City Navigation - Old Friends - Black Virgin - Catalonian Identity
05.14.2008 71 °F
725 kilometers, through foothills to Valencia then along the costal motorway Northeast brought me to Barcelona - my new temporary headquarters. Arriving in a city for the first time and trying to find a destination has proved to be a consistent challenge on this trip. One must immediately adapt to the local motorcycle protocol (I usually opt for a more conservative driving approach compared to the common local 'anything goes' and 'just get there' methods), translate road signs, navigate through hectic roundabouts, all while consulting the map which in my case is never good enough. This time a straight shot down Barcelona's palm tree/eucalyptus lined Avenue Diagonal and a left at my fourth roundabout (Its a right at the roundabout technically) brought me to my target.
An old hometown friend of mine, Tia Lovisa has set up her semi-permanent home in the city in hopes of finding a job teaching English. With her help, by the end of my five days in Barcelona I had soaked up quite a bit of the city's life blood: The beach culture, the tight streets and small shops of the Gothic Quarter, the Soho-esk Bourn district, A Catalan Brass concert at the Palau de la Música Catalana, and the unmistakable 'Dr. Seuss' architectural style of Barcelona's favorite designer, Antoni Gaudi. I now know there's a difference between Catalans and the Spanish. Until the early 19th century the Catalalonia providence of Spain was under its own rule with it's own identity. Fighting over the past 200 years has left them under Spanish rule until in 1978 the democratic Spanish Constitution gave them the ability to retain much of their political and cultural autonomy. Basically, Catalonians want you to recognize their not just another providence in Spain.
In route to Montserrat
Mid-stay, Tia, Bonnie and I took a day trip to Montserrat, translated in Catalan as 'jagged mountain'. Resting atop this mountain is Benedictine Abbey Santa Maria which is known principally for its boys choir and its statue of 'The Black Virgin,'a Romanesque sculpture in wood of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, dating back to the 12th century. The day was capped with a few cocktails back in Barcelona in the offbeat very local 'Gracia' district where we mingled with laid back Spanish and English speaking folk. In one joint I met two Colombians who spoke highly of their country insisting that it's not in the rebel run state that everyone believes it to be in. I guess in Barcelona it's tough to find true locals. It seemed like one big Melting pot where it seemed Tia is just another ingredient. I can't thank her enough for taking me under her wing.