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Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
I recently earned my Masters in History at NWMSU and am now working as a language assistant in a Spanish elementary school.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is This Spain? (Barcelona: Part Dos)

The next morning I had breakfast at a café near my hostel, some pastries and a coffee. I then walked down Las Ramblas toward the sea. I walked past this mosaic, a symbol of Las Ramblas made by the Catalan artist, Joan Miró:

I walked to Port Vell, then turned to the right where this modernist sculpture stood:

Not far from this stood the Museu Marítim, which is located within the gothic-styled 13th-century former shipyards of Barcelona. I was pretty excited about this as I'm fascinated by naval history and sea exploration. The museum was under renovations, and most of it was closed, but I got to see the two main exhibitions which intrigued me. Here is the exterior of this gothic shipyard:

Outside the museum there rested this device, which I soon learned is a life-sized replica of the first submarine to use a combustible engine, Ictineo. It was used for exploration purposes:

The interior of the building was quite eerie:

The replica of a 16th century warship used by the Spanish against the Ottoman Empire during the Battle of Lepanto was on display:

This lantern from a lighthouse was also on display near one of the large windows. The light passing through created a preternatural glow:

The museum also had an exhibition dedicated to Narcís Monturiol, the Catalan engineer who invented the Ictineo seen outside. The story of Monturiol was interesting. He lived in the late 1800s and supported revolutionary ideas, being a supporter of the First Spanish Republic and women's rights. He also had a passion for the sea and believed humans should explore its depths to better understand our world. He thus invented the Ictineo in 1858and a following submarine, Ictineo II. The legacy of this exploration was shown with several modern submersibles on display:

An engineering team is currently building a new submersible device which will hold three people and be used to explore the Mediterranean Sea, Ictineo III, within the museum.

I had some coffee and a Iberian ham sandwich at the museum's restaurant before leaving to explore more of the coast. Back at Port Vell, I saw some awesome boats:

Past Port Vell is a street called Passeig de Colom, which revealed some interesting sights, such as this statue by American painter/sculptor from the school of pop art, Roy Lichtenstein. He also made the sculpture of the brushstroke found in the courtyard of the Reina Sofía in Madrid:
I also came across the Museu d'Història de Catalunya, which I visited. The museum featured many artifacts of Catalan history from Prehistory to the 21st century. The museum had many interactive displays, such as a model of a Muslim irrigation system, which allowed you to turn a wheel which opereated a water-wheel that pumped water into connecting channels, and a pulley which let you lift the armour and weapons of a Medieval knight, giving an idea of the weight these soldiers were burdened with. A replica of a bomb shelter from the Spanish Civil War was a highlight. At the end of the museum was a room with displays on famous contemporary Catalans like film director Isabel Coixet and revolutionary chef Ferran Adrià.

I then walked to Platja Barceloneta, Barcelona's most popular beach. This sculpture on display is dedicated to the small box-like restaurants which once lined the beach:

Here's some more of the beach:

I backtracked, walking back to Las Ramblas and then to Plaça Catalunya. From here I walked down one of the city's most famous streets, Passeig de Gràcia. This is where much of the city's most examples of modernisme architecture, such as the 1902 Casa Lleó Morera, built by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner:

But the crown jewel of the Passeig de Gràcia has to be Casa Batlló, which was completed in 1906 by Barcelona's most famous architect, whose influence is felt through his many projects in the city, Antoni Gaudí:
Gaudí was supposedly inspired by Jules Verne's Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea when he designed this house, which seems to hint at marine landscapes and creatures inside and out. The interior of the house was incredible. Here is a fireplace:

and a light which seems to serve as the centripetal force in an overhead whirlpool:

The interior had some other interesting features such as this doorway with a column before the entrance:

and several arched hallways:

This all led to the roof which held several twisting chimneys covered in mosaics:

I left Casa Batlló:

then walked further down Passeig de Gràcia until I came to Gaudí's other famous house, Casa Milà, built in 1910. It is also known as La Pedrera, which is Catalan for "The Quarry" because of its stony appearance:

The house had a very interesting courtyard with irridescent features:

One of the original apartments was open for tours with period furniture and household items on display:

The attic of La Pedrera was a series of snakelike arches which supported the roof. A museum of Gaudí was placed in this area:

The rooftop was one of the most beautiful areas in the city. Words cannot describe it, so here:

From the roof I was able to see another Gaudí building, the as-of-yet incomplete church Sagarada Família:

As the sun set, I walked back down Passeig de Gràcia and took some photos of Casa Batlló lit up:

I also walked to Sagrada Família to get some night shots of it. I'll say more about it in my next post:

I went to a nearby restaurant called La Muscleria and had some muscles cooked in cider and garlic. It was served alongside a traditional Catalan serving of pa amb tomàquet (bread and tomato) which is toast rubbed with tomato and garlic:

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