We had a little over two days in Barcelona, but sometimes travel fatigue gets the better of you and you wind up spending a day hanging out in the hostel and doing a whole lot of nothing.
On day 1, that’s exactly what we did.
Day 2, we ventured out into Barcelona for an afternoon free walking tour and were under the graces of a warm and windy day.
Our first stop was the 14th century Placa del Rei, or the King’s Watchtower, where King Ferdinand and his lovely wife Isabella welcomed back Christopher Columbus from his voyage. Considering America wasn’t even a thought yet, it’s surreal to stand in front of a building that’s three times as old as your country.
Our next stop was the Barcelona Cathedral, for which construction was began just a few years ago, in 1298. The architecture speaks for itself, and you could spend days taking in each detail. The building is decorated or constructed so every inch floor to steeple commands attention.
The next point of interest is even older than the cathedral. We visited the old Roman city walls. Remember, at its height the Roman Empire stretched west into Spain and north nearly into Scotland. Here’s a bit of the Roman ruins, and the fortress, currently used as church space.
We turned the corner and arrived at Placa Sant Felip Neri, A Romantic Square with a Sad History. During the Fascist regime, children hid in a bomb shelter under the church. Bombs were dropped over this square, sending shrapnel and explosives across the square and into the church. 42 people were killed. This harrowing event in 1938 is commemorated by a small plaque, but the evidence is unmistakable.
After a few moments of silence, we walked on to a picnic area where we learned about the Catalonia movement for independence. (Catalonia is the region in Spain that includes Barcelona.) In every street in Barcelona, you will see flags hanging over balconies and in store fronts and that signifies support for independence from Spain.
Long story short, the Catalans have always identified as a group independent from the rest of Spain, and they have been fighting (and losing) independence battles for hundreds of years. Now with the referendum going to Madrid, they have a real chance of breaking off from Spain and becoming the Catalonia they want. There’s a booming sense of patriotism.
We ended the evening in front of the Arc de Triomf, found ourselves some lovely Spanish wine, and cozied up to watch the day fade into night.