May 30, 2010 3:12:51 pm
Medieval and contemporary,Barcelona weaves magic in its art and architecture
It rises from the middle of the city like a Phoenix,tall spires reaching out to the heavens as though beseeching for fulfillment. It has been over a century and the La Sagrada Família,the most well known landmark at Barcelona,is still unfinished. But it will be done soon now,by 2026, says our guide of the magnificent cathedral,which has been in the making since 1882.
So a 25-year-wait,is quite soon for the people of Barcelona who have been passionately and patiently waiting for its creator Antoni Gaudís masterpiece,left unfinished after his death in 1926. The cathedral has to be made only from donationsnot government or private fundingand this has accounted for its slow progress, says the guide,her tone tinged with pride and not a trace of apology.
One look at the structure and you know why it has taken so long. It was conceived by Gaudí,regarded as an architectural genius. The cathedral,with its baroque architecture and unbelievable attention to detail,every nook and cranny marked with sculptures,inscriptions and symbols,is an apt representation of Spain itselfa country where the Gothic style has its home.
Every street of Barcelonas main town has buildings,elevations marked by domes,sculptures and carefully crafted balcony railings that show the citys flair for flamboyant architecture.
After making our way through the myriad doorways and imposing chambers of La Sagrada Família,we went to the next tourist must-see,Park Guell. This is Gaudís garden city,devised by him as a fantasy land for the citys rich and famousquite akin to todays gated housing societies but thrice the size and grandeur. The concept,however,didnt take off. The rich and famous of Spain,it seems,did not want to put their money on homes on the outskirts of Barcelona,which they would not be able to show off to the rest of the community. So in 1922,the town hall bought it and opened it to the public as a park.
Today,the acres of gardens get hundreds of visitors every day as they troop in to view the mosaic dragon-lizard,the Sala Hipóstila that bears 88 stone columns and was intended as a market. The broad open space above it bearing the Banc de Trencadís is a curved tiled bench that runs around the boundary. There is also Gaudís own house with all his memorabilia.
But before you think Barcelona is all about medieval architecture,it surprises at every corner. This city straddles two worldsthe medieval charms of Gothic architecture to the cutting-edge technology that marks modern-day structures such as that of the Camp Nou Stadium,the home ground of FC Barcelona.
Your tryst with Spanish contemporary art begins right at the airport. Most of its roof is made of glass,and the building is lit with natural light streaming in through the day. Its a style you can spot in most public buildings and offices too.
The imposing architecture does nothing to take away the fun that this Mediterranean city has a reputation for. All you need to do for that is take a walk down the harbour front,which in May is overrun by tourists devouring the sight of a hundred boats moored at the port with bigger ships anchored a distance away at sea. With the sea breeze still fresh in your hair,you can go to the next un-missable walkway Las Ramblas,a kilometre long stretch in the heart of the city dotted with stores,restaurants,churches and a string of entertainers exhorting people to do a jig to their tunes. A riot of colours awaits you at the the market with the stalls displaying fruits of every conceivable shape,size and taste.
As the clock wound its way to late evening we were ready to tuck in dinner and rest. Unlike most of Europe,Spain has dinner late,between 9.30 till 11.30 pm. And after a brief lull past midnight,the city sparkles once again. The night life pulsates at its numerous bars and the party stays on till 6 am even on weekdays. Does this city ever sleep? Guess this is not a question you ask of a place that gave the world the concept of the siesta.
How to get there: Direct flights from all European capitals -Madrid,Frankfurt,Zurich etc.
Where to eat: Restaurants vie with one other on serving the best catch from the Mediterranean lobsters,prawns,cods,squids and the rest of the aquatic kingdom. Check out the El Merendero de la Plaza Pau Vila at the Port of Barcelona for some great seafood and the traditional paella at the harbour front and La Venta which is perched atop a hill. But the real high comes from Torre de Alta,Pasco Juan de Borbon,the restaurant atop a 75 metre tower built originally to enable cable cars but now converted into a formal dining area. This restaurant offers a panoramic view of the city at night.
What to buy: Olive oil,olives,ceramic ware and pottery,designer wear.
Watch out for: Pickpockets. Take care of your handbags in crowded areas.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.