Barcelona Cathedral

The church exterior is quite grand, but wasn't always so. The cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. In the late 19th century, the neo-Gothic facade was constructed over the nondescript exterior,
The church exterior is quite grand, but wasn’t always so. The cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. In the late 19th century, the neo-Gothic facade was constructed over the nondescript exterior.

I love old churches. It’s true that when you do too much traveling they all mush up in your head. I had a tour guide once that called it ABC–Another Beautiful Church. True enough.

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is better known as Barcelona Cathedral. It’s located in the Gothic Quarter, right on the edge of the old city and shares a wall that is a former city gate.

Interior of the church. The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral's crypt.
Interior of the church. The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.

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The cathedral has a secluded Gothic cloister where 13 white geese are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred. Another story is that when killed by Roman soldiers, 13 white doves flew from her body. Geese are considerably easier to keep track of than doves, however.
The cathedral has a secluded Gothic cloister where 13 white geese are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred. Another story is that when killed by Roman soldiers, 13 white doves flew from her body. Geese are considerably easier to keep track of than doves, however.
Barcelona was a Roman city at the end of the first century A.D. The original wall was quite low, but built up over the centuries. This is one of the original city gates and you can the changes in building material as you look from bottom to top.
Barcelona was a Roman city at the end of the first century A.D. The original wall was quite low, but built up over the centuries. This is one of the original city gates and you can the changes in building material as you look from bottom to top.
The other saint of Barcelona is St. George. Here he's seen slaying a dragon.
The other saint of Barcelona is St. George. Here he’s seen slaying a dragon.
A nearby square with fountain.
A nearby square with fountain.
If you look behind the fountain you see the pitted walls of this square. These were damaged by bombs in WWII.
If you look behind the fountain you see the pitted walls of this square. These were damaged by bombs in WWII.

Montjuic, Barcelona

The Magic Fountain
The Magic Fountain

There are two mountains in Barcelona, Tibidabo and Montjuic. While I was there the first week of March, I only had time to visit the latter.

Montjuïc is translated as “Jew Mountain” in medieval Catalan, and is the site of a former Jewish cemetery. The top of the hill (a height of 184,8 m) was the site of several fortifications, the latest of which, the Castle of Montjuïc, remains today and can be entered for a small fee. The fortress largely dates from the 17th century, with 18th-century additions. It served as a prison, often holding political prisoners, until the time of General Franco. The castle was also the site of numerous executions.

The mountain was the site of the 1929 International Exposition, a type of World’s Fair. The surviving buildings from this effort include the grand Palau Nacional (now am impressive art museum) and the Estadi Olímpic (the Olympic stadium, which is free to enter). There is also The Poble Espanyol, a “Spanish village” of in different styles of Spanish architecture,  which also survives. At the the foot of the mountain are the ornate Font Màgica fountains, plus a grand staircase at the south end of the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina. Happily, there are also escalators added recently.

Today, cable cars help visitors to have an excellent view of the harbor and city.

The cable cars
The cable cars
Why didn't they have one of these on the AT when I was climbing two mountains a day. The view is enough to take your breathe away without such a climb.
Why didn’t they have one of these on the AT when I was climbing two mountains a day. The view is enough to take your breathe away without such a climb.
Entrance to the Castle Montjuic.
Entrance to the Castle Montjuic.
The former moat of the castle is now filled with lovely landscaping.
The former moat of the castle is now filled with lovely landscaping.
The view from the Cable Car, the easiest way to get to the vert top of Montjuic.
The view from the Cable Car, the easiest way to get to the vert top of Montjuic.
The Olympic Stadium is free to visit.
The Olympic Stadium is free to visit.
There is a huge botanical garden on the slopes, with tropic species not found in other Mediterranean areas, particularly cacti from around the world.
There is a huge botanical garden on the slopes, with tropic species not found in other Mediterranean areas, particularly cacti from around the world.
The view from the Pilau National. Below is the Magic Fountain and the two Venetian style columns beyond than lead to the Plaza Espania.
The view from the Pilau National. Below is the Magic Fountain and the two Venetian style columns beyond than lead to the Plaza Espania.
The Pilau National is now an art museum with several extensive collections. It would take several days to explore the full artistic offerings.
The Pilau National is now an art museum with several extensive collections. It would take several days to explore the full artistic offerings.

