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Barcelona, Barcelona, Barcelona

Rajen Bali

Why ‘Barcelona, Barcelona, Barcelona’ and not just one ‘Barcelona’? Just because the Futbol Club Barcelona has achieved the historic winning of the treble – La Liga on 17 May 2015, the Copa del Rey on 30 May and the UEFA Champions League on 5 June, when in the final played in Berlin they beat Juventus 3-1. This was Barca’s second treble win, having done this in 2008- 09 also.  They are the only club in football history to have won this treble.  So, I had to say three cheers for Barcelona.

Even though – like once upon time in Kolkata – people are obsessed with football in Barcelona, this remarkable city has many other claims to fame also.

I would be ‘very economical with the truth’ if I were to say that I have not enjoyed Madrid, Malaga, Valencia, Seville, Majorca and quite a few other destinations in Spain.  But I have a special place in my heart for Barcelona. One reason is the deep association of this city with a quartet of ‘mad’-geniuses’ – Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Antoni Gaudi and Joan Miro. Some of the other reasons will unfold as we take a walk together through the streets, life and times of Barcelona – as I know them.

Picasso

On my first visit to Spain – many, many decades ago − I had reached Barcelona after thoroughly enjoying Valencia and Madrid. The major reason for my going there was to visit the Picasso Museum. I had seen many great works of Picasso in Madrid, Cologne, Lucerne and Paris, but the Barcelona Museum has a very extensive collection of Picasso’s early works – starting from his formative years as an artist. It was while living in Barcelona that Picasso started his evolution as an artist. Getting to know early− Picasso, was not only understanding a bit more about what made the artist tick, but also a Total Joy Trip. Particularly impressive were the simple drawings, far removed from the unusual colors/forms of the evolved-Picasso.

Theatre Museum

To see Dali’s surreal world-and-works, one has to travel a bit to visit the Teatro-Museo Dali  (Theatre-Museum of Dali) in Figueres, about 140 km from Barcelona. The building which is the heart of this complex was a theatre when Dali was a child and it was here that one of the first exhibitions of young Dali’s works was held. During the Spanish Civil War, the theatre was burned and was in ruins for many decades. In  1960, the Mayor of Figueres and Dali decided to rebuild the burned theatre as a museum dedicated to the town’s world-famous son – Salvador Dali. The museum opened in 1974 and continued to expand till the mid-1980s, to include the courtyard and buildings adjacent to the old theatre building. Dali said: “I want my museum to be….a labyrinth, a great surrealist object.  It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” Dali’s wish came true. This museum is ‘A TRUE SURREALIST AND WEIRD THEATRICAL DREAM’.

There is a very thin line between ‘mad’ and ‘genius’. Over time-and-history, many were initially judged and labeled as ‘mad’, for being radically different, or being ahead of their time. Yet, later, the very same ‘mad’ person was accepted as being a ‘genius’ and appreciated/elevated to the level of awe-and-reverence. Keeping this in mind, let us move on to another mad-genius who I have admired with awe-and-shock every time I have looked at his work. I am talking about Antoni Gaudi. For me, a major factor which makes Barcelona very different from other cities is the work of Gaudi, including lamp posts, buildings and what-have-you. His style of architecture is absolutely unique and distinctively individual. Weird (?) to the point of being Dali-sque and surrealist? In whatever ways and terms you may choose to describe Gaudi’s buildings, they have a definite immediate and lasting impact, and are really intriguing.

Sagrada Familia

Perhaps, the best example of Gaudi’s work is the famous church of Sagrada Familia. It is a World Heritage site and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. The construction of this Roman Catholic Church started in 1882. Gaudi got involved with the construction of the church in 1883, and – construction is still incomplete! Frankly speaking, I do not have the right words to describe this awesome monument. You will just have to go to Barcelona to see this and other works of Gaudi.

Fourth on my list of the great people associated with this city is the native-born artist Joan Miro, whose works I greatly admire and enjoy.  There is a comprehensive collection of his works in the Joan Miro Museum in Barcelona.

What makes Barcelona different from other cities in Spain is its dynamic vibrancy with more than a touch of quaint madness. Two examples. In Barcelona, 2:30 am is not night but day. You can see huge crowds eating, drinking, laughing and having a great time, as if it was just another afternoon, turning night into day.

La Rambla

Then there is the famous street in central Barcelona – La Rambla. Since it can be considered as a number of short streets, it is often referred to in the plural form – Las Ramblas. But singular or plural, it is a truly remarkable street with happenings galore. Originally, a sewage-filled stream bed, its construction is said to have started in 1377. Over the next nearly six-and-half-centuries, it has become one of the great cities of the world with its unique-and-distinct character. History, food, drink, shopping, happiness, laughter, contemplation, nobles, thieves, tarts  and much else – you can find them all – and much, much more – in Las Ramblas. I have spent hours and hours of fascinating and mesmerizing times in this street over the years. Its pull is as great, if not greater than the likes of London’s Oxford Street, Paris’s Champs Elysees and New York’s Broadway.  All is summed up by the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, who once said that La Rambla was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” Alas, end it does. It is only just about 1.2 km long! Las Ramblas is sure to steal your heart away. And some of the most expert pickpockets in the world are sure to steal what is in your pocket, if you are not careful.

Tapas

Food and drink.  Barcelona has its Tapas, its very own version of Paella, its Hot Chocolate and Churros, its Sparkling Cava Wine, and many more gastronomic attractions. All of these are excellent reasons for enjoying your stay in the city. Perhaps, also to extend your stay?

For now, you have no choice but accept that Barcelona – along with F.C.Barcelona/Lionel Messi - is a destination for all times, for many reasons and all seasons.