At last it was time to leave Germany for somewhere new, and not just England. And, with the advantage of knowing some fellow students who are doing their year abroad in Spain, Phoebe and I couldn’t resist a weekend in the land of Tapas.
To make things fair, we went to Barcelona, where 3 of 4 of us had never been (and the 4th happily wanted to go again).
My first thoughts as we stepped out of the airport were “it’s quite windy but, pretty much, boiling compared to Germany” (we’d left Hanover behind covered in snow). There were also some palm trees along the other side of the road which truly indicated we had flown somewhere exotic.
A bus ride later (and a panic at how soon our stop was compared to what Google Maps had told us), we got off at the Univeristat stop and found our hostel, as well as Anna.
Quickly about our hostel – I’ve never been to such a lovely place. It was basically like a little house with plants and ornaments around the place. The staff were extremely friendly, and breakfast was just 2,50€ and you got your money’s worth (which we realised after we bought our own breakfast on the second day and had saved ourselves just 50 cents each but still didn’t have butter, chocolate spread, orange juice, or muffins). If you ever do consider going to Barcelona, I would 100% recommend this place – not only is it so nice, it’s extremely cheap, too. It’s called BCN Backpackers. And to top it off, we shared a room with a couple of guys from Hamburg, so I got my daily dose of German everyday (which Kate and Anna, the Spaniards, weren’t too impressed by due to them wanting to show off their Spanish, which they still managed outside of the hostel).
Having not had much food to eat and with it being around 2pm, we decided to first head down La Rambla which is a really long promenade with lots of stalls down it. We turned off to the Market La Boqueria where we came across an array of colours due to tons of fruit and other things being sold. It was a pretty impressive sight and there were loads of people taking photos of the many stalls gridded around the place!
Tummies full with wondrous market goods, including about 5 different pieces of fruit, we headed to La Sagrada Família, which is a beautiful church designed by Antoni Gaudí, who’s a famous Catalan architect. As we came up the escalator from the underground metro, I hadn’t actually noticed it, and after a quick “have you seen that?” by Phoebe, I turned around and my mouth flew open at what I saw – I’m rarely extremely impressed by architecture, but this time I was gobsmacked. The pure detail in the stone was magnificent, despite the cranes and building work going on around it. We joined the queue and in no time at all, and after a cheeky bit of Spanish with a security guard (in other words, I whimpered “no hablo español” as he shot a load of Spanish questions at me), we went inside and were amazed by the colours bouncing around due to the mass of colourful stained glass windows.
We went up to the top in a lift and enjoyed the views of the city from such a high point. Afterwards we headed back down and looked around the back of the church from the outside – as mentioned before, the detail in the stone was perfect. All in all, the ticket for the sagrada familía was 16€ which was a student ticket and was the extra ticket which included the trip to the top. You’d definitely be daft not to visit it if you go to Barcelona as far as I’m concerned!
After having headed to the market again for a quick hunger killer and chilling out a little at the hostel (which is the point where we met the first guy from Hamburg and Anna got all jealous), we went out for some tea, which was, of course, tapas. I was quite impressed, though the patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) had extremely spicy sauce on. I did, however, enjoy everything else we were eating, including the salty tomato bread and chorizo. It’s making me hungry just writing about it!
After Kate finally arrived at the hostel at around midnight, we called it a night, and the next day went straight to Park Güell, which was also designed by Gaudí. The hill up the park was very steep, and I had flashbacks of Exeter, which actually slightly got my excited for when I return in September. The hill was so long and steep, there were escalators built into the middle of the street – no complaints from me. We were also quite concerned/impressed with how the owners of the cars parked on the street actually manage to not crash into one another when parallel parking – it must be a pretty difficult hill start!
A good 5 minutes later of the strenuous hill (read as: we took every escalator available), we got to the Park, and were instantly welcomed by cacti which had engravings of names on them. At first it seemed quite tacky and like vandalism, but another think about it made it seem unique and special. As we walked through the park, we came across a lady playing a harp along the path, as well as wild parrots flying and squawking around our heads. We took a photo on the colourful benches which apparently all tourists do, and had a sit down to rest our feet and bask in the sun. Towards the end of the park visit, we had a photo with the famous lizard, and I also began to be able to roll my rs – at last! Anna (who can’t actually do it herself) told me a trick is to say ‘butter’ and ‘ladder’ over and over again one after the other and the action your tongue makes is kind of what you’re aiming for when rolling your rs. Literally about 3 minutes later I’d began to kind of roll my rs. It still needs a little work, but I definitely made some process – and in Spain, too!
