I just started reading George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia yesterday. The book details the British writer’s time fighting for the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) militia during the Spanish Civil War. And as you can tell from the title, much of this war memoir takes place in the Catalonia (Cataluña) region of Spain, whose heart is the city of Barcelona. Reading the book has gotten me romantically dreaming about the (way too short) visit I paid that city almost nine years ago.
*Side note: all these photos were taken with a cheap throwaway camera. Excuse the quality.
Orwell writes at length about the political factions in the region. Various leftist groups, from Communists to Anarchists, held power in Catalonia at the time of the war, while the right-wing Nationalists were working towards control of the country as a whole. To me, the city seemed to still have strong political currents. Graffiti was everywhere, and it was often polemic: “The bosses are all thieves!” “Resist the global economy.” Beggars on the metro were apt to reference economic policies when asking for change. Leftist parties had booths along las Ramblas—including quaint seniors hawking hammer-and-sickle buttons. And every night seemed to bring a new protest march: gay rights, social reforms, vegetarianism, and so on.
Culturally, the city has an interesting mix of architectural styles, museums, and venues. On the one hand, there is the highbrow modernist side: the Miro museum and Gaudí’s works. But then there is also the Erotica Museum in the heart of the city. And on the outskirts of town is Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona’s beloved football team. But my favorite place in the area is Montserrat, which is literally a “serrated mountain” that is conquered by a combination of cable car, funicular, and hike. The view is certainly worth the stomach-dropping ride up and calories burnt once on the ground.
But nothing in life is perfect. And whenever I get too misty about Barcelona I start to remember my last 24 hours there. It began with one last excursion to a Gaudí landmark. I don’t even remember which one. But on the way up the escalator from the metro, I was targeted by some pickpockets. In a flash, a commotion started and I quickly noticed a foreign hand in my pocket. Dashing away, I still had all my belongings. In fact, the thief would have only come away with the cruddy camera that I took these pictures with. But it was a definite mood damper. And arriving at the airport to find out that my flight home had been canceled didn’t improve things much.