Day 48: Gaudi is a Genius

After getting back to Barcelona, I walked back to the hostel to relax for a little bit and try to plan out my last official day in Barcelona while looking at the continuous news cycle of Lebron coming back to Cleveland. During that whole day in Pamplona, with all too much time to myself, I thought about how I was going to just lay on the beach and swim for most of the day because I couldn’t picture myself doing anymore walking. With Sunday being a free day for some of the museums after 3 p.m. (surprise, surprise with my stubborn determination to never sit still) I chose to make the most of this last day in Europe to see and do as much as I could. The first stop was the Ajuntament building, which is Barcelona’s city hall and is only open to the public for three hours on Sundays. The interior reminded me of whatever visions I had of how the Palace of Westminster I. London should look like with a deep hazelnut encompassing the furniture and flooring. Even though the area was roped off, I was really tempted to sit down on the ultra fluffy pillows that the privileged government officials got to sit on. During a gap between visiting the city hall and the rest of the day’s free museum hours, I walked over to Sagrada Familia to see up close the church people can’t stop talking about. On the way there I stopped to see the old bullring which is even larger than the one in Pamplona (in the region of Catalan, bullfighting is now illegal). Upon first looking up at the Sagrada Familia I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. The church was constructed by the initial architectural designs of Gaudi which should get your head spinning as to what a church is supposed to look like. The cathedral looks like it is made from sand. In particular, the towers have the appearance of those handmade sandcastles that form from dropping a mixture of sand and water in slow droplets on top of one another to form a narrowing, funky, cone-shaped structure. Also, the Sagrada Familia has two cranes hovering over it with segments of the church covered up for construction. According to my lately unreliable guidebook, construction will continue onwards till 2036. It is unfortunate Gaudi never got to see the majority of his life’s work completed. For my brief lunch break, I found a bench near the church where I could rest while I spooned out bits of tuna from a can onto my fresh baguette. As you might imagine, the smell of canned tuna is not for the faint of heart and with tour groups constantly passing by I should have been embarrassed but at this point in my trip my dignity had already flown out the window. Although I was impressed by the church’s monstrous dedication to God, I didn’t have too much time to loiter around before the next stop on my agenda. Since I abandoned all hope of going to the beach (a quick swim still sounds immaculate), I planned on coming back to the church at 8 o’clock for mass and hoped to get inside for free. Back near the museum district, I walked to the Picasso Museum which has a great deal of his earlier work on display but, after seeing a line that never seemed to end, I had to move on to the next museum on my itinerary. Directly through a modern bookstore of all places, I found the entrance to Museu D’Historia de la Ciutat. In this museum, I walked below the street level to find the remains of Roman ruins. I had seen much of this kind of stuff before in Rome, which obviously can’t be beat as far as Roman ruins are concerned, but the large clay-like vessels that once held Roman wine was a new one for me. After getting my history kick for the day, I went over to Palau Guell to get in line for a free ticket into a house that Gaudi built (the man might as well have built the entire city of Barcelona). While in line, I met an older couple from New Zealand who were traveling Spain for a few weeks. I joked with them about Cleveland’s brutal winters compared to the land down under; I had already heard enough about their 50 degree “winters”. Once inside the luxurious home, I was instantly impressed by the architecture. If I had to give anyone traveling advice, I would suggest they visit the homes of Gaudi rather than the inside of the Chateau of Versailles or the palaces in Vienna. Those palaces truly blend together with over opulence while Gaudi brought to life a sense of magic and mystery that is a rarity in a home. His homes don’t amaze you by their sheer size but by his unique use of space, shapes, and a wild array of colors that shouldn’t fit but somehow work. In the main hall, he built a room that could switch between a chapel and a social room. Also, the basement or what was once a horse stable reminded me of the tunnel-like walkway I saw in Parc Guell made up of columns that started off skinny at the bottom and mushroomed upwards. The roof literally and figuratively topped the visit. His famous chimneys rapped around the edges of the roof shaped like small evergreen trees and covered by multicolored ceramic tiles. He may have been as high as a kite when he came up with all this but either way he was a complete genius. The house felt like a classier version of Pee Wee’s playhouse. With my plan to swim at the beach having become a distant memory by now, I took the metro over to Sagrada Familia for mass. I was told that the mass would be in the crypt and not in the basilica where I would have been able to see all the stained glass windows. Since I had come this far I figured I might as well check the crypt out. Near the stairs that would take me down into the crypt, I found a board with information about the church including their future plans for completing it as well as the symbolism involved with the cathedral’s exterior. I had already been amazed by the beauty of the church but after finding out about all the biblical symbolism that went into it I came away looking at the facades with a whole new light. As weird as it may sound, I came away a changed man lost in the spirituality and mystic quality of the building. After walking through one of Gaudi houses and then seeing his life’s work (he spent 40 plus years of his life working on it like a hermit), I view him as a Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, or whoever of architecture. After deciding not to waste more time in the crypt, I end up walking around the church a couple times to let everything soak in. I honestly could have stared at the church for several hours and been perfectly content. Although not all the towers have been built, I could see where they plan to go with it as the 18 towers will eventually represent the 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ tallest of them all. The facades incorporate the Last Supper, kiss of Judas, Veronica and her veil with the impression of Jesus, the birth of Christ, the Cypress Tree (aka tree of life), and the skull of Adam to represent the mortality of man. I could go on and on but the most shocking and noteworthy thing I could say about the Sagrada Familia is that it is the most beautiful church I have ever seen in my life. I don’t know if it was because I was sleep deprived from Pamplona or what but in my opinion I enjoyed it more than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which is no slouch as far as churches and cathedrals go. As I left the area, I constantly looked over my shoulder to get another last view of the cathedral. I made a promise to myself that once Sagrada Familia is completed I would come back to Barcelona to see it in all its glory, including the interior. With the cathedral fading into the background, I rushed back to the hostel to make sure I arrived in time for the start of the World Cup finale and barely pulled it off. Watching Deutschland win their fourth title was a great way to finish off the trip. With the World Cup final going into extra time and my sleep deprivation wearing me down, I contemplated whether or not I should take a shower. I’m not sure if I should admit this but at this point I have no shame: I had not taken a shower in 8 or 9 days which was my personal record for the trip. Thinking over how disgusting that is, I forced myself into the shower. Refreshed, I got into bed in disbelief that this would be my last night sleeping in a hostel.

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