A third trip to the Market was made, as well as to a normal supermarket where I discovered a milk drink called “DanUp” (yep, I got excited), and then our next destination was the gothic area of Barcelona which consists of some pretty fascinating buildings, including La Catedral de Barcelona. For whatever reason, you had to pay 6€ to enter the cathedral, so we decided to save our money and perhaps try at another time when it would perhaps be free.
The Casa Batlló (another Gaudií piece) was our next stop, and there isn’t really that much to say about it. I, personally, wasn’t too impressed (as I mentioned, I’m not often overwhelmed by architecture) but there were some pretty parts, though it did get tedious with the portable tour guide which spoke ages to you. I perhaps made an error of saying I was German, so listening to around 25 clips which averaged 3-minutes long each was quite off-putting and too much hard work (and as a result I actually didn’t listen to all given clips).
We chilled back at the hostel again for a little while, and decided to check out a ‘magic fountain’ we’d heard about – its full name is the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. Though it had been a tiring day, we forced ourselves back out to see this interesting named event, and we were most definitely not let down. This was most certainly my favourite part of the weekend. The fountain was gigantic and had tens of jets flying water around, and there were lights dotted all around which were constantly changing colours. There was also loud music playing every now and then, and all you could really say to all of it put together was “wow”. It was absolutely amazing, and is by far the must-see for all new tourists in Barcelona.
Because we were in Spain, we headed to another Tapas bar. Though this one wasn’t that impressive, and their ‘spicy potatoes’ were literally chips with separate spicy sauce we could put on top if we wanted to. A little disappointed, we headed back to the hostel, Phoebe beat me at chess (purely because it got late and we couldn’t be bothered anymore) and then it was straight to bed after that.
Our last day with Anna and Kate came, and we left the hostel (after a 2,50€ hostel breakfast with everything included) to find it had been chucking it down, and still was trying to rain. We came across the Barcelona Marathon which was quite exciting – there were hundreds and thousands of people running down the street. There were people dressed up, such as Super Mario, as well as someone pushing his child in a pram – talk about determination!
Due to the odd entrance fee the day before, we decided to hit the cathedral again, and luckily it was free this time (I don’t think we’ll ever know why there was a 6€ entrance fee beforehand!) so we had a look around. Generally, to me, as before, it was just another church. It was quite pretty, and there were choirs singing in the far background, but that was about it. It was good to enter for free though, but I definitely can’t imagine paying to see what we saw. We came across the marathon again as we arrived at the Arc de Triomf and cheered for the runners who looked absolutely exhausted, and also watched a small drumming group who all seemed really excited and happy to be playing near to the marathon!
Despite the chilly weather, we went to the beach. Anna and Kate, having lived in Spain for a fair few months now, decided to stay off the beach and sit just before the sand, whereas myself and Phoebe, having lived in chilly Germany, decided to venture out towards the Mediterranean Sea. I (stupidly) dipped my feet in, to discover that it was, in fact, freezing water. I was happy despite my feet being freezing and wet and covered in sand.
It was then sadly time to say farewell to Anna, and after a little panic of having the wrong ticket to get to the airport, we said our goodbyes, possibly until next September. Kate, Phoebe and I decided to check out the Plaça Reial, which is just off La Rambla. It was a pretty square with a fountain in the middle and palm trees dotted around the area. You could also see a load of cafés and restaurants along the edges, but we assumed they’d be pretty expensive to be in such a beautiful location, so we headed towards the port instead, where we finally decided on an asian restaurant, similar to Wagamama, where I had something with the name ‘Katsu’ in it (it was no Wagamama Chicken Katsu Curry but it was still pretty good). I also had cinnamon ice cream for dessert which tasted as strange as it sounds but was still tasty.
With Kate having to leave around 11pm, we headed back to the hostel for an hour or so and played some games, including dominos, and it wasn’t long until myself and Phoebe had to leave, after having walked down La Rambla and through the market one last time on the Monday morning. Our flight was a little delayed which was a first experience, but we got over it quickly, especially me with my two big toblerones I bought (I tried to resist but I just couldn’t do it)!
And that was my first travelling experience during my year abroad outside of Germany!
I couldn’t really have asked for a better place than Barcelona – I’d purposely not researched it beforehand so I could hopefully be surprised when I arrived, and I was definitely more than surprised. It also made things ten times better that two of our group could speak Spanish (despite the predominant use of Catalan in Barcelona), meaning there were no awkward language barrier moments at all throughout the weekend.
I recommend Barcelona to any keen travellers out there. There’s so much to see and do in such a beautiful and busy city, and I would probably go again one time in the future just to marvel at its many features it has to offer.