I noticed that the light gray tiles paving the broad pedestrian path was stamped with intricate patterns. The street lamps were supported by intriguing curvaceous poles with mosaic benches to rest and intricate wrought-iron held the lamps.
I soon was standing in front of the Casa Amatlier. I snapped a photo with my iPhone (I left my digital camera behind on this trip so I could more easily blend in with the city) and considered paying the fee to go inside. Instead I decided to save my first real taste of Gaudi for Park Guell.
Soon after this I was drawn toward an interesting building tucked behind the Palau Robert and I ventured down a narrow side street that ran parallel to the main road. I was pleasantly confined between 4 to 5 story buildings with charming doorways and shops with metal doors rolled down and every one decorated with interesting artwork. It was early in the morning and the city was slowly awakening.
As the sun creeped overhead the temperature began to climb and so did I as the elevation became steeper toward the park entry. A glorious thing happened – I began to sweat! It’s a funny thing, I rarely sweat in Germany and it feels very odd to me after having lived in so many warm and humid climates. Sweating gives me a feeling of being alive, accomplishing something, working hard. I was wearing a sleeveless dress I’d picked up at Desigual and became concerned my shoulders would burn, so I slipped in to a store to buy a blouse. The shop keeper was tucked in between shelves bursting with yarn, knitting an item. She rapidly spoke in Spanish and I spoke little as we selected a beautiful flowing blouse with embroidery features. My first souvenir. I love buying practical souvenirs. It’s less and less often that I buy a trinket that says the name of a city, but I will buy a towel, or a mouse pad, some jewelry, perhaps a pencil pouch. Basically whatever I might have bought at a store back home, as a remembrance of the adventure.
As I continued strolling through the neighborhood, I found a home brew store. I popped in to snap some photos for my dad who is a home brewer in Oregon.
The streets became steeper and eventually I found a series of stairs with signage leading to the park. Also, suddenly I was in a crowd of people. I had reached my destination and I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to stay.
The main map of the park was painted over with spray paint asking the tourists to leave. It seems the local Barcelonians are not so fond of tourists. Of course, at this moment, I also was craving a quiet place, but that was not to be found until I discovered a tranquil man-made grotto. But before I found my haven I followed the crowds to the top of the peak when a beautiful cross is mounted. It was challenging to get a photo of the cross because all the other tourists were standing at the base of it to take pictures of the city. This vantage point was prime for photographing nearly all of Barcelona. I watched as one lady posing seductively for her husband nearly toppled backward over the edge of the hill. A Darwin moment was narrowly avoided! There was no railing, for an American traveling abroad it’s interesting because you notice how risk averse our society is. Here in Europe you’ve got to watch out for yourself, the government ain’t gonna protect you! I waited a few minutes for the crowd to clear and finally gave up and carefully made my way down the hill.
As I entered the heart of the park I noticed queues for tickets and discovered that the park had an entry fee. It seemed I could see enough from the outside, so I strolled about and snapped some photos of the interesting architecture encrusted in intricate tile mosaic patterns.
I thought it might be nice to sit for a bit and saw a sign for a picnic area and headed in this direction. This is when I found the magic. I entered a sacred space and the notes of one of my favorite piano pieces (I don’t know the name but I recognized the melody) filled the air. Above me was a re-creation of a cave interior with rocks hanging in the pattern of stalagtites, arched openings lined the edges as I walked along a dirt floor in the direction of the music. This area was off the beaten path and blessedly empty of people with the exception of a talented musician playing this hauntingly beautiful music on an electric piano. I dropped some euros in his collection dish and propped myself up against a column to savor the moment. This is one I will never forget. The music rose and bounced off the walls providing incredible acoustics. When I felt like it, I pushed off and headed back in to the city, refreshed and excited for what the day would hold.