We planned for wednesday to make tourist tours all day. Preferebly walking tours. We found some very good offers at the hostel and we picked the ones of the Travel Bars that exist all over Europe in teh big cities with free tours. The concept is actually that the tour guides are freelancer and want to give you the best tour they can manage without a lot of cost and if you liked the tour you can pay them as much as you want, kind of like how much you liked the tour and how big your wallet is. In the end we decided to do the Antoni Gaudi Tour (as the mainstream tourist tour) and the Alternative & Street Art Tour (for as the name says some alternative programme). Both would be around 3 hours long and just walking. We knew it would be a though day and it was, but also absolutely worth it.
The Antoni Gaudí (1852 - 1926) & Modernisme-Tour
(Modernism = Jugendstil)
The sun was shining when we started the tour in the morning. Before we even got to the travel bar, we realized that it was a National Holiday in Barcelona, the celebration of Mercé, if I understood that right, a kind of patron for the people. In the inner city was a festival with parades with huge, kind of creepy looking puppets. We had to fight our way through masses of people.
The tour guide Hannah from Finland wanted to show us the most famous buildings and designs by Gaudi, from his first lamppost to the mammoth project called Sagrada Família. The tour would go through the Barri Gótic, El Raval, L'Eixample, crossing La Rambla now and then, up the Passeig de Gràcia (the Champs Elysees of Barcelona), to end at the Sagrada Família.
Gaudi was a real artist, a genius, but also a mad man and who was like most artists, hard to work with. What he said and how he wanted it was law. He also was a real catalan, preferebly spoke only catalan although forbidden by law, and always build in 'secret' catalanic messages in his buildings. His first project was a lamppost for the city. He only got 7 Euros for it (converted to our standards today) and so he decided he wanted to deal only with rich people. He met Eusebi Güell in Paris. Güell was one of the richest people in the world during that time. He made h is fortune with cotton, so... basically slavery. He build him buildings and parks and got quite good money for it. He dressed like that and dealt with the rich people like that. Everyone wanted to have a building designed by him. Güell let him build the Palau Güell (Palau = Palace) which was in El Raval, the still today problematic part of the city. I guess today we would call that Gentrification like they did in Brooklyn in New York or in Hamburg in the Schanzenviertel or Altona/Ottensen. Didn't work though in El Raval during that time.
Fun Fact: Salvador Dali designed the Chuppa Chups logo.
We also stopped at the café/bar Els Quatre Gats, a place where Picasso used to be a lot and they also filmed a part of the movie 'Vicky Christina Barcelona', when Vicky and Christina meet Juan for the first time.
Then Gaudi fell in love. Unhappily in love. She married someone else. So he said good bye to the rich people, started to look like a homeless person, and only wanted to build for one, God. I guess that's also how the idea for the Sagrada Família started. I have never seen such a building. I stood infront of the Eiffeltower and the Tokyo Tower, the Dome of Collogne, but they didn't impress me that much. Gaudi knew he wouldn't live to see the cempletion of that building, so he designed one front and decided that others should pick great architectures of their time to design other parts of it. They say it should be finished in 2026, but at the moment it doesn't look like it.
In the end Gaudi gave all his money into the Sagrada Família, he even lived in the building place. One morning he took his typical walk through the old part of the city and a carriage drove him over. The coachman thought he would be a homeless person and left him there. Because noone knew who he was, he was brought late to the hospital, also the old one for the poor. When his friends finally found out about it, they wanted to move him to the new hospital, but he said, that when this old and not very good hospital was for the poor people, he would stay there. And that's also where he died shortly after. That was the end of the Gaudi Tour.
The Alternative & Street Art Tour
After that we ended up far away from the place the next tour would start, we were hungry and didn't have a lot of time. It was very hectic and somehow we managed to be there on time and also found something to eat before the tour started. With the tour the rain started though. But in the end it wasn't so bad because it was really interesting. The tourguide Alex started with the Opera of Barcelona, where 1893 two Orsini bombs exploded and killed a lot of people. Bombs were knew in the world and the people were shocked that somethings exists that can kill so many people just in one moment. That was during the Civial War. We also spoke about Güell his slavery money. (in the Gaudi tour part I mentioned that already.)
We walked into El Raval and actually we stayed there the whole 3 hours. He showed the street artists of the city and also made a game of it to let us spot the different little artsies that some artists left, sometimes also well hidden and out of reach so no one could take it down. He showed us paintings of C215 and Alice, who walk the streets, meet people without a voice (which means people nobody cares for) and paint portraits of them on doors. In Barcelona you are allowed to paint on doors and their frames but not the walls. Sadly the light wasn't so good because of the rain and sometimes I couldn't take photos of the portraits because of that. Although Alex was pointing out that C215 is by now very famous and is often also booked by mainstream big companies to design something for them, he wondered how much is it Street Art in the end, if doesn't come out of a prohibition. When the city says 'Hey Grafitti Artist. Here is wall we would like you to paint!' how much of it's original idea of Grafitti is left in there?
Then we came to a part of El Raval, where Alex showed us a kind of freshly painted wall, a reminder of the incident with a man called Juan Andrés. I couldn't find a lot of information about it in the web but it's own website. In October last year Juan had a fight with two people who lived in that neighbourhood that wall was build. It was a noisy fight in the street and the catalan police was called (there are two police types: catalan and spanish police). By the time the police got there (after an hour), the fight already calmed down and they talked. Juan didn't do anything to anger the policeman who questioned him, just took a few steps away from him and that policeman hit im in the head. Then 8 other policemen came and took him down. They had him down but kept on beating him... to death in the end. The ambulance couldn't save him. People on their balconies filmed all that with their cellphones. The policemen where accused of murder and torture but where spoken free. The whole neighbourhood were witness and they were spoken free. Alex pointed out that Juan Andrés was openly homosexual and quite well known in that area because he also owned a homo-bar. He didn't say that this was the reason for the policemen to kill, but he found it important to point out. Some would say that this happens everywhere in any city. But I think that doesn't change anything and doesn't make it less horrible. This story stuck with me and I wanted to tell you about it.
After walking the whole day throught felt like the whole city, we just went home and had a relaxed evening. Next time the last two days of Barcelona!