Saturday, March 25, 2017

Street performers of Barcelona

In Barcelona, you can see people showcasing their skills in the streets to earn money. They can be found at metro stations, tourist areas and prominent roads. At many places I saw them fully engrossed in showcasing their art. In this post, I am trying to show few of them in action. 
A person "sitting" without support!!
People painting themselves and sitting still is not uncommon. In Barcelona too I saw many people around tourists areas. At first I ignored them considering as statues but apparently one of them moved when a kid came to take a photo!! It was then I realized that they were live performers!!

Many people sing in metro stations. Here was one person showing his talent using this strange musical instrument in Park Guell. I was just mesmerized with the instrument.

At Arc de triomf, I spent a long time admiring the skills of two people who performed various acrobatic moves using Cyr wheel. It was stunning!!

One of the impressive performance was from the group of four people at Montjuic musical fountain. There was still some time for the fountain to start and they boys kept the tourists engaged with their stellar dance performance. Look at the glimpse of their dance in this video. It is amazing.

While street performers are common in Europe, the variety of performance was something I liked in Barcelona.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sagrada Familia - A large incomplete church in Barcelona

When I checked with my colleague from Barcelona about the places to visit, Sagrada Familia was the first item in his list. The building was still under construction and I was wondering how it could be such an attraction. And I was also asked to book ahead in advance to avoid last minute surprises!! Hmmm, seemed to be an interesting place. I promptly booked the tickets that included audio guide and entry to the towers. Website —> 

Sagrada Familia in construction
About Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia is considered as the masterpiece among Antonio Gaudi’s architecture works. The construction was commenced in 1882 but the work lingered on for some reasons. Now even after 135 years, it is still under construction!! The estimated completion date is 2026 which coincides with the centenary of Antonio Gaudi.


Our experience
I had booked the ticket for 9:30 AM slot for me and my friend but we arrived before that. Instead of waiting, we strolled around the building. Indeed, it looked grand but utterly complex. It is said that once completed, it will be the tallest church building in the world. 

Sagrada Familia

We were back at entrance at the stipulated time. The audio guide provided was very useful. The brief history of the building was mentioned and description of interiors of the structure was also impressive. While from outside, the building is incomplete with continuous construction, the interior works are complete and it looks stunning.

Ceiling of the building
Gaudi had used the idea of the forest for interior design. According to the Sagrada Familia site “Gaudí arrived at the revolutionary idea of leaning columns branching out like trees and of using the idea of a forest, not only as a space of magical lighting conducive to intimacy and meditation, but as an organised and hierarchical structure for the optimal support of a beautiful vault of leaves. Each tree splits into branches and supports part of the vaulting; when one tree falls, the whole forest does not collapse.”

"The forest" idea
Out of 18 towers of the Basilica, eight are completed. Four of Nativity facade and four on the Passion facade. While booking the ticket for tower, I noted that I could only book for one of them. I selected Nativity facade as it provided the views of the city. 

View from the tower
The lift took us to the top of the tower. We were also told that the lifts were available only for climbing up and we had to walk while climbing down!!

There is not much place on the top but the views were spectacular. As we got down, it was amazing to see the construction of the stairs in circular fashion is such small area!! Simply awesome. 

Steps leading down the tower
A museum in the underground gives some historical information about the building and works of Gaudi. 

We spent about 1.5 hours in Sagrada Familia and it was a good visit. Would recommend to anyone visiting Barcelona. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Barcelona - some tips and info

I had an opportunity to visit Barcelona recently. It was an official visit for Mobile World Congress but I could find some time to explore and appreciate the city. In this post, I am putting some perspective about my experience.

From Montjuic Palace
About Barcelona
The first time I heard about Barcelona was in 1992 when the city hosted Olympic Games. That provided a huge boost to the city in terms of visibility and promoting tourism in a large fashion. But like many other European cities, it had a very long history and it reflects in many forms in the city. It is a huge city saddled between the hills and Mediterranean sea. 

Fishing boats in Barcelona
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia province in Spain and Catalan is widely spoken. Spanish is a national language. It did not make a difference to me as I could not speak or understand neither Spanish or Catalan!! I do understand some Spanish words but it is just a drop in the ocean. But I did not face any difficulties as people could understand and speak English at most places. But it is good to learn few words for greeting (Like “Hola” for “Hello”). People appreciate it!!

