store nearby and got myself a big bag of Lays Paprika chips, and a one liter tetra pack of Sangria, which to my disbelief cost about the same as a Tropicana Tetra pack in India.
And so it was me facing the sea, amidst a sea of tourists, reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, munching Paprika and sipping Sangria. A fine way to spend the morning. An hour and a half later, the sangria was kicking in, and I headed off to the Sagrada Familia, the famous then-unfinished Church by the well acclaimed Antoni Gaudi (by well acclaimed I mean a name I first heard when I set foot in Barcelona). And this is where I must stop to make an important revelation I had.
Beauty is not something you can see with sheer force of will, and a face screwed up in concentration. You can look at the greatest works of art in the world, and not be overwhelmed. It’s okay, really. Remember how I was talking earlier about everyone singing the same tune? Well the same people will tell you to visit this church and admire its inexplicable beauty. But you know what? I’m not really into art, and especially medieval and renaissance art forms. So the fact of the matter is my reaction to most churches across the world would be similar – beautiful, peaceful, places of worship. Same is the case with museums. And reading a couple of wiki pages does not make anyone an art connoisseur.
So I stood in front of the church for a few minutes, and kept walking. There was a small park, and a pond next to it. I took a siesta there, while other tourists bustled to get inside the church and take pictures. A daughter was plucking flowers from a bush and bringing one by one to her doting mother. A delightful bunch of old-timers were playing a game on the street together, their joy as obvious as the white of their hair. The message could not be clearer.
Follow your heart, because no one else knows the way. Not even TripAdvisor.
|Busy doing what they love.