BASÍLICA DE LA SAGRADA FAMÍLIA
There are some creations that grant you the status of ‘good’; there are some creations that grant you the status of ‘great’ and then there are some creations that grant you the status of ‘legendary’. With the casas and the other buildings that he had built, Gaudi had already achieved the status of ‘great’ but Sagrada Família was the project which made him a legend.
If in the next 15-20 years, once the Sagrada Família is complete, a list of seven modern wonders of the world is compiled again, then I can say with absolute certainty that this monument will be the first name on that list. ‘But wait’, I hear you asking, ‘it is not complete yet?’ No it is not but still it is a wondrous structure. Gaudi started working on the Sagrada Família in 1883. In the final years of his life he abandoned all his other projects and dedicated himself completely to this monumental project. When he died in 1926, the basilica was less than 25% complete. Its construction is supposed to be completed by 2026 – the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
We started our second day in Barcelona with a visit to Sagrada Família. We had purchased the ticket for the basilica online a couple of months back as we had heard about long entry lines. As soon as we entered the premises of the basilica we came face to face with the Nativity Façade. It was the first façade to be built and the only part of the basilica which Gaudi actually worked on during his lifetime. This façade is dedicated to the birth of Christ and is heavily decorated with sculptures borrowed from nature. The information boards informed us about many different aspects and features of the façade.
From there we proceeded to see the interior of the basilica and what a spellbinding sight it was! We were absolutely rooted to the spot when we got our first glimpse of the interior. The entire space seemed to be glowing with different hues of light. This, we realized, was due to the colourful and magnificent stained glass windows and skylights all around the basilica. The other standout feature of the basilica was its pillars and ceiling which were designed to look like trees and branches. Gaudi’s works were heavily influenced by nature and geometry and nowhere was this more apparent than the place where we were standing in.
After exploring the interior of the basilica we proceeded to see the second façade of Sagrada Família – the Passion façade. Contrary to the Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade was austere and sparsely decorated. This was because the Passion Façade represents the suffering and death of Christ. Due to some renovation work, half of the façade was covered with a cloth thus denying us a complete view of the structure. Just next to the Passion Façade was a small building. This building was constructed in 1909 by Gaudi as a school for children of the workers. The roof of the building was in the pattern of a wave. Next, we moved to the Sagrada Família Museum which was located in a basement below the Passion Façade. The museum contained drawings, photographs and models which showed the architectural method employed by Gaudi, history of the basilica, various stages of construction and different parts of the basilica. There was a workshop too where people were working on various models.
The visit to Sagrada Família left us completely awestruck and we have already made a promise to ourselves to visit Barcelona in 20 years or so to witness the finished structure in all its glory.
After exiting the Sagrada Família we saw a small mobile store close by from where we bought a Lycamobile sim card. Then we took a bus to the second icon of Barcelona.
There is nothing that represents Barcelona better than the football club FC Barcelona and their iconic stadium Camp Nou. In the eternal social and political struggle for Catalan independence, this football club is probably its biggest symbol. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the club’s motto – Més que un club (More than a club).
The visit to Camp Nou was our second tryst with football during our Europe trip after the Milan derby. The stadium was situated in a huge compound which was empty apart from a handful of tourists. We saw the stadium from outside then went to the official club store. Fleeting thoughts about buying some souvenirs or gifts soon evaporated after seeing the price tag. We came back outside, bought tickets and from there a bridge led us to the museum section from where our actual tour commenced.
The museum was a long hall with information panels and memorabilia tracing the history of the club since its formation placed in the centre. Along one wall was the trophy cabinet containing all the trophies Barcelona had won in chronological order. A glass cabinet containing the four Champions League trophies (five now) was given the place of prominence in the heart of the museum. There was a separate space dedicated to ‘El Millor Jugador De La Historia’ (The Greatest Player of All Time) – Lionel Messi. This space had a large framed photograph of Messi along with his four Ballon D’Or (Best player of the world) trophies.
We exited the museum and followed a path which led us to the seating area of the stadium. The largest stadium of Europe (by capacity) was sprawled before us. After spending some time in the seating area we headed down to the pitch side. After that we visited the dressing room used by away teams, the press conference room and then climbed all the way up to the media box which offered stunning panoramic view of the stadium.
