Barcelona is something I've spent a while wrapping my mind around. Amazing architecture, an ancient past and a strong cultural identity. Where Gothic cathedrals are embraced by ruined watchtowers, remnants of the Roman city Barcino. This place housed former headquarters for Spanish Inquisition tribunals and hundreds of year later hosted the 1992 Olympic Games. It was told to me that the Olympics changed the city drastically, making it a top tourist destination and much bigger in population than before. It's possible the negative impacts of tourism have made the locals take on a not-so-friendly attitude towards tourists. If you speak a little Spanish and get to know them though, what a wonderful and welcoming people. Tapas, drinks, singing and dancing made any night a party.
Okay, so about ten years ago I saw someone on the travel channel on TV go to Barcelona and place a churro on top of hot chocolate that was so thick, the churro sat defiantly on top. I've dreamed of doing that myself ever since and I was successful! It was amazing, sitting in front of architect Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batlló lit up brilliantly at night. It was nearly freezing but the churros, hot chocolate and modernist architecture kept me warm!
It is important to note that Catalunya is a semi-autonomous state within Spain, and most people in Barcelona identify with being of Catalunya before Spain. There is a separate set of Catalan language, food and customs. Many want this region, the wealthiest in Spain, to become an independent nation. it could be compared to the French speaking province of Quebec in Canada wanting to become it's own nation. Debates and tensions around the question of "who can govern better, local control or a federal government?" can be found all over the world. This region with its violent past resisting the four decades of dictatorship under Francisco Franco. I pondered the balance between local and national interests. What if California were to push for its independence because many consider it the wealthiest state in the United States, but if it were to leave out of a difference in political values, would the repercussions of leaving the rest behind help only California and hurt everyone else?
Some interesting experiences to mention: I did not have my passport checked by anyone once I arrived at the Barcelona airport. In Portugal, my first stop in Europe, a customs officer scanned my passport and gave me a stamp without uttering one syllable, but she was a living human checking people entering the country! There was no such equivalent in Spain. Even a simple hello would have been nice. Another thing, not once did my metro pass get checked by transit enforcement. What is the incentive to pay for metro passes? Their transit system could be in dire straits, but perhaps not. I'm being a bit too dramatic here. Spain has a struggling economy and for a while recently the country did not have a functioning federal government. The European Union is more or less keeping it afloat.
I would like to return to Barcelona in warmer months. I believe the energy of the city would really come alive on a warm. There is so much this city has to offer. Modernism architecture! Delicious food and wine (cheap and good, 3 Euros for a good bottle worth 10 dollars in the U.S.) Thank you to everyone who made it an unforgettable time!