NOV
2019
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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 11.6.19
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL & Kathy Cavanaugh
All photos courtesy the authors

HOMAGE TO CATALONIA: DAY ONE

It was a Sunday afternoon here in Virginia when Bernie picked us up and deposited us at Dulles Airport a good two hours before our 5:40 p.m. flight to Barcelona, where we would meet brother Dave and his wife Mary. We checked in, all was good, and people started to board. Then, we heard the announcement of an engine problem; it would be fixed in 45 minutes. At 10 p.m. we were back home -- the flight was cancelled. Next day, we were placed on the 5:40 p.m. flight.

And so, finally, off to Catalonia...

All went well on Monday and we arrived in Barcelona Tuesday morning. We caught a cab to the OD Barcelona Hotel in La Dreta De L'Eixample. Our group had already left on a coach tour of the city, and we arranged to meet them on the Placa de Catalunya in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. After sitting on the plane for eight hours, the seven-block walk on this sunny day felt really good.

city

Traffic was fierce on the main streets with motor scooters zipping between cars and trucks. The area was mixed use with six story buildings, businesses on the ground floor and apartments above, interspersed with taller office buildings. The Catalonian, Spanish, and Independence movement flags hung from many residential balconies. These reminded us that Catalonians secession from Spain was a controversial issue.

city

Motor scooters seem to be the favorite mode of transportation; and when not in traffic, they are parked on the sidewalks. It was a busy area with both locals and tourists, just two blocks from the university and several museums. We found the Placa de Catalunya and watched Barcelona swirl around the square for 15 minutes.

Catalonia (pop. 7.5 million) is an autonomous community on the northeastern corner of Spain, consisting of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second largest in Spain. The people of Catalonia speak their own language as well as Spanish.

Catalonia has struggled for independence throughout its history: Franco-Spanish War (17th Century), War of the Spanish Succession (18th Century), the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars (19th Century), and the Spanish Civil War (1936 -1939).

In 2017 Catalonia held an independence referendum as authorized by the Parliament of Catalonia, which passed by 90 percent but was boycotted by the opposition, resulting in low turn-out.

The Constitutional Court of Spain, after a request from the Spanish government, declared the referendum a breach of the Spanish Constitution and issued orders to the police to prevent it. During the referendum, the National Police and the Guardia Civil attempted to shut it down. During the disruption, more than 1000 people were reported injured, and the Catalonian leaders were jailed.

When our coach arrived,and were greeted with a great "welcome aboard" and off we went to La Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi basilica, for a guided tour. The distance was about 4 miles, which took almost half an hour.

The church construction was begun in 1882 and work continues today. Gaudi planned a Latin Cross church with five aisles and a transept. When completed, the church will have 12 spires representing the apostles and the central spire representing Christ.

cathedral

Our guide explained the exterior design and identified all the statues in the façade after which we were guided through the interior where the highlights were explained. This included both those that were complete and work in progress, including the many stained-glass windows. After our tour we were directed to the museum and the gift shop; gift shop revenue helps pay for maintenance of famous attractions.

As Kathy said: "'Architecturally interesting; but it was not the most inspiring cathedral for me."

interior

Antoni Gaudi was one of the modernist artists who flourished between 1890 and 1920 in Spain, as did Art Nouveau in France. This cultural movement in Barcelona reflected the growing industrialization and wealth, and the desire for Catalonian independence. Many buildings are in this style modernist with Gaudi being the most extreme.

After our tour of Sagrada Familia, we boarded the coach and returned to the OD Barcelona Hotel to relax with a glass of wine and dinner. There are over 100 Spanish grape varieties, both red and white, and wine regions normally have one or two native Spanish grape varieties. Kathy and I generally drink white wines and Spain had many for us to try, including Albarino, Verdejo, Viura, Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Rioja Blanco, and Parellada. We were not able to try them all -- after all we had to try some reds also. After our supper, I was ready for sleep. Kathy, however, appeared to be ready to sample Barcelona's night life.

Kathy

TO BE CONTINUED...

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