City of miracles *

Barcelona all the year round a magnet attracts to itself travelers and tourists. Today it is the capital of an original Spanish autonomy Catalonia, the most important port of the Mediterranean Sea, resort with warm climate and the tender sea, the center of haute couture, art and tourism. But the main secret of Barcelona – in ability constantly to surprise and admire. This city not such, as all. First of all, barcelonians are sure of its exclusiveness. Here to you clearly will let know that Barcelona is not the city in Spain. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. They have their language, their traditions and their own culture, their coat of arms and their government. The majority of signs and indexes on streets of Barcelona are written in a Catalan way, but not in Spanish or English. And the main dance here – sardana, not flamenco.

This land is generous on geniuses and heroes, extraordinary and talented creators who in turn decorated and glorified it. The names Dali and Picasso, Gaudi and Miro, Caballe and Carreras are inseparably linked with this city. It was sung by other famous Spaniards – Lorca and Cervantes. And how many bright stars were lit in a sports sky thanks to football club “Barcelona”!

Besides talents, the nature generously presented Catalonia with soft climate. The northeast area of Spain located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea is separated from France and Andorra by high mountain tops of the Pyrenees, and from the next autonomies – an internal low mountain ridge of Kolserol. They protect coastal edge from strong cold winds and rains. In the summer here warmly and solarly, and in the winter temperature seldom falls lower than +8. The warm and humid climate of Catalonia differs from a cool and arid climate of the central Spain. Snow and bad weather happen here seldom, but also they won’t spoil impression of a trip. And picturesque mountains attract fans of mountaineering, hunting and foot walks here. The main richness of this region – the sea. World famous beaches became paradise for tourists and locals, and the port made Barcelona the most important shopping center of the Mediterranean for a long time.

But not only the nature separated Catalonia from the rest of the world. The aspiration to independence was created in Catalans by the course of history.

The birth of Barcelona, as well as all its long history, of course, is fanned by legends. The main two. The mythical version conducts city history from Heracles, the hero of the Greek myths. And more plausible tells about the Carthago commander by name Hamilcar Barca. In the 3rd century BC at the foot of the mountain Montjuic he set up military camp which in honor of the founder and received the name, Barsino or Barcino.

It is known of the relations of Carthaginians and Iberians very little – only that they weren’t at enmity. And here the Ancient Greek hero arose in a legend of Barsino not incidentally. Hellenes really appeared on these lands long before Phoenicians and left a big trace in Iberian culture. Thanks to them local tribes learned to do wine and olive oil – guarantee of material welfare of land.

The rich collection of ceramics of the Spanish Greeks of 6-4 centuries is stored BC in the archaeological museum of Barcelona: the amphoras, jugs, vases decorated with scenes of fights and sketches from life. The main pearls of an antique collection of the museum – Asclepius and Artemis’s marble statues which remained not completely.

Romans captured Barsino in the 2nd century AD. They left the name of the city, surrounded it with a fortification and plannings of streets which remained when building the city all next centuries underlay the basic principle. The Roman planning is the streets which are crossed at right angle dividing the city for equal quarters. Therefore the map of modern Barcelona reminds a chessboard. The remains of that wall, city gate of 3 centuries AD and temple columns in honor of Octavian Augustus’s imperator remained in Gothic quarter of Barcelona up to now. Unlike Hellenes and Phoenicians, Romans established the religion, laws and language here. Naturally, it caused furious Iberians resistance, ready it is to be lost or kill rather itself, than to get to slavery. Catalan firmness, courage and contempt for death, and at the same time and to aggressors was so formed. But during the Roman era of Barsino turned from a remote small town into one of the largest centers of Near Spain.

In the 5th century AD, during decline of the Roman Empire, Barsino after Rome was captured by the German tribe of Visigoth. The city was renamed in Барсиóну, there was the residence a Visigoth governors and the center of area of Gotolunia. According to one version, from this word later also “Catalonia” took its name.

In 3 centuries Visigoths was forced out by Moors, Arabs from North Africa. They stayed here absolutely not long, but left memory of themselves in the name of the main city street – La Rambla. In Arab “ramla” – “the dried-up course”. In the ancient time on a place of the boulevard flew the river.

However, Barsiona for some reason not especially interested Muslims, and soon was without effort won by francs of Louis the Pious. Barcelona became the center of the largest county in the kingdom Marca Hispanica.

Periodically Normans made attacks on the kingdoms. The legend connects emergence of symbolics of Catalonia with one of such fights – yellow-red strips of its flag. The Catalan count by name Wilfred el Pilos was seriously injured in fight with Normans, but the sword didn’t let go. On a gold board of the count there were trails of blood of fingers. Since then yellow and red strips became for Catalans a fight symbol for independence.

In a fatal 12th century Catalonia united with Aragon, having created the powerful sea power – “Kingdom Aragon” which capital was Barcelona. After that begins it’s blossoming – at first economic, and after it – cultural. In a city architecture Romance style of the previous eras is changed by a majestic gothic style of the Middle Ages. It reaches the perfection in constructions of 13-15 centuries for which Gothic quarter is well-known.

