The most popular question I ask people is: “Where’s your favorite city in the whole, wide world?” To which I’ve heard “Barcelona, hands down” countless times. So understandably, I jumped on the opportunity to visit my American friend in Barca. The wonderful thing about being in Istanbul is that the rest of Europe is only a short flight away.
On the plane ride over, I sat beside two South Africa-born Germans. Confusing, huh? Both guys were born in South Africa, but were raised in Germany and speak perfect English. We instantly connected, so when the plane landed and we shared the taxi fare to the city center. Smiling like little kids out the cab windows, we all agreed we had made a good decision by choosing Barcelona for the weekend. And that preemptive idea was oh, so correct.
During my five days in the city, I came to the decision that I will move to Barcelona post-Istanbul. Not only were the people friendly, but the city itself is absolutely beautiful. Clean, colorful, easy to navigate and it has a wonderful mixture of historic and modern vibes.
While strolling down the historic avenue of La Rambla, I heard bits of every language and saw people of all nationalities. Street performers lined the street and the rows of trees provided shade from the scorching Mediterranean sun. I was traveling on a tight budget, but had that not been the case, I could have spent all day popping in and out of the many clothing and souvenir shops in the area around La Rambla. The avenue stretches almost one mile and then opens up to the marina.
One afternoon, we rented bicycles and rode from our hostel near Passeig de Gracia, along La Rambla and made our way to the beach front. The public beach was filled with people to the point that it was difficult to find a place to set our bags. We stripped down to our bikinis and sprinted for the water. When we were about waist deep, we looked around the water and discovered we were standing in an ocean of trash. My conclusion is that the rest of the city is so clean because the locals throw all their trash into the sea. However, that didn’t stop us — we just swam past all the trash along the shore line and found clean water a fair distance from the shore. That was my first time swimming in the Mediterranean and despite all the trash, the water was absolutely delightful. The temperature was perfect to offset the heat and humidity of the city.
Another highlight was the double-decker bus tour of the city. I spent the day hopping on and off the bus that travels to all the main tourist points of the city. I saw La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Barcelona’s soccer stadium and the panoramic view of the city from the art museum. In general, my favorite part of the day was admiring Gaudi’s architecture. His distinct style is unlike anything I’ve seen before. When people say Barcelona is a colorful city, this is due in large part to his work. Particularly, Park Guell is filled with brightly colored mosaics and fairy tale-like art pieces. The winding bench and rounded architecture features made it feel like I was in a Disney movie. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please google some of his work.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the trip was all the fascinating people I met. It started with the two South Africans and then I also met people from Brazil, Holland, Australia, Ireland, France, America and Turkey. Most of them were staying at my hostel, so after my American friend left, I had no problem finding new people to entertain myself. Some had been traveling Europe for several months, a few were on the first leg of their trip and others were visiting Barcelona for the weekend, just like me. What we all had in common was wanderlust. They told me about their desire to see the world, interact with new cultures and forge new relationships. It was nice to chat with people who are similar to me in that way. Sometimes I question what I’m doing, but it’s instances like these that I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing and that I’m not alone.
All in all, Barcelona stole my heart. Perhaps I will make it my home in the near future. Insha’Allah!