After coming down from the media box we saw there was a photo shoot taking place in which visitors were being photographed in various poses in front of a green screen. It seemed fun so we did it too and then proceeded ahead. The last room before the tour exit consisted of many screens playing videos of famous Barcelona players. There was also a virtual reality headset on wearing which one got the experience of watching a live match from pitch side. With that our Camp Nou tour ended. While exiting there were club people who were selling albums containing photos we had just taken in front of the green screen. We denied the album but secretly photographed the code of our photos and later downloaded them from the club’s website.
We eventually exited Camp Nou and walked to the closest metro station from where we took a metro to Barcelona Cathedral.
La Seu Cathedral or the Barcelona Cathedral is located in the Gothic Quarter which is the old historic part of the city. The construction of this Gothic building began towards the end of the 12th century and was completed in 1913. Yes, you read that right. I am sure that if a list titled “10 structures which took longest to complete” is compiled then Barcelona Cathedral would certainly find a place it. What’s with Barcelona’s cathedrals which take hundreds of years for construction? The cathedral itself was decent but after having seen some supreme examples of Gothic architecture like the Duomo of Milan and the Notre Dame of Paris we didn’t find it that good. We couldn’t visit the cloister as it was past the visiting hours. Our visit to the cathedral was quite short after which it was time to see the most famous boulevard of Barcelona.
If Paris has Champs Élysées then Barcelona has La Rambla. This famous avenue of Barcelona might not stand up to its Paris counterpart in terms of history, but in terms of ambience, vibrancy, colours and popularity among people it certainly doesn’t come up short. When we reached La Rambla, it was bustling with tourists. The centre of the avenue was reserved for pedestrians while two narrow lanes on both ends were open for vehicular traffic. There were kiosks, stalls and cafes lined up on both sides of the walkway. As we started walking southwards towards the sea, the crowd started thinning a little. On the way we saw many street artists including painters, magicians and some colourful human statues. The end of the avenue was marked by Mirador de Colom – a monument in the shape of a tall tower dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Just ahead of the tower was the waterfront. We spent some time sitting by the water under the night sky before finally calling it a day.
FINAL DAY IN BARCELONA
Our final day in Barcelona did not include any major monument hopping and therefore, was quite relaxed. Gaudi’s monuments have become an inseparable part of Barcelona so how could we spend a day without seeing one? Thus, we started our day with a visit to Park Güell. Park Güell is one of the most famous works of Gaudi and contains some truly marvellous structures due to which we were looking forward to our visit very much. Once we reached the ticket window we got to know that the park was divided into two zones – the Monumental Zone which contained most of Gaudi’s structures and the Free Zone which was, well, just a park. The entry to the Monumental Zone was regulated and only up to 400 people were allowed every half hour. To our utter dismay we learnt that the tickets for the Monumental Zone for the current slot as well as for the next few slots were already sold out.
We were quite dejected but saw no point in returning back after coming all the way hence we decided to explore only the park. The park was certainly not bad. It was quite green, well maintained and even had a few of Gaudi’s structures. The park was built on a hill and we climbed all the way to the top which gave us some fantastic views of the city. While returning we took a different route and ended up getting lost after exiting the park. Well, we were certainly not complaining as walking those hilly streets without any clue of where we were going was quite enjoyable. Eventually we switched on the Google maps and located a metro station close to us and took a metro to Barcelona Cathedral area.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and better part of the evening shopping in the neighbourhood of Gothic Quarters. After we had bought all the stuff that we wanted to we walked over to the Nova Icaria beach. It was a beautiful beach and was moderately crowded. One of the unique things we saw there was an open air gym. There were machines kept at the beach and people were freely using them. In the midst of the beach there was a jetty which extended into the sea. We walked to the end of the jetty and sat there for sometime enjoying the peaceful environment. After that we walked back to the main road and took a bus back to our hotel and the next morning said adiós to Barcelona.
P.S.: Last three pictures of this blog are sourced from Google as we lost our photos of these places.