Sunday, 7 October 2007

Barcelona, and Viva Espanya!


It's been over a month since i took that trip, but it's not something i may think of not including here. Barcelona left some feelings that are really special, coz it's a place that is really special.

The first shock as i stepped down to the Spanish lands was the language, they speak even less English than i expected, actually zero english, everybody around you is adressing you in Spanish or even more frequesntly Catalan (pretty similar with a touch of French), not the easiest place to get around.

As i (of course) went for a cheap flight, i landed in Girona which is about 100Km away from Barcelona, quite late, then a bus trip, so i got to the station in Barcelona at 2a.m. and i still had to get to my hotel, which i managed by some unconnected words and pointings to a taxi driver, so i actually got there.

I booked a hotel that is a bit far from the centre, but it turned out to be a great new 4 star thingy, the room was beautiful, free internet and free minibar . Cool!

After a really good night sleep and a morning shower, it was time to hit Barcelona! The weather was absolutely great, sunny, warm with a breeze, perfection! The first place i headed too is anybody's guess, of course the catherdal of La Sagrada Familia, now forget all the photos you saw, this is BIG!!! Reality is something totally different and absolutely breath taking! wow! I came out of the metro station, turned around and was totally wowed by what i saw! This thing is one of the highest buildings in Barcelona, you can see it almost from any elevated point and clearly!

Now a cultural glipmse about it: The cathedral was the idea of Antoni Gaudi, probably the most famous architect that ever existed. He wanted it to be from the people to the people, i guess in an attempt to liberate it from the power of government, he designed it and the work started in 1882 and it's still unfinished, work progressing solely on the donations of people from all over the world. The work is still following the original design of Gaudi, and in it you can clearly see Gaudi's character, his shapes and colours are deeply affected by nature and you can clearly feel the sea in them, take another look at this cathedral, it looks a bit like a sand castle , a very impressive one though!

Next it was Placa Espanya, this is the biggest and most famous square in Barcelona, at one side you'll find a street which turnd into a huge traditional market on weekends with all the merchants dressed in traditional Spanish clothes, interesting. On the other side, it has a big exhibition hall center, separated in the middlt by a street leading to the magic fountain, kind of "the gate" to Montjuic (translated as the mountain of jews, don't know the history of that though), climbing up the stair you'll reach the National museum of Art of Catalunya containing quite a big collection of different art schools from different ages. Montjiuc also hosts the Poble Espanol (Spanish village) which is a reproduction of a typical Spanish village with its small shops, narrow streets and typical architecture, there as well is the Olympic stadium which is a bit disappointing, Cairo stadium is not much worse, you also have the museum of Joan Miro, which i really wanted to see but didn't get the chance, arrived at it too late on Saturday and it didn't open on Sundays . Going down the mountain, you can take the funicular which is included in a metro ticket, and talking about metro, you can use it to go all around the city and suburbs, and you can buy a 2-day pass and use it almost on all transportation types in Barcelona for a really cheap price.

Montjuic is a place you must visit, a walk around it is tiring but very satisfying and nice, visit the museum of Art, El Poble Espanol, take a look at the olympic stadium and torch and if you're a lover of surrealism, Juan Miro museum is definitely a must, just take a look at opening hours and plan your day to include that.

Now back to why the magic fountain is called a magic fountain , this fountain is operated after the sun goes down, the water changes patterns and lights following music, or in simpler words, the water dances to the music , well...that's what i read, but what i saw was musicless, it was changing patterns and lighting but there was no music that reached my ears at all although i was very close .

For Surrealism fans again, you just HAVE TO visit Pablo Picasso's museum, this is located in the Barri Gotic (the gothic neighborhood), it contains a huge collection of his works (i, sadly, didn't have enough time to go there, but i so wanted to ).

But in general, Barcelona is definitely the city of Gaudi, he lived and loved the city, and left a lot of impressive pieces of architecture. Two of them are located on Passeig de Cracia: Casa Battlo, a very impressive site, you would never imagine someone can colour the house that way, but it looks great! The most famous though would be La Pedrera (also known as Casa mila) which was build for middle class, the building is designed in such a way that each apartment continously receives sunlight and built in a way that the outer walls support the building, you could bring down any wall in your house and build one somewhere else without any effect on the main structure. The attic is an impressive part too with the ceiling curving under the shape of the roof which is probably the most interesting part of the whole thing. A lot of chimneys are there for ventilation and heating purposed (HVAC in modern language ) all have the special Gaudi naturalistic touch, the roof is just fantastic!