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The Pilau National was built for Olympic style games and includes this impressive theater.
The Pilau National was built for Olympic style games and includes this impressive theater.
Part of the Magic Fountain.
Part of the Magic Fountain.

Hip Karma Hostel, Barcelona

DSC_0733I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels at this point. They are inexpensive and often well located, but sometimes the experiences are pretty bad. I’m happy report that the Hip Karma Hostel in Barcelona was a good experience. Exceptionally clean and up to date, also. It helped that I arrived just as they opened for the season. Mostly, I enjoyed meeting owner Christopher, an American ex-pat who sounds like the chamber of commerce for Barcelona. Thanks for a great stay.

The price was less than $10 a night. Rooms and bathroom facilities are shared.

Lobby with a bank of computers to the right.
Lobby with a bank of computers to the right.
The bunk beds has privacy curtains. Below is a draw you can lock. Sheets and towels can be rented. Laundry is extra, but the room had a balcony, mirrors and was very clean.
The bunk beds has privacy curtains. Below is a draw you can lock. Sheets and towels can be rented. Laundry is extra, but the room had a balcony, mirrors and was very clean.
First view of the kitchen, well stocked with mugs, glasses and some cooking utensils. Mostly, I was grateful that there wasn't a single science experiment in the fridge.
First view of the kitchen, well stocked with mugs, glasses and some cooking utensils. Mostly, I was grateful that there wasn’t a single science experiment in the fridge.
Kitchen was clean and had everything you needed.
Kitchen was clean and had everything you needed.

Fallas in Valencia!

No, I don't want to pay their electric bill. This huge canopy is the length of a city block and 4-5 stories high. There was music and a light show.
No, I don’t want to pay their electric bill. This huge canopy is the length of a city block and 4-5 stories high. There was music and a light show.

As long as sleep is not important to you, this could be my favorite festival of all time. I admit the all the super powered firecrackers do get me a tad jumpy, this is a very happy, family event. And remember, the body eventually collapses, despite loud bands and sonic booms. I slept 11 straight hours, rising at noon today, so I feel refreshed. Since we still have many festivities and some huge bonfires to come, that’s good.

Falles is a Valencian word for “torch” and it’s an apt one. Incidentally, Google Translate keeps saying the word is Spanish and means “failures” so I was quite confused for the first few days.  The Falles or Fallas is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. For a full year, the casal faller (Each neighbourhood Fallas organization) raise money and prepare the ninots (Valencian for puppets or dolls). These “dolls” can be five stories tall, made of paper mache, wax, wood and polystyrene foam. They are set up in neighborhoods and even paraded through the streets. At the end of the celebration all the monuments are burnt in huge bonfires. It’s like Marti Gras in New Orleans, except it’s got more fire and less booze.

OK, not a lot less booze.

My new teacher friends: Siho, Rida and Symone. Here, we attempt to eat our weight in grilled meat. Why is no one surprised that I ordered pork ribs?
My new teacher friends: Siho, Rida and Symone. Here, we attempt to eat our weight in grilled meat. Why is no one surprised that I ordered pork ribs?
This is a huge light display and we stood inside it!
This is a huge light display and we stood inside it!
This is on the street, taken from my balcony. The display will eventually burn, but for now there's a band and lovely young girls in traditional costumes parading through the area. It goes on 24 hours a day. No, I'm not getting much sleep, but what can you do?
This is on the street, taken from my balcony. The display will eventually burn, but for now there’s a band and lovely young girls in traditional costumes parading through the area. It goes on 24 hours a day. No, I’m not getting much sleep, but what can you do?
This is the 1am fireworks that went on for 20 minutes. I jumped in a cab five minutes before the end and was in the shower before my roommates got home.
This is the 1am fireworks that went on for 20 minutes. I jumped in a cab five minutes before the end and was in the shower before my roommates got home.
This wooden structure is about 7 stories tall and in the evenings a light show is projected on it and from inside it. It has a glowing heart inside the chest. It's hard to imagine that this will be just burned.
This wooden structure is about 7 stories tall and in the evenings a light show is projected on it and from inside it. It has a glowing heart inside the chest. It’s hard to imagine that this will be just burned.
The structures are arranged in the intersections and traffic is closed to about every third street.  Driving is almost impossible.
The structures are arranged in the intersections and traffic is closed to about every third street. Driving is almost impossible.
A quiet moment, a few hours before the fireworks will start from this bridge. Valencia used to have a river that ran through it, but flooding was a constant issue. The river was diverted and the wide riverbed turned into a park that runs east and west through the entire city. Several ornate and beautiful bridges span it, all with pedestrian walkways and stairs down to the park. There are metro stops just below this bridge on the far side.
A quiet moment, a few hours before the fireworks will start from this bridge. Valencia used to have a river that ran through it, but flooding was a constant issue. The river was diverted and the wide riverbed turned into a park that runs east and west through the entire city. Several ornate and beautiful bridges span it, all with pedestrian walkways and stairs down to the park. There are metro stops just below this bridge on the far side.
It's all paper, wax and foam.
It’s all paper, wax and foam.
At 2pm every day, there's a fireworks display. It seems odd to do this in the middle of the day, but you soon realize that the Valencians enjoy the "bloom" as much as the explosion. The smoke from the fireworks blotted out the sun for several minutes. I stuffed paper into my ears and wished for noise canceling earphones.
At 2pm every day, there’s a fireworks display. It seems odd to do this in the middle of the day, but you soon realize that the Valencians enjoy the “bloom” as much as the explosion. The smoke from the fireworks blotted out the sun for several minutes. I stuffed paper into my ears and wished for noise canceling earphones.
These lovely fallares in their traditional costumes are everywhere. The hairstyle is ornate and looks painful. The corsets do too. I'm glad it was them and not me!
These lovely fallares in their traditional costumes are everywhere. The hairstyle is ornate and looks painful. The corsets do too. I’m glad it was them and not me!

