Sunday, September 25, 2011

Climbing in Garraf

Today, I went climbing at the other local crag for Barcelonans: Garraf.  We took the train south following the coastline, and after thirty minutes, got out at this village.  It's quite small, without a supermarket even.  Then it's a short hike through Garraf Natural Park to the crag.  
You belay from atop the train tunnel, and whenever it goes by, you feel the earth shake beneath your feet.

The rock is limestone complete with tufa, very similar to the crags near the Mediterranean coast in Turkey. 

I've found a small circle of climbers that are foreigners to Barcelona as well, from other Spanish towns and South America.  I've started my dictionary of Spanish climbing terminology:

Take! = Pilla!
Slack! = Dame cuerda!
Climbing! = Voy!
Go! You can do it! = Venga!

Just in case you were wondering. 

Most importantly, today I got over my I-am-climbing-in-a-new-country-and-therefore-don't-know-how-to-do-it-and-am-afraid-to-lead-syndrome. It, of course, helped that the rock was just like the rock I've been climbing on in Turkey the last few years.  

 And the Mediterranean? Stunning as usual.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Port de la Selva

This weekend, three girl friends from BFIS and I rented a car and drove up the Costa Brava (“Rugged Coast”) for a weekend getaway. It's exhausting kicking off a new school year, and this weekend was perfectly timed.  

The Costa Brava stretches from a town 60km north of Barcelona (Blanes) to the French border.  The northernmost section of this rocky coast is centered around Cap de Creus headland and natural park. Cap de Creus is the easterly most point on the Iberian peninsula.  The most famous town on the Cap de Creus peninsula is Cadaques, where Salvador Dali lived most of his life.  It was home to an artistic literary colony after WWII when Dali and his wife Gala settled in nearby Portlligat, and for years to come, continued to attract a bohemian community.  

The part jutting out in the map below is Cap de Creus:
We drove 13km northwest of Cadaques, to a sleepy little port town called Port de la Selva.  

This portion of the Costa Brava boasts some of the cleanest water in the Mediterranean, so much clearer and colder than the seawater in Barcelona and Sitges.  

We rented a small flat that two of the girls have repeatedly rented twice a year since they’ve lived in Barcelona.  It faces the sea, and sits along a dirt path that leads in one direction to a pebbled beach and lighthouse, and in the other direction, to the small town. This was our porch:
And this, the view from our porch:

On Saturday, we hiked up to Sant Pere de Rodes monastery through the Vall de Sant Creu. 


The first written record of this monastery dates to 879 AD. It was once considered the most romantic ruins of Catalunya, but repeated restorations marred its Catalan Romanesque style.

 It looks quite bland and bleak from the outside. We didn’t go inside. Instead, we ate lunch by the nearby church of Santa Elena, which was undergoing an archaeological dig. 

We hiked back down...

... enjoyed a swim...

...ate a home-cooked meal on the porch... evening stroll into town...

On Sunday, we woke to a stormy sea and an overcast sky. We read and relaxed all morning inside the apartment, then headed back to the city.  

I've never lived on the sea before, and am enjoying exploring such different beaches and port towns.  It’ll be hard one day to not to live by the sea. I also can't help but look out across it and marvel that these are the same waters that stretch all the way around Italy and to Turkey.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Park Guell


Gaudi is Catalunya's best known architect.  He did most of his work between the 1880s and 1910, and was a leader in Barcelona's Modernism movement in art (to the British and French, this movement was called Art Nouveau). Art Nouveau was rebellious and vibrant. One of its common features across these European countries was its sensuous curve, inspired by Japanese art.   

Gaudi was a freelance architect, so his work can be found all over the city.  His biggest projects were for the wealthy bourgeoisie, his main patron, Eusebi Guell. 

 In 1900, Count Guell purchased Muntanya Pelada, a tree-covered hillside at that time outside of Barcelona, and commissioned Gaudi to create a miniature city of houses for the wealthy, amongst landscaping.  Gaudi was initially trained in metalwork, before going to school to study architecture.  Park Guell would be his first major hand at landscape architecture. 

Count Guell had just returned from a trip to England, where the lively debate about garden-cities ensued.  The underlying principle of blending city and countryside was behind Guell's vision for Guell Park.  This idea of a garden-city was not very popular with the bourgeoisie, and only a few lots were sold, one of which to Guadi himself, who built a show house. The project commercially flopped and was abandoned four years after Gaudi began. Count Guell lived in a house in the park until he died in 1923. At this time, Guell's son donated the park to Barcelona municipal council who turned it into a public park.

The park is entrenched in tourists year-round. It's best to head up there later in the day if you want a peaceful park experience.  I headed there after school one day; it's a 30 minute walk from my apartment. From the summit, there is a view of the sea and the city.  Framed between these pines, you can see Gaudi's other half-finished work: La Sagrada Familia (a church estimated to be finished in the 2040s).

This is the house Gaudi had built for himself, and lived in for the last 20 years of his life. In 1984, UNESCO claimed it as a World Heritage Site.

Gaudi had a strong drive to blend nature and architecture. He tried to transpose things he saw in the natural world into stone, as can be seen in these colonnaded walkways in the park. These paths follow the contours of steep, rocky terrain; he didn't alter the terrain with excavation, but rather worked with it.

"Do you want to know where I found my model? An upright tree; it bears its branches and these, in turn, their twigs, and these, in turn, the leaves.  And every individual part has been growing harmoniously, magnificently, ever since God the artist created it." - Antoni Gaudi

This is the "Greek theatre," curvy benches covered with irregular ceramic fragments enclosing a plaza:

These buildings may have been inspired by Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel, which was playing at Barcelona's Liceu theatre at the time.  They can be seen from the Greek theatre.

And here's my "Art Nouveau." :)