After the fiasco of having to arrange a new flight at the last minute, I believed this first day in Barcelona wouldn’t be enough the balance the stress I felt from it all. And yet it completely did.
What made this day so exciting and memorable was how constantly Barcelona was able to enamor me from the start of the day. I was welcomed by a CEA study abroad program staff and a kindhearted taxi driver just outside the luggage terminal. Soon thereafter I noticed how they would seamlessly switch from Catalan to Spanish; When I asked them if this is the case for the city they answered “yes.” Ao for the most part, the Spanish I understood helped me engage in some conversation from the start.
The cab ride to our homes though was even better because the taxi driver switched from being kindhearted to venting about the civil crisis in Barcelona. It was upsetting to hear about the turmoil weighing down on people, and at the same time very interesting because I wasn’t expecting a history lesson so soon.
According to him, Barcelona, or more accurately the people of Catalonia, have their eyes sets on a referendum to separate Catalonia from the rest of Spain. He went on and on how Madrid takes money collected from Barcelona and it seemingly disappears into the corrupted political scene that is the capital. And considering that Barcelona is a major tourist destination, that means money from business, sales, etc. He argued that this money should be used to improve conditions of the homeless and elderly as well as rebuild some of parts of Barcelona.
He also cited the state of the state of bullfights in Catalonia. For decades Madrid forced Barcelona to promote bullfighting, going as far as building 2 arenas, despite the fact that this practice has nothing to do with the culture of Barcelona. Catalonians respect the animal, and only recently they were able to abolish the arenas and have now turned them into beautiful shopping malls. So I had learned a valuable history lesson even before setting off the taxi ride to Barcelona!
The next major highlight during my first 24 hours was the city tour. I thought I had fun getting lost by myself in the beautifully ornate city that is Barcelona; and yet, our tour guide really emphasized the little details that make up the lavishly ornate designs on most buildings. Without rambling to much, I’ll just say the beauty has to do with the architects, most notably Antoni Gaudí who had a fascination with nature, folklore and religion — all of which show in his designs. The parts of the city that didn’t have his influence, such as the Gothic Quarter that was developed a hundred years before his birth, were just as fascinating. And did I mention the first hour of the tour was on a very comfortable air conditioned bus?
All things considered, my first 24 hours in Barcelona were incredibly memorable. It’s easy to admit that I am definitely in the honeymoon phase of this study abroad.
Gustavo Aburto is a foods and nutrition major. He is studying abroad this summer in Barcelona, Spain.