First (busy) week in Barcelona & an unexpected Nepal reunion

What a busy week in Barcelona! First week at school done (now on B1/intermediary level), an (unexpected) great night out with fellow mountaineers Blake & Rory, settling into the bustling Born neighbourhood around Arc de Triomf, a tour of Barrio Gotico, a visit to La Sagrada Familia & Park Guell as well as Montserrat, the Pyrenees & Girona/Figures (Salvador Dali). The latter three I will delve into separately. Let’s see what next week has on offer – still so much to see here.

First week at school – Camino Barcelona

I arrived more than tired in Barcelona on Monday morning owing to a late night in Berlin and a 6.20am flight. Anyway, straight from the airport to my oral language test. Turns out that despite the short night I managed to slip into the B1 / intermediary level. Usually this takes 8-10 weeks of full-time study vs. my 3w in Medellin, but I guess travel in Colombia and weekly Skype classes helped a lot.

The school, Camino Barcelona, is fun though my schedule is packed with 4h grammar focused classes in the morning and 2h of conversational class after lunch. Additionally, the Castellano Spanish spoken in most parts of Spain differs slightly in grammar (Latinos don’t use the 2nd person plural vosotros), pronunciation and several words itself. Homework is manageable and not as time intensive as was the case in Medellin, St. Petersburg or Amsterdam. It’s good fun and last week has been a real step forward, leaving me in much better shape to speak and comprehend the language. In particular the tenses have improved as well as my depth of vocab. The school also offers daily extracurricular activities though I have hitherto undertaken my own so far.

Settling into El Born barrio

I like the neighborhood in my temporary home. It’s called Born and is pretty central, close to the Arc de Triomf, the seaside in walking distance and with many bars and restaurants. School is only a few metro stops away in the barrio Eixample. I also visited Gracia, a seemingly student dominated area with way less tourists than beachside, as well as Sagrada Familia and barrio Gotico for sightseeing.

Image result for map of barrios in barcelona

Nepal reunion – Rory & Blake in town

It was always my plan to use my time here to catch up with Blake – the Australian Everest climber in my summit team who lives here with his wife & daughter. Just as I was messaging him that i had arrived on monday night, he returned a selfie of him & Rory. Turns out that Rory was here for a conference. Turning down an offer to go out was clearly not an option for the last time we met was when i came down from Lhotse while they headed up for their successful Everest mission. We hit the Born area (my neighborhood) for a drinks & chat before ultimately ending up in one of the beachfront clubs (well, Rory retired since he had to speak next day). great time altogether and Rory wasn’t shy to use it fully to promote his Everest book (Everest Diaries) featuring our efforts & loads of great pics. All profits go to child rescue Nepal and directly funds the construction of four schools for kids rescued out of harsh conditions.

Barrio Gotico – great to see, harder to understand (in Spanish)

The gothic quarter is the historical center of the city with the imposing Barcelona cathedral in the center (Sagrada familia is just a Basilica since its not the seat of a Bishop). Here you can see the leftovers of the Roman times (city wall etc) and many medieval buildings. A lot of what you can see today is not originally medieval though, but has been restored in time for the 1929 international exhibition held in Barcelona. See here for all details. I joined a free tour of the area – in Spanish! That turned out to be a little a too much for my level, but was generally well organised.

Image result for barcelona historic map vs today

La Sagrada familia – a church I am happy to pay entry for …

The church is inextricably linked to Barcelona with its unusual style designed by one of Catalonia’s greatest – the modernist Antoni Gaudi (though he wasn’t the original creator of the idea, which was bookseller Josep Maria Bocabell after a Vatican visit in 1872). I usually refuse to pay entrance for any church, but here I make a distinction for the whole project is completely privately funded. By now some 70% have been completed and the aim is to have the external structures fully in place for the centenary of Gaudi in 2026. Mark it in your diaries – it will be beautiful. I will leave the details to wikipedia, but recommend a visit highly due to the unusual design and to lend support to the effort.

There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.

– Antoni Gaudi

Park Guell – great park, but (payable) core section not worthwhile

The park is one of the other big sights in Barcelona and also Gaudi designed under the instruction of Eusebi Guell. The park itself offers great views of the city and is very relaxing to take a stroll. What was disappointing though was the core section including essentially two ‘Brother Grimm’ like houses and seemingly thousands of tourists. Safe yourself the EUR7,50 entry fee and just take a walk.

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