Thursday, September 8, 2011

Barcelona: Day 14 : Travel Class 2 .

So today we had our second travel class. I can already tell that this is the class that I will look forward to the most. I really like the professor, as she is extremely knowledgeable about so so many things. She seems to have an endless reservoir of information to pull from, even though she has only been living in Barcelona for 5 years or something like that. She noticed that I like to write a lot of the information down (when the history is right there in front of you and you're taking a million pictures, it'd be nice to go back and see what all of the stories behind the pictures are right?) and sometimes will give me little tidbits about random things, which is great. Anyways, on to the sites!

We set off from our studio space, which is located on Passatge de la Pau, and headed north. The first place we stopped at is a hotel called the Petit Palace. It used to actually be a palace, and before its days as a hotel, was owned by a very elderly woman. She sold her estate, on the condition that the garden be kept intact. The hotel has kept their promise, though hotel furniture now often permeates a lot of the green space there. The weirdest part is that this garden is technically public space, so you can waltz straight into the hotel and then through it into the open courtyard. According to Kathrin, you can actually go in there at night and use the space, even though the hotel will tell you that it is closed for the day.

This privatization of public space is technically illegal. In essence the hotel is forcing the wishes of the previous owner to become null and void, and trying to take control of the garden. As it is, they have already built their hotel around it and put their furniture in it. In some ways, that is a good thing, as all noise is blocked out and it is very calm and quiet there. But it would be a shame to lose something like that, and no one knows if the city is going to stand up and fight for it. The Spanish economy is not the best right now and they really need the tourism -- i.e. the hotels can sort of really get away with what they want.

The next place that we stopped is a quick one, it was just a really old Gothic style building. We were about to enter into the oldest part of town, which happens to be a very tight-knit Jewish community. Many things have been renovated around it. It now looks very out of place, with storefronts and very odd shades just to cover the windows; these don't really take into consideration the style at all. The bricks look very old, as do the shape of the windows. The small columns on the windows really signify the Gothic style. This Jewish neighborhood shows from the sky the original Roman core that existed. It's shaped like an egg or an oval, with the Roman Temple previously in the place where San Jauma square now existing where it once stood. The egg was divided into four pieces, or quarters, and eventually the Jews were expelled here in the 12th or 13th century. In Catalan, the word 'Call' is the name for the Jewish neighborhood. It used a one way road system, as the alleys are extremely narrow, and the signs pointing the directions for horse and buggies can still be seen.

The next stop was an open space in this tight knit neighborhood. This is very odd because there simply weren't open spaces in the old city like that. Almost all of the public places that now exist in the old part of the city tend to have been created by the city after the fact. However, this building was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War and never replaced. Many times, open spaces have a story that goes along with them. Sometimes something is demolished and rebuilt, sometimes things are renovated, and other times the open spaces happened by accident.

The next stop was an old church called Sant Felip Navi. This was again a stop that was related to the Spanish Civil War. The entire facade has all kinds of holes and almost divots out of the stone. There is also an unusually large courtyard outside of the walls of the church. The holes in the side of the stone are from the time during the Civil War when people were hiding inside the church and others were trying to expel them from their hiding places, and break through the walls of the church. 42 people ended up being killed, most of them children. There are signs and stories on the church itself to mark these events. It was difficult for people to think of a way to commemorate these events.

Its age is actually not too old -- it is 17th century, whereas others are usually more like 14th or 15th. The carved stonework is very typical of the old style of Barcelona. The fountain and courtyard help to commemorate the events that happened there. In addition a really ritzy hotel popped up right nearby. According to Kathrin, a night there can cost around 300€. (That's around 450 dollars!)

