Beauty Forged from the Fires of Struggle: Barcelona – Mia Terra Retreats
The sights, sounds and smells of Barcelona create a rich, multi-faceted tapestry. Cigarette and cigar smoke mix with the smoke of incense, wood fires and sometimes cannabis. The aromas of vanilla, coffee and tapas beckon you into one of the numerous cafes, patisseries and tapas bars. In the Barrio Gòtico (Gothic quarter), church bells play […]
In the Barrio Gòtico (Gothic quarter), church bells play counterpoint to smooth jazz in an ancient square. Teenagers sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” in front of Esglesia de Santa Maria del Pi, a Romanesque church circa 1300s dedicated to the Blessed Lady of the Pine Tree. In a narrow, shop-lined alley, a guitarist picks out the notes of American classic rock songs. A didgeridoo keeps the beat along a sidewalk in Placa de Catalunya.
With a population of nearly 1,621,000, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain. It’s one of the cultural centers of Europe and is the capital of the region known as Catalonia. Add in the hundreds of thousands of tourists who vacation in the city every year, and it becomes the second most visited city in Europe, Paris being the first.
During my stay between Christmas and New Years Eve, the streets of Barcelona were packed with tourists from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, France, Italy, the United States, Great Britain, and other parts of Spain. Spaniards are night owls, so the streets were nearly impossible to navigate at night with huge crowds out shopping, dining and clubbing. Night clubs open at midnight and rock until dawn or later.
The city has very little violent crime, so it’s reasonably safe. I walked around by myself even at night and never felt afraid. However, there are many pickpockets and Gypsies begging for money, so be prepared and protect your wallets.
If you’ve never been to Barcelona, a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter in the old city is the best introduction. Here, you’ll discover remnants of architecture and art from the region’s earliest inhabitants and begin to understand the struggles this city and region have endured.