Fallas–the fire festival

This is literally right outside my apartment complex door, in the street, which is blocked to traffic. Just on the other side is a park where people were singing, dancing and lighting fireworks until 4am. I am getting very little sleep.
This is literally right outside my apartment complex door, in the street, which is blocked to traffic. Just on the other side is a park where people were singing, dancing and lighting fireworks until 4am. I am getting very little sleep.

I’m only beginning to understand what a big deal Fallas is here in Valencia. I still have photos of Barcelona to post, but wanted to sneak in some information about this very festive holiday. As far as I can tell, there’s a lot of alcohol, explosives and fire. What more could you want in a celebration?

This website has a lot of info about last year’s event.  So far, I’ve attended one Mascletá, held every day at 2:00 PM in the city hall square, La Plaza de Ayuntamiento.  “LOUD” does not begin to cover it. And obviously the park in front of my apartment is a center of a LOT of celebrations in my neighborhood. The bands start at about 9:30 and are still going strong at 3am. I’m not getting much sleep, but I’ve decided to just go with it. I’ll take a siesta in the middle of the day like everyone else and enjoy the fun.

This is in the street in front of my apartment. Hard to imagine these huge displays are just for a week or so. These are plaster and must be stored, but the REALLY big displays are wooden and burned at the end of Fallas. Fireworks are everywhere--even young children are lighting explosives that would be illegal in most states in America. At 2pm, starting at the first of March, there is a HUGE fireworks display at 2pm every day in front of the town square. I went to one a few days ago and the noise was deafening--I can hear it 3km away at the beach. At one point, the smoke from the explosives blocked out the sun overhead. It seems odd to me to have this during the day, but tonight they have another at midnight.
This is in the street in front of my apartment. Hard to imagine these huge displays are just for a week or so. These are plaster and must be stored, but the REALLY big displays are wooden and burned at the end of Fallas. Fireworks are everywhere–even young children are lighting explosives that would be illegal in most states in America. At 2pm, starting at the first of March, there is a HUGE fireworks display at 2pm every day in front of the town square. I went to one a few days ago and the noise was deafening–I can hear it 3km away at the beach. At one point, the smoke from the explosives blocked out the sun overhead. It seems odd to me to have this during the day, but tonight they have another at midnight.
This is beside the school.  Some of the empty lots already have heaps of wood in them for future bonfires.
This is beside the school. Some of the empty lots already have heaps of wood in them for future bonfires. This weekend is the highlight, though clearly the Spanish start celebrating in anticipation at least a month before.
This has nothing to do with Fallas, but I'm pretty sure this is a marijuana growing store. One of my students said that growing it was legal, only selling the drug is an issue. Interesting.
This has nothing to do with Fallas, but I’m pretty sure this is a marijuana growing store. One of my students said that growing it was legal, only selling the drug is an issue. Interesting.