Next we came out to this really big plaza sort of area. There are couple of things going on here. The first is an original piece of the Roman wall back when they had their massive empire. The buildings near this piece of the wall is where the Pope stayed when he came to visit, and it is also the current residence of the Bishop that lives in Barcelona. Across the plaza from that, there was a building that Picasso had designed that is a library. There were all sorts of stick-like figures on it, and it all seemed to tell a story. It was incredible how it all flowed together, and since everyone associates Picasso with his Cubism, it was interesting to see something very different from that association. Along the way to our next site we also saw a building that had literally been built upon another building. You could see the original foundation, but bricks had been filled in to replace the stuff that was still empty.

We quickly stopped at this alley that was being renovated, to talk about the class of styles. This happens a lot, as old buildings are renovated or demolished or replaced. Things just are mixed and not so much matched. On one side stood a very famous restaurant called 4 Cats, where Picasso often ate, and on the other side stood a building that was very much in the style of 'modernismo,' which is comparable to art nouveau. The 4 Cats place looked very Gothic, and these things certainly clashed.

We moved into a very commercial part of Barcelona, a part that we have grown to know quite well. This road directly connects to Plaza Catalunya, and has a lot of brand name stores and shops. It's extremely wide, and the streets have a lot of cobblestone in them.

Unfortunately, this area has turned into a place with a lot of chains and stores like that. It's an extremely rich area, and with the highest priced real-estate in Barcelona, so for a chain to boast that they have a store in this part of Barcelona makes them sound very prestigious. Kathrin said that this area used to have a lot of small family shops, but they got squeezed out by the chains.

We briefly stopped at the Eglesia de Santa Anna, which showed the back of a lot of the stores that were on the previously mentioned spot. Obviously the stores want to seem very ritzy, and so their facades are often very lavish and extravagant. Some of them have been converted into their current stores from older uses. But from the back, you can see the very real truth -- a lot of these places are very old buildings, and thus don't look too great from the back.

The next two places I will talk about together, because they were right next to each other. The first is the Modern Museum of Art, and the second is the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, or CCCB. The Modern Museum of Art has become a very famous skate spot in Barcelona, or as Kathrin described it, a "skate mecca." We didn't talk too much about this one other than the fact that it existed and had art in it.

The CCCB also has a corresponding University which opened up three years ago. Therefore in order to transform the location, the city took out a lot of older run down buildings. There were also some homeless people making use of some of the open-air overhangs, and so those areas were boarded up to preserve the intellectuality of the area. An old nearby church holds ton of graffiti, but maybe one day will be removed to make way for moped parking for the university.

 The actual Center has an entirely glass facade. The top part is angled though, and thus you can see the skyline of Barcelona and even the sea despite the fact you are sitting in a sort of courtyard that is entirely closed off but for two entryways. It's really cool, actually. There is also a stone bench that puts you almost at the perfect location to look up and see the skyline and the ocean.

The space building itself is used for a variety of things, but mostly for different kinds of exhibitions and conferences and big meetings. It

has a large auditorium (or maybe several, I can't remember) and areas for meetings as well. Finally, there is also office space too. Looking inside, we could see massive stairways and ramps that were so thick that it gave you a very heavy feeling.

The last place that we stopped before heading back to the Rambla del Raval right near RESA (our residence) was the old hospital of Barcelona. It was from the 15th century, and had theaters and anatomic presentation theaters. It was as much a school as it was a hospital, and the road right nearby, which is Carrer del Hospital, is named for this hospital. Until this point, we had known the road, but not known the reason behind its name. Anyways, students of medicine could come and learn here. Nowadays, the hospital is rarely ever open and seldom used for anything except occasional meetings or conferences. The main traffic that used to come to this hospital is now directed toward Hospital San Pau.

Along with the hospital in the same vicinity there is a gorgeous garden that has turned into a beautiful place to relax and enjoy yourself, a prime example of the comeback that green public space is making in the city.

All of the stuff in this area seriously looked like something out of the Jungle Book (like that part with all the monkeys?) and I really enjoyed it.

Kathrin certainly takes us on some awfully long walks, but they're always great and I love soaking up the information like a sponge. Sorry this post is so late! Things have actually been getting more busy and I'm just doing my best to catch up when I can. Hope you enjoy the read.

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