In 2013, with great excitement, my wife and I flew from the U.S. to Venice, Italy. We spent 4 magical days in Venice, and then boarded the ship bound for 12 days in the Mediterranean. We got 6. Then the Cruise Line’s Flagship broke down. We were fortunate and things worked out well for us, as my blogs at the time reported.
In September, we embarked on our “makeup” cruise, which mustered out of Barcelona, Spain this time. So, in keeping with the 2013 game plan, we arrived in Barcelona a couple days early and spent some time in this great city. This time, we also had our good friends, Paul and Linda with us, and their company made a good trip even better.
Barcelona is a city where there is a lot to see and do. It is very much, a cultural and historical center in the southern European continent. There are medieval touches, in a city that became a central player in the modern art and architecture movement; Art Nouveau. Known for its street life and nightlife, and for its food, there is little doubt that our 2 ½ days there did not do it justice.
A little “quick and dirty” research reveals that Spanish government is a bit confusing. It is generally considered a “Constitutional Monarchy.” To Americans, who have been steeped in our tradition of totally independent representational government (indeed the very idea of a monarch was repugnant to the U.S. founding fathers), it is about difficult to follow “who is on first.” There is a national constitution and a national “Constitutional Court.” Much like our own government, at the national level, there is a 3-part ruling authority: The Congress of Deputies, The Assembly of Senators, and The Judiciary (which can be – very roughly – compared to the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate and Federal Court systems). Unlike the U.S. form of government (often – incorrectly, in my view – referred to as a democracy), however, there is still a “ruling” monarchy, whose power is unclear. It is said that the monarchy has the right to veto some acts (though this power is unclear), is the commander in chief of the Spanish Armed Forces, and has the right to appoint certain government officials. The monarch is not the chief executive, and has little executive power (and, hence, cannot really be compared with the U.S. President). Oh, and yes, it is hereditary.
Now here is where it really gets confusing. The Spanish Constitution provides for “Autonomous Communities” which are administrative districts which have their own governing bodies. Barcelona is a province of Catalonia (I believe they spell it Catalunya), which is one of these autonomous communities, made up mostly of the former nation (or perhaps in historical context, “nation-state”) of Catalunya. To this day the Catalans are fiercely national and cultural. They recognize 3 official languages, including Catalan, Spanish and Aranese (an Occitan dialect). They even have their own sign language. I know; don’t I sound erudite? :-). Wikipedia, such as it is, is a great source for quick and dirty research, though would not cite it for scholarly work – and you can rest assured, this is not scholarly, and I wouldn’t suggest relying on it for its historical accuracy.
The point here (yes, there is one 🙂 ), is that there has been a political struggle over the years regarding this autonomy. I suspect that the nationalist view is that these districts are much like our U.S. separate states. But the Catalan view is much different. They view the Constitution as giving them near complete autonomy, and there has been a strong movement for secession from Spain over the past 25 years or so. Apparently, the Spanish Constitutional Court has ruled at least parts of Catalonia’s own “Statute of Autonomy” invalid. Each year – recently on October 11, there is a huge, but peaceful, demonstration in downtown Barcelona. We were touring there on 9-11, but were able to stay out of the area where the demonstration occurred, but were there just long enough for me to get my t-shirt. We saw a sea of people on the news later that evening.
I know people who visit Barcelona for weeks at a time. And there is enough there to justify that. So, in 2 days, we obviously would just scratch the surface. Even the surface was impressive.
We arranged for a tour guide to pick us up at the airport and before dropping us at our hotel, take us on a 4 hour “highlights of Barcelona” tour. Unlike the 2013 trip which provided warm sunshine everywhere we went, we did have some raindrops to contend with in Barcelona (and, briefly in Florence). But we were able to successfully dodge them except for one stop.
Our tour started with Barcelona’s National Art Museum, Museu Nacional D’art Cataluyna. From the steps of this impressive building, you get an on-high view of the city. In the short time we had to visit, we did not get inside, but this museum is the national museum of Catalan visual art.
We drove through, but did not stop at the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but ended that drive with another “high” view of the city, with views of the beach and the cruise port where we would embark in just a couple days. It looks like the Olympic Park would be one of the “must see” destinations if one were staying for a while.
Another part of the tour involved driving down into the city near the water and seeing some of the city’s architecture; notably the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia or simply Cathedral Sainte-Eulalie, often called Seu in Catalan, is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Barcelona. The cathedral is a gothic structure and is impressive, both inside and out. We would later in the week see that that cathedral was a landmark to be used to navigate portions of the city.
I sometimes have to be reminded that this is a Blog, and they are supposed to be short and punchy. Those who follow here, or who know me, know I don’t have “short and punchy” in my own constitution. Mine are always – perhaps painfully – long. So I will stop here and follow up with a “part 2” next.
Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tagged: Andy Richards, Barcelona, Calalunya, Catalon, Catalonia, Cathedral, color, DSLR, Europe, LightCentric Photography, Mediterranean, Musea Nacional D'art Catalunya, PHOTOGRAPHY, Sony, Spain |