Monday, 10 June 2013

Barcelona city and our History tour...

Our trips in to Barcelona are very pleasant. Not rushed as when I have previously visited a major city. Nice and relaxed, knowing we had an indefinate(ish) amount of time. 

Having been to Barcelona, and generally a few European cities before, I knew the importance of getting a jist for the sights and attractions on the first day. My previous visit was primarily to see Barcelona FC vs Valencia in a football match with 'the lads'. An annual ritual that ensued in copious amounts of drinking and being hungover. On the last day of our 4 day trip we took the open topped 'Bus Turistica' only to find we had discovered about 5% of the city and only around our hostel!
View from the top of Monjuic towards Placa Espanya

So after a morning of ambling aimlessly down La Rambla I thought we better get on the tourist trail and attend a walking tour. Something I've found to be very informative and educational in other countries. We grabbed a 'free' one from the 'Travel Bar' just a short distance from the main street.

The tour was great. Everyone of the 6 or so couples in attendance were from totally different ends of the earth. And our guide, Hannah, was Finnish of all nationalities! She took us on a brilliant tour of the Barri Gotica (Gothic Quarter) to the east of La Rambla. Her knowledge was second to none. My world renound lengthy and probing questions were met with concise and relevant answers and afterwards she sat with us in a bar and answered all the other questions I had on Barcelona and where to go. For a Finnish bird she sure knew her Barcelona!
Ceramic 'dolia' vessels for holding garium (Fish sauce)

The history of the city fascinates me. How it was swelled over the years from something barely the size of a small hamlet to the vast, sprawling metropolis it is now. There are remnants of the old city walls and buildings that, unless you were told about them, would just be walked past as if they were any old building.

The History museums of Barcelona and the separate museum of Catalunia were an excellent way to enjoy the last Sunday of the month. Turns out they're free then as well!

The History of Barcelona museum occupies just a small building in the center of the old Gothic Quater but once in the lift a digital clock counts down the years from 2013 to 0013 and you walk out to a maze of excavated ruins 5 metres below the present day city.

Tank stained by cobalt whilst dyeing fabrics
Walking around you can see the old city wall along one edge next to a road and small courtyards dotted around where giant egg-like ceramic vessels called dolia were set in to the pavement to store garium. Garium was a popular sauce made from fish and salt that was mushed up together and left to ferment for a bit. Doesn't sound very nice to me!

Further along the now underground city remains we walked through to a building full of large tanks dyed all different colours from the materials used to colour fabrics including bleaching them with urine!

Dolia were used to hold pretty much anything liquid including bigger ones that were red from the wine that street sellers sold their stock out of. Next to them were miniature sized ones that held seas salt and honey to be mixed in with the wine.

We walked through the pre-historic ages in the History Museum of Catalunia, located down near the new harbour area. It was amazing to see how, as times moved on, a piece of flint the size of a tennis ball had 10cm of cutting edge which had grown to nearly 2 metres a few thousand years later.

It was interesting to see contraptions that were made before electricity or even steam power was around. I was especially engrossed in this simple device used to bring water up from a well to irrigate the farmers crops. An animal, usually a mule or donkey, would walk around the well (demonstrated by me) and turn the set of cogs what lifted a set of cups strung together to reach down in to the well. The cups deposit the water in to the trough at the front which trickles down in to the fields

Barcelona is an amazing city with loads of history to offer. I just wish it had moved on from the olden times a little with respect to pick pockets. They are everywhere and you can't stop to look at a map or a piece of architecture without instantly grabbing every pocket to check the contents are still there. 

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