Historic center of the city by efforts of inhabitants and the city authorities ideally kept the atmosphere of the Middle Ages in the middle of noisy, bright, modern Barcelona. Any lane along La Rambla Boulevard can become unexpected a portal in the remote past. The labyrinths of dark narrow streets, ancient squares, Gothic temples, residences of kings and the house of aristocrats which are buried in verdure of gardens do this area to one of the most popular tourist routes of the city. Here travelers like to stop and look for inspiration creative natures. But the main pearl of quarter – the Cathedral of the Sacred Cross and Saint Eulalia. The temple of 13-15 centuries devoted to the patroness of Barcelona became a sample Catalan “the burning gothic style”, storage of the main religious relics and a treasury of works of art. Its ancient history and secrets is kept by 13 white geese living in the yard of a cathedral. In total in Barcelona more than two hundred churches. And lager their part – extraordinary beauty ancient Gothic basilica the Old city. The most ancient and known among them are devoted to other patroness of the city – Virgin Mary: Santa-Maria-del-Pi and Santa-Maria-del-Mar. The last is constructed in honor of the defender of seamen and is in port part of the city.

The central square of Barcelona – the area of Catalonia – divides the city into two parts: The old town is Barcelona antique and medieval eras, and the New city – Eixample, with respectable apartments of Barcelonian bourgeoises of 19-20 centuries in modernist style.

The area of Catalonia – the main tourist knot of the city. There comes the bus from the airport. There is an office of the tourist center of Barcelona where it is possible to buy tickets for any excursions. From here the majority of routes, whether it be a bus tour, pedestrian or bicycle excursion begins.

To avoid turns in cash desks, it is better to plan a route in advance and to book tickets. As survey of many sights in Barcelona – pleasure quite expensive, the discount card of Barcelona Card considerably will help to save money. It too can be ordered online, and it is possible to buy on a place in one of tourist bureaus. This universal ticket grants the right of a free pass in public transport on the central regions of the city, including the bus from the airport. On it it is possible to visit free of charge some museums, and also to receive a discount for survey of the majority of sights, purchase of souvenirs and visit of some bars and restaurants. Together with the card the list of all provinces in the territory of which it acts is issued.

It is possible to travel across Barcelona and it is independent. For this purpose there are special excursion hop-on hop-off buses. Their routes pass in the main tourist places, allowing to leave at any chosen stop, and then to get on the following bus to continue travel. Barcelona Tours buses tickets too can be got in one of excursion bureaus.

From the area of Catalonia also the well-known La Rambla Boulevard on which both part there are medieval quarters – Gothic and Ribera, on the one hand, and Raval – begins with another. The boulevard reaches from the center to the port where on the square “Gates of the world” the huge Columbus monument rises. On Rambla most of tourists also begins acquaintance to the city with walk.

And on other side of the square of Catalonia, around Eixample District, architectural creations of outstanding modernists of Montaner and Cadafalch from which the Palau de la Música Catalana is especially distinguished compete with each other. But first of all this area is well-known thanks to Antonio Gaudi‘s masterpieces which changed understanding of mankind about architecture. The Casa Batlló, similar to a live multi-colored jellyfish reminding a cave with stalactites Casa Milà and the main creation of all life of the master – the Sagrada Familia which remained still unfinished – became the main center of gravity of travelers from around the world. And in a coastal zone of Gothic quarter on a slope of the hill one more masterpiece of the master – the fantastic park complex which received the name “Park Guell” was stretched.

Religion and art – two indissoluble sides of life of Barcelona for a long time. For quite some time now one more was added to them – soccer. Soccer in Barcelona is brought to the level of a cult and brought to art heights. Therefore, having visited the Pikasso and Dali museums, temples and palaces, glance on legendary Camp Nou stadium and in the football club “Barcelona” museum.

In Barcelona its mountains have special value: Montjuic, Tibidabo and Montserrat. Each of them is nowadays turned by will of history and efforts of people into the sight causing huge interest both locals, and tourists.

Montjuic – that mountain with which in immemorial times the history of Barcelona began. From the military camp of the commander Barka which is set up at its bottom. In the Middle Ages there was a watchtower protecting an entrance to the city from the sea here, and fortress was constructed later. Now there is a military museum.

From the mountain the magnificent view on the city and the port opens. From here still ancient travelers admired Barsino’s vicinities. And at the beginning of the 20th century to the international exhibition the whole complex of constructions with fountains, parks, pavilions was built up. Then the first-ever museum open-air – “The Spanish village” was arranged here (Pueblo Espanyol). Here models of building of settlements in different corners of Spain are presented: Catalonia, Valencia, Castile, Navarre, Andalusia, Aragon and others. Exact copies of buildings are executed full-scale and belong to different eras and styles.

In the territory of the museum there are separate workshops where this or that craft can learn. And the pleasant handiwork of an exposition can be bought for memory. This unique museum enjoys wide popularity of visitors.

As well as the Magic fountain near the National palace. It is called still “the singing fountain”. To look at magic game of water, light and music crowds of tourists long before representation gather in the evenings.

This is one of the places in Barcelona to say goodbye to this amazing city. Let it will be remembered to you by the city of miracles, masters and geniuses.

 

 

* “The city of miracles” – the novel of the famous Catalan writer Eduardo Mendoz (1986) about Barcelona of the end 19 – the beginnings of 20 centuries.

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Author: Natalia Petrakova
Translation: Albina Akhmedova

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