Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barcelona Diaries - 2/2

Besides the fact that the group going to the Barcelona GBE (Global Business Experience) looked like one I would easily get along with, the major pull through for this trip was the course itself - Strategy As Design. In layman's terms - go sightseeing in Barcelona and write a journal with pictures at the end of it.

Note: for an incredibly detailed account of the entire trip read this blog post.

The City... absolutely gorgeous.  Antoni Gaudi took up the first two days of our trip and to be very frank, I would rather have done it in less time. The snowstorm which hit Barcelona on Monday (the first one in nearly 50 years!) made matters worse. Nevertheless, he deserves a mention. 

Gaudi 101 - Blending in with nature and unfinished grandeur 

The first thing that struck me during the visit to the unfinished church at Colonia Guell, was the fact that it didn't look anything like a church. True, it was unfinished and would have been much larger had the upper storey been built.  But yet, the rough cut twisted pillars, the uneven levels to match the topography and the broken ceramics – all combined to give the impression of something human, almost flawed, something with which you could associate yourself and not feel insignificant. I'm not sure I was too impressed with the beauty of the architecture. It defied conventional aesthetics and wasn't particularly pleasing to the eye.

Park Guell confused me. The contrast between the slanting, rough cut stone pillars which mimicked nature in form and color, and the fantastic entrance with its ceramic dragon looked conflicting to me. I am told Gaudi meant it to be a journey from the spectacular (almost garish) to the natural. But to me it was very sudden. It threw me off a particular mindset. Ironically, though, I liked visiting the place. Again, it defied conventional aesthetics but this time around, at least the 'park' looked quite spectacular.

If day 1 was about Gaudi being simple and natural, day 2 was about him surprising us by conjuring up gigantic structures. The Sagrada Familia, although only partially built is one of the most massive structures I have seen. The fact that he made the people believe in it so much so that billions of dollars are being spent to complete this Barcelona landmark by 2030 - is testimony to his belief in his art and himself.

I think I would have liked Casa Milla on a bright sunny day. Its wavy walls and colors gave a feeling of a wonderland. Unfortunately, after spending 2 hours inside the bus, all I wanted was to get back to the hotel room and get drunk on Sangria.

The heavy snowstorm meant that I had kept my camera inside the bus for most of the day. On Monday, the Barcelona GBE stock had taken a severe hit. Snowstorm and 2 days with Gaudi hadn't gone down well with a few (read the guys occupying the last few rows in the bus - me included). From Tuesday onwards, though, the stock kept climbing up.

From breathtaking views of the city to the architecturally alive city squares, in Barcelona, you could keep clicking pictures and hardly go wrong.

We also visited the Gothic Quarters of the old city and the church it housed. More traditional and more awe inspiring - it conformed to the vision of a church which I have.

Art and history apart, we also went to the Barcelona FC stadium - Camp Nou. One of my friends who went a few minutes before us saw Messi! We weren't that lucky. More disappointing was that Barca was playing on Sunday, the day after we left. Yes, it was the same game in which Messi scored a hat trick.

"More than a club"

The museum inside the stadium is worth mentioning. The long touch screen panels with rare video footage and summaries of the club's finest moment were a great way to keep the visitors engaged.  We played around with them for quite sometime.

So while we attended classes and roamed around the city during the day, the nights were dedicated to getting drunk and club hopping. Our favorite haunts were the La Rambla and the Porto Olimpico - places we would hit every alternate day to party till the wee hours of the night. The music was catchy, the women were attractive and the company was awesome. Dancing on bar tables, blacking out, craving for chicken wings at the sight of Hard Rock Cafe, drinking challenges between people weighing 100 something  and 200 something pounds respectively, and just insane amounts of alcohol - it would be an understatement to say that we had a BLAST!

Throughout the trip, we spent quite some time loitering around  La Rambla. Had it been a little warmer, it would have been the perfect place to sit outside a cafe and drink coffee or sangria or beer. There's always a ton of things happening. From street performers to Flamenco shows (which we attended). The fascinating part about Barcelona is how design and architecture is a living part of the city. It's not something which had to be seen in isolation. It's woven into the fabric of everyday life.

Balconies - La Rambla

Bicycles - saw them everywhere

End of La Rambla leading to the Port

I need another post to finish. To write about the 2 small towns we visited outside Barcelona - Girona and Besalu. Should be mostly pictures I think.