Finally I have time (and a decent reason) to write another blog post. At the beginning of May I finally handed in my Master thesis, putting an end to a pretty stressful six months preparation phase. While I will still have to do a final presentation of the thesis at the end of June, it does look like my days as a student are finally counted. As I’ve already found a job starting in October of this year, I’m having a pretty relaxed time ahead of me. I’m really looking forward to spending some time back in Hamburg and of course to our big trip around Asia starting at the end of June.
But before actually heading for all those new and exciting experiences, Tanja and I decided some weeks ago to treat ourselves to a nice little weekend in Barcelona. On my last visit(s) to the city I hadn’t really been able to do a lot of sightseeing, and as Tanja had spent an entire semester there during her Bachelor’s, it was a nice opportunity for the both of us to revisit the place and take advantage of Tanja’s insider knowledge. Also, it provided the necessary motivation to finishing our theses as we would always remind each other that we’d be going to Barcelona soon.
Due to the fact that my friend is working full time at the moment, we settled for a flight leaving on Friday afternoon. We didn’t have any luggage except our carry-ons and had already checked in the night before, so everything went pretty fast both at the airport in Cologne / Bonn as well as in Barcelona. We took the bus to the city center and arrived at our apartment close to Plaça Espagna by half past eight in the evening. It was my first time ever to book an apartment via Airbnb, but it was surprisingly easy and definitely worthwhile. The price per person per night wasn’t much higher than a hostel would have been and both the apartment in general and the room in particular seemed clean and modern. The room had a few too many mirrors for my taste and we only had a single large blanket for the two of us, but that was nothing that couldn’t be handled for only two nights. After having dropped off our bags, we headed out again in order to find some Tapas bar to spend our first evening in the city at. We walked around a bit and after a while decided for a small place called Bar Ibiza directly at the Avinguda del Paral･lel. We enjoyed the breeze sitting outside and were surrounded exclusively by locals – which we took as a very good sign. We concluded the evening while enjoying some nice red wine and Tapas of delicious Manchego cheese, Padrón peppers and Tortilla.
The next morning, we got up relatively early and, after a quick stop for some coffee, headed for the Sagrada Familia. We stood in line for a while to get our tickets until we were finally able to enter the church. Even though large parts of the building are still under construction and the noise connected to that was a little annoying, the place is extremely impressive. While it is beautiful from the outside, I was speechless when I actually entered the church itself. What struck me first was the fact that the walls and ceiling look amazing from all the colors being reflected on them by the sunlight shining through the colorful windows. I can hardly wait to (hopefully) see the finished version in twenty years or so once the construction work is done. In addition, I really liked the unbelievable amount of tiny details, including mosaics, little statues and finely wound metal railings. But all in all, the church’s atmosphere can be described neither by words nor by pictures.
Afterwards, we headed to the old city center to have a late breakfast in a nice little bakery. Our dessert we took on the Mercat de la Boqueria right next to La Rambla in the form of some fresh fruit. I really enjoyed walking through the large market hall and looking at (and taking pictures of!) all the fresh, delicious-looking food. We walked on through the city and took a look at the cloister belonging to Barcelona Cathedral and its beautiful courtyard, where they are even keeping some geese. At some point, we ended up at the Plaça Reial, where we sat down at the fountain in the middle, taking a rest while enjoying the sun, listening to the band playing close by, and watching some street performers at the far side of the square. Before heading back to the apartment for a little Siesta, we made a quick stop at the Casa Batlló, another of the famous buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi, along with the Sagrada Familia.
In the early evening, refreshed from our rest at the apartment, we again headed to the old city center and started off the evening with some delicious Tapas at Lonja de Tapas in the Born district. I loved the narrow streets and the general atmosphere of the area. After some more strolling around and some shopping, we started what can only be referred to as a pub crawl. We started with some Cava (sparkling wine) at the Xampanyeria. I have to admit: I don’t really like Cava (but then, I don’t really like sparkling wine in general), but the atmosphere of the place was great! We went on to spend some time at the Sor Rita Bar. It’s pure kitsch in there, with high heels glued to the ceiling, fake fur lamps and Barbie dolls everywhere (check out some pictures here!) – I loved it, even though it was still pretty empty when we arrived. After a quick stop at the Chupito Bar, we concluded the evening at El Bombón – also a really nice place with great cocktails, awesome music and an atmosphere which was a perfect mix of Caribbean and 60’s elements.
Our last day in Barcelona was unfortunately a little stressful. After checking out of the apartment and a quick breakfast, we had to go to the airport as there was a problem with our flight. For some reason, our return flight hadn’t been confirmed, so we spent some time discussing with the lady at the airport counter and finally (unfortunately) ended up having to buy another ticket. I’m in contact with Germanwings now, trying to get at least some of our money back, though I’m somehow anticipating a longer fight…
Anyway, once that was settled we decided to at least take a look at one last attraction (after already having lost half of our day) and set out for the Park Güell – again designed by Gaudi. I was a little disappointed when it turned out that only a part of the park was actually accessible for free, but there was a fee to see the famous mosaics as well as the main entrance. Still, we decided on just sitting down in the “public” area and enjoying the sun a little – successfully avoiding the tourist groups crowding in the main area of the park. Finally, we headed to the city center once more in order to find some early dinner before making the trip to the airport once more. We found a nice Tapas bar, El Jardí, which is situated in a beautiful courtyard. The food was a little more expensive than usual, but tasted really good. Plus, the music was great and the staff really entertaining, teaching us (or rather me) Spanish, dancing to the music and making some fun with the (partly touristy) guests by all running out on the street when some drums could be heard from a nearby church festivity. In the end, they all came back grinning widely, with the guests that had followed in tow – now all smiling sheepishly and aware that there hadn’t actually been anything special to take pictures of.
All in all, I really enjoyed the trip and it was the perfect getaway after having sat on a computer for the best part of the last half year. The whole thing about our flight was (and is) really annoying and our bad luck followed us all the way to Germany, as the trains from Düsseldorf (where we landed) to Cologne were all heavily delayed. But setting that aside, it was a weekend very well spent.