Montjuic, Barcelona is still quite off-path. Read about one nearly perfect Sunday that I spend exploring Montjuic.
Do you know that feeling when you are looking forward to something like crazy and then, just before you’re about to realise your dream, something crops up and destroys it all? That’s my Barcelona experience and I’ll shortly explain why.
I had been postponing visiting Spain way too long. The story behind it is long and bumpy, and so not in sync with today’s topic, so I will save it for a later time. I had been looking for this trip like crazy. I was imagining myself walking on the cobbled streets of the Gothic district, sitting on the beach and watching breathtaking sunsets, and taking lots of photos! Barcelona is so photogenic, so I had expected this trip to be a photographer’s feast. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
When the day of my flight to Barcelona finally arrived, I was down with sinusitis, feeling like the worst piece of shit. The only thing I was dreaming about, was staying in bed with a big mug of ginger tea. The thought of staying home had briefly crossed my mind but I quickly got rid of it. After so many years of wanting to visit Spain, I could not give up.
So I blew my nose and got up at 4:30 am on Sunday and, trying not to incidentally kill myself while dressing up (I am sometimes so sleepy that I bump into door frames, wardrobe, chairs, etc….), got ready for the trip.
At 5 am I was sitting in the taxi, trying to sound polite when the taxi driver was asking me the same set of questions I always hear when going to airport. Can’t they understand there are people who don’t feel like sharing those details or who just hate talking to anybody so early? I am absolutely anti-social until my first morning coffee, anybody else here has the same?
I slept most of the flight and woke up shortly before landing to the sight of perfectly symmetrical streets of Barcelona. I was feeling quite good and got super excited about my beginning trip. After landing, I went to the train station to buy the T10 ticket and caught the 46 bus going straight to Plaça d’Espanya.
Out of the three days I had in Spain, only the first one was quite painless and almost well-planned.
Drinking coffee on Plaça d’Espanya in Barcelona
The first thing I noticed were huge columns and a wide street leading up to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National Museum of Catalonian Art). And lots of armed soldiers keeping an eye on the river of people floating up and down this impressive artery. Tension after the terrorist attacks in Paris was quite tangible.
I can’t just go sightseeing without having a decent morning coffee, so I decided to look for some place to get it first. I wanted to go to a typical Spanish tapas bar, but to my surprise, all of the bars I saw on my way, were closed. It was Sunday, around 10 am. The only opened one was called “Bitte, Wurst” which would sound weird even if I was in Germany. However, good coffee is good coffee, regardless of the place, so I went in.
After this morning pleasure, I wanted to go up to see the Magical Fountain, but what draw my attention first, was a large, round, colourful building, which I later noticed to be a shopping mall (Centro Comercial Arenas). It wouldn’t be anything special if it hadn’t had a lift. A lift to a spacious terrace with a view over Barcelona! Of course I went there!
Then I walked slowly down the Reina Maria Cristina street, right up to the Magical Fountain. It was becoming hotter and hotter every minute, so I was just taking of layers of my clothing.
According to my cell phone, the temperature reached 21 degrees, which was so weird comparing to the cold and foggy Poland! I was getting fever at that time and walking in this sun wasn’t the most pleasant thing on earth, so I was trying to keep in the shadows. It sounds as if I was a Gollum or something…
Lazy Sunday exploring Montjuic in Barcelona
By and large, Sunday morning in Barcelona was nice. People were riding bikes, roller skating, sitting on the benches enjoying the sun, having walks with their families, taking photos. The typical lazy Sunday atmosphere.
I slowly walked up to the Museum and the view had not disappointed me! It was magnificent. I love spacious, well planed areas and the surroundings of the Placa d’Espanya definitely meets those standards. I have to revisit Barcelona to go there during sunset as it must look amazing.
All the selfie-sticks sellers on Placa d’Espanya in Barcelona
The little square in front of the museum has large stairs where you can sit and admire the views. Occasionally, you will be interrupted by selfie-stick sellers. Some of them will just walk by indicating on a selfie-stick, but there is one very persistent guy. He would approach me or other people, stand in front so that you HAD to notice him, and present how to extend and collapse the selfie-stick for about 3-5 minutes, which felt like eternity.
My only way to cope with selfie-stick sellers that I learned in Rome is to take out my Pentax and ask how shall I mount this heavy camera on their selfie-stick. So far, it worked 100% cases.
Montjuïc – Barcelona off-the-beaten-path
Montjuïc is a large, green area with many nice places and I wanted to see it. I am so thankful I started with this area and not with the biggest highlights of Barcelona!
At the end of the day, when I was sitting in the common room in my hostel, two German ladies approached me and gave me their half-used T10 ticket. This actually was very nice of them. I had my own ticket, which I hadn’t fully used and also gave to a couple I met at the airport on my way back to Poland.
Karma returns, remember about it. ;-) But – back to the point! Those cute German ladies also told me about the best places I HAVE TO SEE in Barcelona and I kind of believed them. And instead of doing what I wanted and what my weak body in fever would not rebel against, I ended up walking from Sagrada Familia to Casa Battlo and La Pedrera wanting to kill myself.
It was relatively empty, it was very spacious and beautiful. My first stop in Montjuïc was the big square in front of the Olympic Stadium. I absolutely loved it there! The sight of Montjuïc Communications Tower made this whole place look somehow out of this world.
I sat down on the stairs in front of a long fountain and just watched life. This is my absolutely favourite thing to do when I travel and I am FURIOUS to think that I spent the next two days just running like crazy around Barcelona trying to see all the “you must see this and that and that” places. NEVER AGAIN.
It’s so strange what I did. I LOVE travelling slow and yet I fell for this typical approach of “you must see it all at once” and if you add my sickness to that, you see a perfect recipe to ruin the best of weekends. Do not do that.
Montjuïc cemetery in Barcelona – when you seek solitude
From another solo travel blogger, Kamila from Kami Everywhere, I knew there was one more place worth visiting in Montjuïc, namely the cemetery. Who normal goes to the cemetery instead of Sagrada Familia on the first day in Barcelona?
And it was absolutely worth it. The cemetery lies on a hill with a beautiful panorama of Barcelona and a huge advantage is that it’s almost empty. Since I was starting to feel bad again, I actually cherished the silence and pleasant shadow cast by large palm trees.
The cemetery itself is like a small town full of block of flats, only that those flats are inhabited by the dead. I had never seen a cemetery like this before and this was a truly extraordinary experience for me.
Also, I was there alone for most of the time and the silence and awareness that I might get lost in the labyrinth of graves made my heart beat faster. I also had a thought – visit a cemetery and you’ll find out society’s approach to life. Why do we bury people in the ground and they put coffins into over ground blocks? Don’t they make the death a bit less scary by exposing the graves more than we do?
It seems distant to stand in front of the grave which is two, maybe three meters deep and there is a coffin down there. On this Spanish cemetery, you could almost touch the coffin which was hidden only behind a plate and, sometimes, a thin glass. Also, what I saw behind those glasses were photographs of the dead.
However, they were not of old, sad, and sick people, what we often see on Polish cemeteries, but they showed the dead at their prime time, often with bright smiles on their lips. It was a really, really strange experience and I spent a lot of time wandering in this ghost city.
When I was coming back, I saw a man sitting in front of one the “blocks of graves” and it somehow made me feel very sad. He was maybe 50 years old and I don’t even want to think whom he was visiting.
It was shortly before 4pm and I decided to go to my hostel, check-in, and leave the backpack which was slowly becoming too heavy.