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