On Sunday evening, despite approaching essay deadlines, I began a flight by train to Cologne to reach a flight by plane to one of the most beautiful countries on the planet: Spain! Though I was tired and a little bit stressed in the face of the semesters end, I reached my connections in enough time to end up flying across Europe by night, over sharply snaking golden arteries of cities. They pulsed like hearts in the darkness, spreading orange light through concrete veins. When I finally arrived in the city of Miró and Gaudí, the sudden sight of palms filled my cold German blood with summery warmth, even in the middle of a winter night.
My first impression of the city, on a cool Sunday night, was a strange one. I wasn’t expecting it to be so empty and quiet. There’s a hidden life behind it, evident from the paint and the lights. The city itself, at least the area around Placa de Catalunya where I stayed, was not too different to any other major European centre I’d visited so far, but there was just something in the air, something in the still-green tropical plants, that makes it feel so different.
After a fitful night of annoying room mates, I managed an early morning walk along the port, stopping to have breakfast and a coffee along the way (which, I must say, is a billion times better than that found in Germany).
My second, sunnier, impression of Barcelona was much different and much more exciting. Everything in this city is so ornate and… well, different to the more northern and damp European countries. The tight alleyways and overhanging balconies are mysterious and intriguing. It would be easy to get lost or spend a couple of days simply wandering through these labyrinth corridors. Gorgeous hipsterish stores mingle in the Barrio’s with gothic churches, modern glass structures and colourful, gigantic sculptures. This central area of the city is so colourful and vibrant, touristy, but not overly-so. The port area itself felt a bit Sidney-ish, open and wealthy with a stiff sea breeze coming over the water. Sigh, just breathe that air.
Of course, my general approach to city exploring (just walking around until I’m well and truly whacked) applied itself equally well to Barcelona, especially so since there is so many little nooks and crannies to see that can only be reached on foot. I ended up, in the end, on top of a small hill under a decadent hotel and by a fountain, reading Don Quixote in the sun and realising “yes, life is good sometimes.”
I did begin to wonder though, as I attempted ordering food at various stores and stalls, where the hell all mi Español had gone? I found myself automatically replying with “Danke”, “Hallo” and even once “Morgen”. While I’ve got nothing against the language of the Vaterland, the tough language of the Germans just isn’t as romantic as that of the Catalans or the Spanish. It doesn’t help that I’ve got a bit of a thing for Spanish people and fell in love with every second person to walk by me… I’m a sucker for the romanticised version of the country and it’s culture.
Les Ramblas, the central tourist location and apparent pickpocketing haven, was actually less rambling than I was expecting. While it was pretty, walking under the archways of trees, I realised that what I liked a lot more was exploring the little gothic off-shooting courtyards and alleyways, some decorated by Gaudi, others covered in sprawling greenery, others dripping with drying laundry.
When I returned home to my hostel to recharge and take advantage of a free dinner (always a bonus), I ended up meeting the group of cool cats I’d be spending most of my time with. Funnily enough, but not surprisingly, almost all of them were Americans, Californians in particular. And here I was told that Australians were infesting Europe.
It’s always nice meeting some kind passing faces, but it’s even better to find that one or those two or those three who you really connect to. Though I wish I was one of those people that could voraciously collect friends and build up a huge network of assorted travellers and weirdos, I’ve found it’s much more natural to me and much more fulfilling when I find myself around kindred spirits, those who care about the things I care about, those who need a caring ear, and those can share my passion for creating and revealing the world in interesting new ways. I’m super happy to have found a small group of this particular spirits on this trip. Perhaps we were drawn together by some crazy coincidence, or cosmic fate, or perhaps we just bleed the same colours of electromagnetic radiation? Either way, to run into such interesting writers and creatives on this trip, and such beautiful, fun and energetic ones made it hard to say goodbye.
We spent the rest of that night busting our heels in a Salsa dancing class, sharing laughs and experiences. Of course, my genes prevent me from having any sort of musical talent (the only keyboard I can confidently tackle is my laptops) and gave me two left feet, but I gave it a red hot go anyway in the spirit of the Spanish! Like karaoke in Milan, I found that sitting on the sidelines is no fun. To have a truly great time, you have to kick the fear of embarrassment and just do it. All in all, this first night was heaps of fun, spent conversing in our adopted tongues and drinking Mojitos.
Unfortunately, living in a social hostel does come at the price of sleep. As much as I love the new friends I met, don’t come barging into the room drunk, swinging your torch around and then humping on the bed above me. Like, get fucked. I want to sleep, not listen to that.
I couldn’t let that spoil my time to much though, and so, pushing myself forward on a lack of sleep, I entered my second full day in Barcelona…