At the beginning of the summer, back in June, a construct that currently seems bizarre and obsolete and foreign as the cool autumn encroaches on the attitude, I visited Barcelona for two weeks. The trip was, as most of mine are, for business purposes, but the close proximity of two separate programs meant that my stay had some wonderful leisure and pleasure time worked into the itinerary. Sort of like a free, loose interpretation of the word, vacation.
On a day warm and clear, I decided to head a bit north, to explore the renowned Park Güell, an expansive grounds designed by celebrated Catalan, Barcelona-bred architect Antoni Gaudi. During my first jaunt through Barcelona, back in April, I had a few precious free moments to visit his beautiful and ever-evolving La Sagrada Familia; the design and the integration of almost clashing and overly bodacious elements were fantastical. So, for a free day this past June, I knew a long walk through the park was a must.
The entrance of the park is guarded by a steadfast and tiled lizard, a dragon, body nonchalantly poised in a diagonal stretch, lips agape, aesthetically and functionally spewing water, a fountain. As they pass, the visitors dip their hands in this stream, a sort of rite of pilgrimage upon entering.
The height of spring melting into summer, flowers still abounded, not yet dessicated by the intense attacks of the sun. Fragrance of lavender floated, permeated, an almost tangible dimension to the atmosphere.
The various erected structures are a juxtaposition of clean geometric samples, tall columns that could be plotted along the metrics of graph paper, and organic molds of matter, columns that appear as though the spewed forth from some volcanic force from the base rock beneath them. In the various catacomb-like open-air rooms, performers sang, worked upon their instruments, hats and open cases prostrate before them, beckoning for coin, sustenance. Urchin-like street vendors sell trinkets, plastic displays of wanton crap; as I was under one of the main canopies of stone columns, there was a sharp whistle, and instantaneously, lightning, each peddler rolled his carpet, shielding the treasures as a pill bug rolls and shields its many legs, and disappeared. I have never in my life seen a space vacate so quickly; they were more nimble than the hawks on the streets of New York selling fake designer purses. Moments after this warning call, some type of officer strolled across the floor, smiling knowingly.
As is typical of most works of architectural magnificence designed by Gaudi, the park is resplendent with tile mosaics. Bits and pieces of new colors and florals and patterns, melded elegantly into a puzzle, cloaking the benches, small crevices of towers, ceilings between arches.
Spiraling, spiring, a labyrinth of seemingly concentric circular paths across hills, I wandered and walked, finally finding myself atop the highest point of the park, a small stone mound on a tall peak. The city of Barcelona stretched before me, then, almost immediately, disappeared into ocean. Like a physical topographic map, molded in minute detail then rolled forth, other architectural monuments and tall buildings rose from the earth, from the plane of red roofs and throngs of people. A place so mysterious and strange to me, sort of wild in its flavors, its rhythms.
The ledge was quite small, and quite high, and though entirely safe, I could not help but feel anxious, uneasy, yet exhilarated, as though I had actually accomplished some impressive athletic feat. This was ludicrous, but, nonetheless, the sweeping visions of land and sea offered a very dear reward.
Back toward the base of the park, after a slow descent from my summit of triumph, I wandered through the paths around this coral pink house, I believe a home where Gaudi lived for a time; it was difficult to discern, most signage proudly posted in Catalan, translated to Spanish. In the wild gardens here, bizarre and grotesque statues of stone stowed away, occasionally surprising a pedestrian.
This is one, perhaps the only, physical artifact documenting that I have, indeed, traveled to Europe; a sort of pathetic admission, given that I have been over there at least five times in the past year. I, mostly, enjoy traveling alone. It is not always comfortable, in the sense that one must be well acquainted with their textures of their own solace, but it can be tranquil and a challenge, and I am on my own pace for adventuring. It is most certainly not conducive for obtaining any photographs of yourself amidst the beautiful scenery; I prefer photographs with content of interest, and my face is something I am already quite familiar with and have the fortune of being able to regard quite easily in the mirror. Still, it is nice to capture a moment here and there, to send to family and friends. While climbing the steep trail to the top mount, a young group of touring girls asked me, using hand gestures, to take their picture and, naturally, I obliged. They returned the favor, forever memorializing this slightly sweaty but elated vision of myself.