Where Gaudi lived though is nowhere near those places, he chose a high spot on a hill in the outskirts of the city, established a great garden with loads of rock walkways, a mosaic one, his house there, and the most famous lizard in the world, that mosaic one right ahead of you if you enter the park from the main entrance. I like that lizard, it looks cool . But if you go my metro like me and follow the signs, you'll climb a ridiculously steep hill, i had muscle crumps for 4 days after leaving Barcelona.

I spent all Saturday and Sunday till 4p.m there, and they were probably the most filled and active weekend i ever had, i went around all day, saw all the places that i managed to fit into my short stay, was totally tired every night but felt absolutely great! . So here's where i managed to go:

On Saturday --> La Sagrada Familia --> Placa Espanya --> Montjuic (Museum of Art of Catalunya - El Poble Espanol (check out the glass figures shop! they make them right in front of you) - Olympic stadium - Museum of Joan Miro (where i arrived too late) - and went down on the funicular) --> it was getting dark --> Passeig de Gracia (basically Barcelona's Champs Elysee) --> Casa Battlo (but didn't enter, was too late as well ) --> back to Montjuic to see the magic fountain.

On Sunday --> Park Guell and Gaudi's house --> La Pedrera (which had an enormous queue) --> bus station to take the bus back to Girona airport and fly back

Barcelona isn't a really big city, but it's full of interesting places and will fill you with impressions. I'll leave you with some links for the most famous places, other places to see there La Ramble street, walk it from beginning at Columbus monument to end at Placa Catalunya, visit Barri Gotic and Picasso's museum, go to the beach in Barceloneta and finally if you're a big football fan, you can visit the FC Barcelona museum .

Now some links:

La Sagrada Familia: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/

National museum of Art of Catalunya: http://www.mnac.es/index.jsp?lan=003

El Poble Espanol: http://www.poble-espanyol.com/

Casa Battlo: http://www.casabatllo.es/

And a really nice tourist guide for those who decide to go (and they'll never regret their decision...guaranteed): http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Back to Scandi2: Asker, Norway


Back to Asker, back to Scandic home...and feels like i never left...
The same little town close to Oslo where i spent 6 weeks last year at this same time of year: October.
Same weather, same feelings, same classroom even...

But differences exist too...today i'm back here not as a freshman but as company person with some experience, today i have different people with me...it's all the same here but my life changed abit since...for the better...

And it feels really good

Back to Scandi1: Trondheim, Norway


So there i was again in my favourite little northern country...Norway, signing off from my vessel in Trondheim, it was more than natural spending some days there.

Trondheim also seemed appealing as i have my own private guide there, Erik, and now it was his turn to pay back for my guide services in Cairo , and i even got a bonus: A trip to Tarva.

Trondheim is a really cosy little city, i enjoyed walking all around it, seeing the famous Nidaros cathedral, the university, the old bridge, the old fisher houses (which are now transformed into one of the most expensive and glamorous spots in Trondheim), also seeing Trampe (the bike lift up what is possibly the steepest street in the city).

The walk was very pleasant across all the greens, all the traditional old houses with different colours , and it's actually a law there that no two buildings standing together can have the same colour and that colours must be approved by the city authorities! Which i personally find as a great idea to preserve the taste of that sweet city.

A dinner by the water at the old docks was a very good idea too, i'm sure it would have been even better if it wasn't raining that hard, but still i enjoyed it a lot, cosy place, good pizza, pleasant company, what else would you need? . I really liked the atmosphere and the spirit of that city altogether, had great days there.

The trip to Tarva was even more special, Tarva is an island quite close to Trondheim, and it's the place where Erik was born. Lucky as i am with the weather (sometimes), i got quite a sunny day there which could also be described as warm . The place is small with houses at far distances apart, an old school that doesn't function anymore and a tiny church, initiated and build by the locals, of course, walking around, you see sheep everywhere of course , and you enjoy the green but a bit rough nature there, and the fact that all this is surrounded by water that you can see on your sides sometimes makes it feel very peaceful, a perfect spot for me to take a few days off.

An impressive part about Tarva s well is the forest planted by Erik's grand-grandfather (i actually think he planted two) with trees from Russia...yup, really impressive.

Erik's parents own an amazingly nice house right on the water, it was a store before that they bought and rebuilt into a house and it turned out in a peace of art, i was told about it before going but i never expected it to be that great.

These were probably the best 5 days of vacation in my life , and i'll definitely repeat that...more than once.