Bizarre Barcelona
November 29, 2007, 2:17 am
Filed under: travel

Barcelona at night

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

I’ve been waiting to visit Barcelona for five years. When I lived in Italy in 2001, I had the choice of going either to Barcelona or Sicily. I chose Sicily partly because I’d heard so many bad stories about Spain, about how Barcelona particularly is full of thieves and muggers. Stories about unsafe and mafioso Sicily is proved false for me (ask me about how I accidentally left my handbag in my friend’s unlocked scooter for an afternoon in Cefalù). Equally, the stories about dreadfully dangerous Barcelona proved unfounded, in my experience.

Don’t get me wrong, Barcelona is no Cambridge, where you can flit about at worst worrying that someone will steal your bike, or perhaps you’ll fall in the river Cam while drunk at night. There were a few dodgy alleys in Barcelona we avoided, and I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable walking around at night without Ian by my side. That said, when I struck up a drunken conversation with a possibly dodgy young bloke who murmured the usual ‘hola guapa’ as he passed by, while Ian was talking on his mobile phone, the guy turned out to be a pleasant Argentinean who worked at a nearby hostel. First impressions can be deceiving.

In Barcelona, there are a lot of unusual things. It’s not just the Gaudi architecture. It’s the pet stores set up like market stalls along Las Ramblas. It’s the fact that people walking around Barcelona airport in flash suits stand out as unusual, whereas people with quirky hairstyles or colourful pants blend in.

Ian got his haircut just before we left Seville. They gave him a fullet (a front mullet). I chopped it off in our hotel pod in Barcelona. It’s a pity, because it made him look more Spanish. At least now he looks presentable for when we reach Japan.


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Barcelona was dangerous maybe 20 years ago. Back in the day, you could see elderly drunk women throwing their wine glasses to equally drunk homeless bum begging for a few pesos; and that would happen in front of your eyes, in the most touristic place of town: las ramblas. I also remember my friend and I getting threaten in broad day light by another equally drunk bum with a rusty pair of scissors while wondering through the bario chino, one of the poorest district of barcelona. Ah! sweet memories – it seemed like a good idea to take this short cut at the time. Everything changed with the 1992 Olympics. Building on an incredibly rich history, daring modern architecture and a very strong economy have transformed Barcelona into this magnificient world-reknown capital of style and fashion; and the way of life is as insane as it ever was! I’d rank it among the best cities of the world.

Comment by Ollie

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