Walking Beautiful Barcelona

Trip Start May 12, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2010

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today started bright and sunny in Barcelona. Three members of the local walking club, Caminada, joined us a the hotel - Josef, Enrice, and Carlos, and after a 30 minute delay waiting for our bus driver, we loaded our coach and headed for Plaza Espanol, start point of the walk. 

Barcelona is a city full of beautiful squares filled with monumental statues and fountains. Plaza Espanol leads to Mont Juic, a hill on the south of town overlooking the city and port spread out along the Mediterranean below. Carmen, our local guide, met us there and we began our walk up Mont Juic. Two major international events of the 20th century reshaped Mont Juic - the 1929 International Expo and the 1992 Summer Olympics. The mountain is dotted with buildings and venues built for these two events and, at the same time, as I said, offers great views over the city.

After walking by the Olympic plaza and stadium where the track had to be lowered 11 meters for the games to allow greater capacity, we boarded the Teleferic, a gondola cable car, that took us to the top of Mont Juic The dramatic castle fortifications loom dark in the collective memories of Barcelonins, and we learned here of the suppression of Catalan nationalism that occurred during the rule of foreign monarch (Bourbon kings) in the 18th and 19th centuries and more brutally, during the repression of Franco during the 1930's through 1970'

Barcelona and Catalonia were on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, the last stronghold to fall to Franco. Franco outlawed the use of Catalan language and customs so that an entire generation, people now my age, struggle to speak fluent Catalan, and often sit out the complicated national dance can erupt with spontaneity on Sunday afternoons in the square in front of the main cathedral.

The trail down from the castle offered 270 degree views of the vast container port and leisure port (Barcelona is either 1 or 2 in leisure cruising in the Mediterranean, depending upon who's reporting the stats). A second ride on an historic cable car lifted us several hundred feet above the leisure port with awesome views of the city. The ride ended in Barceloneta on the beach, where we gathered the group and met the bus for a ride back to Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas is a fabled pedestrian lane in the old city full of street performers, artists, sidewalk cafes, and pickpockets. My new walking pal, Carlos, confided to me that tourism has been good for the city economically, but that it has changed Barcelona, in particular, Las Ramblas. The charm and authenticity has been eclipsed by waves of visitors. As so often happens when mass tourism discovers a delightful foreign destination, the charm that draws the visitors is overwhelmed by the crush of foreign influence, and the commercialism that rushes in to profit.

We left the city, nevertheless, with positive impressions - it truly is a beautiful city and a great walking venue - and pointed our coach north towards Andorra. 

Dan Friesen
Walking Adventures International
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