catalan identity.

28 Apr

I talk about Barcelona a lot – heck, its airport acronym is even in my twitter name, so I feel like it’s about time I explain when, how, and why the love affair with this Catalonian gem began. Let’s start at the beginning.

Like most college juniors, I wanted to study abroad and narrowed in on Spain for two main reasons. After a quick 17-day Europe trip post-High School graduation, I knew I wanted to be on the continent of Europe so I could check some major destinations off my list. And, although my Spanish was limited, I wanted to be in a place where I could try to improve. I like big cities and the proximity to the beach appealed to me, so on a whim I chose to spend 4 months in early 2009 in Barcelona. Best. decision. ever.

Barcelona is my favorite city in Spain, bar none (I struggle to name a second definitively, but currently it’s Granada). And, although there are a lot of possible contenders I’ve yet to visit, it takes the ¨Best city in the world¨ title as well, for a variety of reasons. Although part of me was worried that my BCN obsession was simply due to all of the fun I had during my time “studying” abroad, but after a 5-day trip back there this weekend, I’m confident that I truly love the city itself.

  • Political spunk. Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia (Catalunya in Catalán, and Cataluña in Castellano). Catalunya flies its own flag, and views itself as a separate entity from Spain. Cries of “Catalunya is not Spain!” and street signs in the funky Catalán separate Barcelona from every other major city in Spain.
  • Natural beauty. Barcelona is geographically similar to Los Angeles in the sense that it is situated between the mountains and the sea. The hills of Mont Juic and Tibidabo are a stunning backdrop, and it’s hard to argue with the crystal blues of the Mediterranean sea.
  • Cosmopolitan diversity. My favorite thing about the city is how each separate neighborhood has it’s own distinct vibe. Walking through the Gothic Quarter, you can stumble upon old cathedrals and Roman ruins from 1 B.C. But walk 10 minutes in a diffrent direction and you’re eating fresh paella along the shore – or hitting up some of Spain’s most elegant shops, depending on which direction you go.
  • One word: modernisme. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate classical, Renaissance art, but Barcelona’s streets are literally a canvas for the modernisme style. The streets are punctuated by some of Gaudí’s biggest masterpieces: La Sagrada Famila, Parc Guell, Casa Battló, La Pedrera…the list goes on and on. Additionally, due the 1992 Olympics, many recent modern art additions have sprung up, including the face statue in Barcolenta done by Roy Lichtenstein as well as the infamous Torre Agbar. The intricate and colorful architecture of the city is truly unique to BCN. Take that, Madrid.
  • Zest. It’s impossible for me not to be happy just thinking about Barcelona – the insane nightlife, delicious food, epic views from Park Guell and the new bullring-turned-shopping mall, and of course the ever-victorious FCB. It´s an awesome place.

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I’m working on revising my must-do list for Barcelona, so keep an eye out for that this week sometime. I´ll also give my run-down on Madrid as well (don´t get me wrong, I like it a lot here too).

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