Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Barcelona: La Sagrada Família

We came away from our two days in Barcelona with so many contrasting impressions that it is hard to choose just one. Having had my rucksack (with cash, credit cards etc.) snatched from beside my seat in a bar, my first thought is of the number of needy people Barcelona must contain, living off unwary tourists the year round. What makes me feel stupid is that several friends had specifically warned me of the risk. But we moved on to Valencia in the same train as members of the Göteborgs Symfoniker, some of whom suffered a worse fate - being personally attacked on the beach after their Palau de la Musica concert the night before.

The good memories far outweigh the bad though: mass in Catalan in Sta María del Mar; drinking cava outside afterwards; discovering - rather against my will - the intimate delights of the Picasso Museum, such a contrast to the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay the day before; walking in Parc Guëll; exploring the Boqueria Market and Las Ramblas - all in sunny, warm October weather.

But the highspot for me was Gaudi's La Sagrada Família, not so much a place of worship as a crowded building site, with workmen smoking, listening to their iPods and chatting on mobile phones as we snailed round the perimeter of the interior. The exterior is another matter altogether: the South transept entrance adorned with quite conventional carvings depicting the Nativity, whilst the other side, the Façade of the Passion, is covered with the most striking Holy Week scenes, culminating in this extraordinary Christ Crucified, and Veronica's veil transformed into a death mask. An indelible impression!

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