The queen of cities - Barcelona


The city of Messi & Miro, of sunglasses vendors and blowers of bubbles. Enchantingly beautiful and lovely to lose yourself in the hidden streets and squares! Barcelona, a city with a medieval heart and artful and modern veins.

To find something, first you need to get lost. The queen of cities is excellent for that purpose with its many hidden streets and squares. It is Monday morning in Barcelona. Yesterday evening I arrived in the city that hosts 7 million visitors every year, and I start the day the Spanish way, with a café con leche outside.

A boy with big eyes, dressed in a Messi-shirt, is playing soccer under the trees, losing his flip flop over and over again. His mother carries his sister on her arm. That means she still has one arm left to wave. The little Messi has to tag along. He has to go to school. I decide to go as well. Barcelona calls to me. On my to do list I have the Unfinished, as the Sagrada Familia is called by the people, the paintings by Miro, El Raval and the beach. But first I need to check Barri Gòtic, the medieval heart of the city.

Every evening Gaudi crossed this Square

Behind the famous cathedral La Seu, I meet the bubble blower of Barri Gòtic. He blows bubbles twice the size of a grown man. The smaller bubbles fly off and lure me through a dark alley to a square that immediately feels enchanting: Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, Gaudís favorite square. At the time the maestro was building the Sagrada Familia, he passed the plaça every day on his evening walk. It did not take a lot of imagination to see the ‘Dante of Architecture’ walk around here. Nothing at all has changed in the past hundred years. There are no shops and no crowded terraces. You only find some trees rooted in the old pavement. Children’s voices dominate the square that is hidden in the shadow of the cathedral.

His sunglasses are as colourful as the paintings by Miro

From the shadow I step into the sun. The light grows brighter and brighter. Luckily, a gentle breeze starts to blow. The port comes into picture. A boy cycles by me, surfing board under his arm. How hot would the seawater be...? I am  in Barceloneta, the old fishermen’s district, and walk towards the sea. Excellent temperature. A little later I fall asleep in the sand until a cloud covering the sun wakes me up. Whether I want to buy sunglasses. Salty detail: I am already wearing sunglasses. But do I already have a red one? The guy, who also sells watches, wants to know. The sunglasses the guy sells are as colorful as the paintings by Miro. They are there in green, blue, yellow and red. Hasta la Victoria Siempre. I go for red. Not to take over the color of the sunglasses myself, I leave the beach and stroll back into the city.

The café looks like a beautiful old lady, delightfully dusty and full of stories

I am standing in the middle of El Raval, the old hookers’ district close to the coast, but now hip and happening. This multi-cultural district is literally almost packed with vintage and designer stores. The thing that makes El Raval even more attractive is the MACBA (the Museu d’Art Contemporani), that once sailed in as a cruise ship to give the district, once popular with the seamen, a different view. Around the virgin white museum a select group of skate board punk rockers gather every afternoon. In El Raval you can also find the four oldest pubs in Barcelona, amongst which Bar Marsella in Sant Pau, where you can get absinthe since 1820. The café looks like a beautiful old lady with a hoarse voice, 194 years old, delightfully dusty and full of stories. You can still drink absinthe there. Like an American backpacker is doing, 27, with a coolly trimmed beard, who is following his big hero Hemingway. Hemingway is said to have met Salvador Dali here, I am told by the aspiring writer, whose book unfortunately has not gotten published yet.  Written neither, I suspect, but not for lack of romance. Tomorrow he will continue for Berlin, he says. I decide to stay in the city of Messi & Miro, of sunglasses vendors and blowers of bubbles. Enchanted! Even after only on day of Barcelona.

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