One of our big reasons for going to Europe was to visit some good friends who moved to Spain about a year ago.
We took the Trenhotel (which I’ll talk about more in a separate “getting around” post) from Paris to Barcelona for a week of shenanigans.
Since we were going for a social visit rather than the pure tourist potential, I didn’t have any great plans or expectations for the city. And it surprised me in so many ways!
Have you ever gotten drunk and made up crazy games (stick with me here)? Like when you’re camping, or at a festival, or just hanging around shooting the shit, and you and your inebriated friends decide throwing or kicking some random garbage you have handy through a sketchy target, or making up crazy dances, or achieving feats of strength or derring-do would make a fine way to pass the time?
Take that, combine it with the mind-bending creativity and other-worldliness of a century of art and architecture influenced by some incredibly potent hallucinogenic drugs (which is the only way I can think of explaining the modernisme movement) and shake liberally in a place with constantly lovely weather and 4km of Mediterranean beaches; that’s Barcelona.
The Sagrada Familia was unlike any church I’ve ever seen. First of all, this place breaks the “I hate monuments covered in scaffolding” rule, because the fact that it’s still under construction is part of its story.
Most impressive/significant Catholic churches I’ve seen are strongly Gothic and oppresive in their solemnity. The Sagrada familia is bright, whimsical, downright crazy in some places. Gaudi’s design is inspired by nature, so there are lots of soft lines and natural light. The support pillars stretch up and branch out like trees. The crucifix at the main altar hangs from something resembling a jellyfish. The front facade doesn’t match the rear, and neither prepare you for the look and feel of the interior. And yet somehow it all works.
We also timed our visit to coincide with the annual Mercè festival. There are (apparently) always festivals or performances of some sort going on in Barcelona, but Mercè is the biggest, celebrating the patron saint of Barcelona, Our Lady of Mercy.
And this is where the crazy stunts and stupid-human tricks come in. Psychadelic projection shows on city hall. Performing Swan lake at midnight on a giant fountain. Building a carnival out of scraps. Human Castles. Running through fire. So crazy, so fun! Somewhat beyond words, so hopefully pictures and video help:
Yah, this is a place worth spending some more time in. I can’t believe it never hit my travel radar, and I’m excited to go back someday.