Walking has become one of my favorite things here in Barcelona. The city is filled with things to see, especially considering it is the graffiti capital of the world and home of one of the best architects of all time, Gaudi. My street alone here in Barcelona where I live is filled with some of the most beautiful architecture, including two of Gaudi’s famous houses. The hustle and bustle of the main street is lovely, however, where I decided to take my walk was the back streets of my neighborhood where all the locals are. The back neighborhood is much narrower streets and has history to it. My neighborhood Gracia use to be its own town before Barcelona was allowed to expand and then connected to Gracia through an expansion called “Eixample” (which means expansion in Catalan the other official language here besides Spanish). It wasn’t necessarily one walk I took, I take many walks through this area because it is so peaceful and beautiful. Just as Slimbach said, “the walk-story is a journey unto itself that you can recall forever after with gladness, longing, and a humble pride. You own a piece of the world, and ownership gives strength” (Slimbach 182). Walking through my neighborhood makes me feel more at home. I know the area, it is forever in my memory, and it is a place I own in this world, a place where a part of my heart belongs.
The main walk I took for the purpose of this orientation activity was around 8 at night for the purpose of seeing the night life of the locals and the thriving of people in the street on their way home from work or people hanging out in the local “placas” (plazas or squares). It was beautiful. The lights on the street and the people riding by on their bicycles and people eating outside of small cafes and restaurants with friends. The food smelt amazing as I walked past, it was easily smelt since people eat outside. The street became my new favorite place to venture around and gave me a new love for my city. The walk truly was my “teacher”. It taught me not only about the area but about the locals. They love to be outside and hang around with their friends. Seating outside is available almost everywhere and that is typically where you will find the people eating there, not inside.
What really stood out to me was how every place I passed was locally owned, there were no chains in the area. The small boutiques I walked into (some new found favorites) were so unique with particular styles in each, especially one of a small surf clothing shop that is all clothes made and designed by local artists. The shop owner was incredibly kind to me. He talked to me (in Spanish which really helped me practice) and explained his entire business to me, what he does, and just about the area. It was nice how everywhere is family run or small businesses so it is easy to walk in and be warmly welcomed.
The walk was also a teacher to me in the terms of art you see Barcelona. There is a law prohibiting graffiti on walls… it doesn’t say anything about doors. Because of this, graffiti can be found all over the doors of Barcelona that are pulled down to cover the fronts of shops and stores. Artists use to be commissioned to paint and graffiti on the front of doors for stores or to construct public sculpture to make areas appealing or more interesting. On my walk I found graffiti that stood out and even made me think what the underlying meaning was. It is nice because they even add color to every where I go.
The pictures I attached demonstrate the color I experience going for my walks through my neighborhood. I chose to upload the graffiti because it shows how the graffiti is a type that really does make you think. Did the artist choose pop culture and American entertainment for a reason? Is it extra colorful for this reason? I wouldn’t know, and most likely never will, simply because I am not the artist and will never know him to ask. However, his work will always stick with me and make me wonder. I see art like this, a lot even better than these, constantly. It was overwhelming at first but they never get old to look at no matter how many times I walk past them. I am constantly thinking and soaking in my environment.
The travelogue I read, Spain in Mind, was like hearing, seeing, and experiencing Barcelona through more than just one person. The book was a compilation of several authors and artists telling their stories from different perspectives and even through poems. They ranged from the times of the famous bullfighting to more modern day experiences. If I had to quote what I loved most or what resonated with me significantly, I would be quoting the entire book. I did, however, find a quote by one of the writers, Lucia Graves, that stuck with me because I found entire truth in her reasoning. She was born in England and studied in Spain. She had said, “Spanish became associated in my mind with the return to my home… it became the language of a lively life under the sun, of happy childhood memories and of holiday time- it held in its sounds and images a whole series of feelings for which I found no parallel in English” (Spain in Mind 66). I read this after arriving back home from Switzerland and it stuck out because she is right, I was so incredibly happy to walk into my daily coffee shop and speak Spanish with the lady working again. It came to me easily, compared to German in Switzerland which I did not understand at all, and reminded me of my new life here of independence, one I am making completely of my own under the warm Barcelona sun. The travelogue only helped me fall even deeper in love with Barcelona and Spain.