After a 20 hour flight from Perth (with quick stop in Doha to change planes) I arrived in Barcelona, my entry point to Europe. I emerged from the subway on Passeig de Gracia, bleary eyed, tired and a bit disorientated to see this….
Casa Batllo, a masterpiece of the renowned Catalan modernisme architect Antoni Gaudí. I’d come to Barcelona to see his work, La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell in particular, but this building stopped me in my tracks. I stood slack jawed, gazing at the amazing colours and curves, the building seeming almost to be a collage of the hyper-creative. The facade a wave of polychrome trencadís mosaic waste from the ceramics industry; there must be millions of pieces of glass and ceramic stuck to the building, so many in-fact that Gaudi is believed to have instructed that these tesserae “must be placed in handfuls, otherwise you’ll never finish.”
I also visited the Palau de la Musica Catalana another stunning building designed by Gaudí (the pic at the top of this piece is of its amazing skylight) and heard Fazil Say play the piano like I’ve not heard it before. A spine tingling experience to hear beautiful music in such a spectacular building.
As it turned out I didn’t get to see the Familia and the Park. I’d had my fill with the Batllo and Pulau.
A tour out to Montserrat was another highlight. In particular this moment (despite it being a bit of a sprint up hill to experience it! Apologies for the heavy breathing……).
I was struck by the similarities between this Monastery and the monastic town of New Norcia in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Visiting Montserrat helped me to understand the European foundations of the remote New Norcia Monastery. Both Benedictine communities have a strong connection with music and art; each having galleries and art collections that are well worth a visit, and maintaining a musical tradition since their formation. The Escolania choir at Montserrat dates back to the 14th century. I would have loved to have heard them perform but I had to be content with listening to a CD on the bus trip back down the mountain.
Whilst my stay at the hostel on Passeig de Gracia was not all that enjoyable I did love seeing some of the great architecture to be found in this city. Apart from Casa Batlló, the other highlight was the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion (or German Pavilion depending on where your allegiances lie!) on Montjuïc. This archetype of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of modernist architecture was commissioned by the interwar Weimar Republic for the Barcelona International Exposition of 1929. Constructed of steel, glass and four types of stone, the original building was dismantled in the 1930s. The current building is a 1980s reconstruction. The other significant little fact about this building relates to its only bit of furniture; a chair. The Barcelona Chair. Two chairs were designed and constructed especially for the use of the King and Queen of Spain should they require a seat when they visited. The Barcelona Chair went on to became an icon of 1950s and 60s modernism. Some of us still think it’s pretty cool.
What I came for
- Gaudi’s architecture
- Palau de la Musica Catalan
What I loved
- Barcelona Pavilion
- Casa Batlló
- Barri Gotic
- Fazil Say playing “Silence of Anatolia” in concert at Palau de la Musica Catalana
What I’d go back for
- Go to a football game
- Explore more of Montjuïc
- Visit La Sagrada Familia