The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Park Güell


(Photograph © Rebecca Alm, distributed via Creative Commons)

Today we made the trek to Park Güell, which was designed by Gaudí and built between the years 1900 to 1914. The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing estate and has since been converted to a municipal garden. It is perched on a hill overlooking the city and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like everything Gaudí, it grows on you until you can’t imagine a world without curved lines, ceramics, and wonderful enclosed spaces of wood, stone, and concrete. Vale la pena.

January 6, 2009   Comments Off on Park Güell

Bars, the Call, and Catalan

I have never seen so many small quaint bars and cafes in my life, each populated by a specific clientele—young people in their early twenties, locals, tourists, working people, the affluent, those seeking tapas, oysters, coffee, beer, and cava. The bar on the ground floor of our building closes at 3:00 a.m. The manager lowers the metal grate at 3:20, and he’s off on his scooter a few moments later. His motor echoes through the narrow passageway as he heads home to sleep.

Yesterday, a few steps from our apartment, we discovered a glass-fronted office containing a young man sitting at a computer. It looked like some kind of private business establishment, but the Spanish sign outside translated to something like “the historical basis of the Call.” One had to be buzzed in, so we thought, what the hell, let’s see if he’ll let us in. When he did, we found excavations (below the glass floor) and a few artifacts. To our surprise, we discovered that we were living in what was originally the Jewish quarter of the city. One can still find Hebrew letters carved in some of the walls . It was not your usual tourist stop, since no one will ever find it, and if they do, they’ll have no idea what it is. A totally different experience from struggling shoulder to shoulder with the tourists in the Gaudí buildings.

By the way, although Catalan is the language of choice for those who were born in Barcelona or Catalonia, everyone speaks Spanish without missing a beat. Those who come to work in Barcelona from Europe or other parts of Spain don’t bother learning Catalan. I fear the language the invaders tried to kill so many times will eventually die a natural death.

January 5, 2009   Comments Off on Bars, the Call, and Catalan

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet

In the Casa Batlló and in La Pedrera, one feels the strong influence of organic forms, but in La Sagrada Família one is overwhelmed with them to the point where one’s head hurts. The detail is too much. It’s impossible comprehend the whole. And now that the structure is filled with scaffolding and surrounded by cranes, your strongest desire is to scream at the top of your lungs and wish that Franco had bombed the cathedral to rubble. Of course, one doesn’t really feel this way. It’s just that one can’t make sense of it. It’s like being in a relationship with a woman who presses all of your buttons at once. How odd that Gaudí was killed by a streetcar and that it will take another fifty-three years to complete his work. La puta madre.

January 5, 2009   Comments Off on Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet