October 9 2012
Originally posted on October 23 2008, Viaje de una Vida
Gaudí was a religious man who believed that his work should imitate but never try to be more than what God had originally created. For example, the finished design of the highest point of the Sagrada Familia would be an exact 173 meteres high. That meant it would be only 1 meter lower than the highest hill – Mont Serat – in Barcelona. When Gaudí was asked why he decided on this, he simply stated that he didn’t want to “go higher than what God himself had created.”
The construction of the great Sagrada Familia began in April of 1882, and has become the most recognizable icon associated with Barcelona. Even though the church was originally planned by Francisco de Paula del Villar, after only one year, the commission fell to a very young Antoni Gaudí.
While the whole Sagrada Familia is covered in religious symbolism, the nativity scene is the only facade Gaudí completed in his lifetime. The statues are all very detailed and lively which go with the symbolism of Jesus’s birth. The sides have an interesting ripple effect, where one side looks like leaves, and the other looks like waves of water. Both sides meet at the top which appears to be like birds.
Obviously Gaudí’s work followed closely to nature, as he spent his childhood growing up in the rural areas around Barcelona and found fascination and inspiration in the forms and objects of nature. Many of the Sagrada Familia’s lines are fluid forms of parabolas, which are especially obvious in the structure of honeybee hives. Parabolas actually create the most perfect form of support in architecture, which until Gaudí, had been unknown or unused.
His spiral staircases copy seashells and the indoor columns mimic the limbs of a tall ancient forest. The natural light streaming through the top imitates the canopy mimicking the natural patterns where daylight would also stream through.
His eclectic style is seen throughout every detail of the church since Gaudí worked on it up until the day he died in 1926. It was far from completion at the time of his death, and still is. Some say it won’t be finished until 2050. I can’t wait to return again one day and see how much progress has been made.
*All photos by Observant Nomad
August 15 2012
Originally posted November 18, 2008 on Viaje de una Vida
As you might have noticed, when one visits Barcelona, they are of course obligated to visit and admire the many (and I say many) facades, buildings, and designs of Antoni Gaudí. It may appear that I’ve seen every Gaudí building, and that´s not quite true… So this week I visited some new places I’ve been waiting to see.
Casa Milá or otherwise known as La Pedrera (Catalan for stone quarry) was designed by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900s. The apartment building was built for a newlywed couple of Indianos - Catalonians who returned from the new Americas with a lot of wealth.
The couple wanted a house much like Casa Batlló that Gaudí had designed earlier. However, this time however he removed himself from the same use of color and decoration as seen in the Batlló for more emphasis on shapes and curves and religious symbolism which is depicted in Milá.
The interior feels luxurious, calm, and simple. The creamy whites don’t seem bland or blank, but rather only emphasize his use of light and curves in the lines of his buildings.
While the interior is impressive, its the roof that gets all the attention, and that´s to be expected. We had the luck of visiting the roof right at sunset and saw how the light reflected on the glass mosaic curving smoke-like chimneys and towers atop Casa Milá.
The roof was my favorite and almost rivaled the roof at Casa Batlló. I thought the white rooftop might have seem bland or plain, but in the lighting it was pretty magical and impressive. I noticed how Gaudí used different shades of tile to reflect different hues and shades of light and color.
June 6 2012
Originally Posted December 3, 2008 on Viaje de una Vida
My tour guide was wearing an olive-colored North Face windbreaker and some sensible walking sandals that cool bright morning in Granada. His appearance portrayed him as a sensible hiker who just finished biking his way into town. But when he opened his mouth, it was obvious that a very relaxed, life-loving hippy was there through and through.
According to said tour guide, all of Granada has what are called “good beams” which seems to mean, that anyone who has ever stepped foot into Granada’s white city has wanted to stay. First it was the life-loving Muslims when they conquered Granada from the Christians of Roman/Greek decent. They did a pretty great job running the place, including freedom of religion, rights to local government, and women could own property.
All of which helped them hold it for 700 years. Then the righteous and beautiful Northern Spanish, Isabelle and Ferdinand, wanted that pretty palace all to themselves. And now apparently young hippie Americans and English folk seem to get caught there giving free tours of the city.
I felt those good beams this past weekend when I went to Granada with two friends from school here, in Barcelona. We hopped on an early flight to Granada and landed in what I have always thought Spain to be. The white wash uniform buildings, covered in Islamic tiles and small cobblestone alleyways. Orange trees everywhere and Spanish guitar players out in front of the ancient churches.
Our neighborhood, the Albaicin is full of Islamic style white houses, little restaurants, and great views of the city. We spent the weekend enjoying amazing North African food and of course visiting the most famous Islamic palace in Europe – The Alhambra. The Alhambra dates back to the 9th century during the Nasrid kingdom (which I’ve learned all about in my Religious Tolerance & Conflict Class) and it still stands today in great condition.
The Alhambra exhibits many characteristics of Islamic architecture including; cube rooms, highly decorative and detailed vaulted ceilings, and geometric wood panel roofs. It was also built with a healthy respect of the many common Moorish symbols, stars representing the heavens, nature, earth, fire, and of course water.
Since water was a commodity in the North African deserts where these original ‘Moors’ had invaded from, they built their palace dedicated to the beauty and abundance of water that they had found in Spain.
We also visited the Generalife which are a huge amount of gardens around the Alhambra meant for the sultan to frolic with hundreds of his women in the harem. Throwing parties and having a good time. The gardens overlook the entire Albaicin and the rest of Granada.
Sultans had to party it up cause they were being killed off very quickly as all their illegitimate sons vied for power. They even had a tower in the center of the city that would raise the new flag of whoever had become Sultan that day.
In Granada there is a history of war and peace between mostly Christians and Muslims, and this struggle between powers is mostly seen in the churches and cathedrals of Southern Spain. These buildings were all converted into Christian buildings after Isabelle and Ferdinand conquered Granada. However they kept the Alhambra perfectly intact.
Southern Spain is closer to the imagined dream of what most people think Spain to be. Guitar, food, dance, cobblestone, churches, tapas, wine, graceful religious memorials, Mediterranean foliage, Moorish influence, Islamic tiling, and a passionate warm friendliness.
While Barcelona is very different. People are more reserved and can sometimes come off cold. They can be friendly, its just more subdued, and going to Granada showed me how different the two people really are.
Spain maybe a relatively small country, but all its peoples are so different from one another I felt as if I had left the Spain I knew and entered a more dream-like and fantastical Spain where everyone wanted to know my name. I miss the good vibes of Granada, and hope I find my hippie-self there too one day soon.
All photos by Observant Nomad
April 10 2012
Thought I’d share a little dreamy weekend trip I took a long time ago, while I was living in Spain. I visited the small quaint beach-front town, Garraf, on a whim. It was one of the first trips I took alone. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience that really touched my heart. I spent a whole trip utterly alone and in silence. There were not many souls wandering around Garraf which gave it an almost dreamlike quality to it, where every strange detail was heightened. The passing of the sun, just inching across the sky.
Originally posted : 10/5/2008
Yesterday, after consulting some informative guide books, I decided to spend my Saturday at Garraf which is a small beach town 30 minutes outside Barcelona. After heading over to the train station, I bought my ticket, but then couldn’t figure out my station!
I found some help through my amazing Spanish skills, and then hopped on my first European train! Very exciting, and very useful. I got off on my platform which seemed a little questionable since it was really in the middle of nowhere (except next to the beach). I headed over and spread out a towel.
Garraf was beautiful. I mean most oceans and beaches are really photographically pretty, but this place was scarily storybook pretty. Waters were a clear turquoise, so bright that it looked like sun was shining from the bottom of it out. The sand was a fine soft dust to walk on, and smoothed into a nice blanket.
The rocks and flowers around the beach seemed more like Greece than Spain. The only people left on this beach were a few locals and the die hard surfers. The feeling was calm, relaxed, and seemed like time slowed there. If it wasn’t for the setting sun, I think the day would have inched along at its choosing.
The town was quaint and beautiful as well. With some help from the locals I found a little un-known Gaudí building. Today its a restaurant called Gaudí Garraf and is a styled interpretation of Gaudí’s thoughts on medieval castles. I found it very romantic and beautiful. I loved it! It was quite unlike other Gaudí buildings, but still had him whimsical and nature inspired touches.
April 2 2012
In 2008 I faced a variety of personal challenges and difficulties that led to one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I had decided to move to Barcelona, Spain for a half year to study and live a new life. I learned so much Spanish, about Barcelona culture, their history, and even more about who I was and wanted to be. When I first left for my trip, I began a blog at Viaje de una Vida to chronicle my experiences there. However since starting this blog, I’ve decided to slowly combine these previous posts right here on Observant Nomad.
Espero que lo disfruta…
Originally Posted on 09/03/2008 | Viaje de una Vida
I’ve safely arrived and can’t believe I’m actually here! All my emotions are ranging from excitement, anticipation, shock, sadness, and pure joy. Mi viaje started on the plane over. The wait between flights was unbearable, the anticipation might have been caused by knowing I was finally going. But at the same time, I was also lonely. There was no one at the airport I knew. I was nervous and wondering how everything was going to turn out.
When we landed in Barcelona, I gazed out the window, my eyes soaking in the landscape and ocean waves. I let the realization wash over me that I was going to be living, breathing, sleeping, dancing, eating, and learning here for the next five months, and I became flushed with excitement and joy. Joy in the true sense of the word, a feeling that is almost like a buzzing throughout your skin.
That same day, after settling into orientation, a group of the program’s students and I toured the city including Park Guell. Parc Güell was constructed in 1914 by Antoni Gaudí – a famous Art Nouveau Spanish architect and artist. It was originally built as a housing area, but after it fell through, the remaining plots were converted into gardens. It’s storybook like – the strange curves and structures of the gingerbread houses. My gut tells me Dr. Suess would’ve appreciated its haunting yet childlike features.
Only two houses were built on the property and both were actually designed by Gaudí’s protege, Francesc Berenguer. The park is decorated with tall standing mosaic structures, to meander through when the heat is unbearable. The lower level of the park does nothing for me, but the upper level is nice to sunbath like a lizard on a warm day.
Flowing benches surround the edges of the upper level of the park, which sits on a large hill in Gracía, so it offers amazing views of the city. However at night, I wouldn’t suggest visiting the park, for the same reasons for you don’t in most large cities. The park is quite lovely and peaceful when it’s not packed with tourists, so I suggest visiting around non-peak hours like the afternoon or a weekday.
After the tour and the next morning I finally met my home stay family. I lived with my home stay mother Estela and her daughter Julia. Julia is 13 and seems very much like a regular young girl excited to go out and have friends. Estela often has students come live with her and spend time in her home. Right now she has another student, Lucy, from Birmingham, England who is studying here to be able to teach English as a second language to other students. She is only staying for a month, so I hope I can spend some time getting to know her a bit more, and maybe get some advice on a good pub in Britain.