Going around
I used public transport throughout my trip expect for airport transfers as I landed late night and left early morning. The train and bus network is very efficient. Barcelona card for 2,3 and 5 days are quite economical and hassle free to use. Taxis are expensive. I never waited for more than 4 minutes for any connection.

Walking in La Rambla
There are lot of options available. Being a vegetarian, I did not face any issue at all. The local rice based dish “Paella” should be tried. Apart from local food, I also tried Mexican, Syrian, Italian, Mediterranean and Indian (There are many Indian restaurants). Specifically, Catalunya and La Rambla areas are filled with restaurants.

Inside a restaurant in Barcelona
I really cannot comment on it as my stay was taken care by Office. Considering one lakh visitors for MWC, the city has lot of stay options. As a tourist, do not think of visiting Barcelona during MWC. The hotel prices will be expensive by 3 to 5 times. 

At Catalunya

Compared to other Western European countries, I felt Spain was much cheaper whether it was for transport, food or entry to tourist places. Of course, stay was super expensive due to MWC but on other days it is also quite cheap.

Places to see
Barcelona is famous for the buildings architected by Antoni Gaudi, Spanish Catalan architect. Many of his buildings are now declared as UNESCO world heritage sites. Some of this works like Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Casa Battlo and Park Guell are interesting to see. A walk in La Rambla is quite nice. Barcelona is famous for beaches in summer. 

Will put some details on some of these places in subsequent posts.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Football match experience in Barcelona

During my recent visit to Barcelona, I got an opportunity to watch Spanish League match between FC Barcelona and Sporting club in the stadium. Though I am not a big football fan, I do watch world cup matches with great interest and passion. But I have never followed European league matches. Initially I was bit hesitant to go to the stadium due to the hooliganism that is prevalent in European club matches. But FC Barcelona being one of the top football clubs in the world with great players like Messi, I felt that was an opportunity not to miss. My colleague Ajay also joined me.

Barcelona stadium at sunset time
Booking was done in a jiffy. I went to FCB’s website on the previous day and booked it online. The prices were based on the location in the stadium which ranged from 59 to 650 Euros!! Striking a balance between the price and good seating position, I chose “Lateral 3 Superior” seat. And within few seconds, the tickets were in my mobile wallet. Not sure how the ticket availability will be for high profile matches against clubs like Real Madrid.

Photo sessions at Barcelona stadium
The match was starting at 7:30 in the evening but we decided to reach stadium 1.5 hours early as I expected long queues. With capacity of 99,354 seats camp Nau is the largest football stadium in Europe and third largest in the world. But with 21 access gates and several entries into the stadium, the entry was very smooth. Our bags were checked, water bottles were not allowed but camera was ok. The first expression after entering the stadium was “wow!!”. It was amazing and was really huge!! The crowd was still settling in and we enjoyed the pre match experience.

Entering the stadium
In the meantime, I went to get the water bottle. The bottle was provided with cap removed. When questioned, I was told that it was to avoid people throwing water bottles!! Interesting!!

Getting ready
 The match started exactly on time. Greatest response from the crowd came when Messi’s name was announced. It looked like one part of the stadium was reserved for hardcore fans as they were continuously beating the drums and singing songs. A great energy in the stadium. I could imagine how the scene would be for high profile matches!! 

"Messi" being announced
The match itself was interesting with Barcelona winning 6 - 1 which was expected. It was fun to see so many goals and Barcelona attacked continuously. I managed to take a video of one of the goals. Since it was a direct free kick, I could shoot the video of that goal. Neymar directly hitting the ball to the net.

Contrary to my understanding, the crowd behavior was very good. Considering the presence of kids and ladies in the crowd, I believe hooliganism must be isolated incidents in the games. Well, things might have been different if Barcelona had lost the match!!

FC Barcelona fans
It was a great experience altogether. An evening well spent. It just took us about 5 mins to get out of the stadium and the entire process was smooth. Roads were completely filled with people but we did not find any difficulty in catching the train and reaching our hotel!!

Final score