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Barcelona!! (Pronounced Barthelona) May 26, 2013

Posted by mjmaurer7 in Travel Log.
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(Please forgive the lack of photos for now. It says I have to compress them down to 60 kb)

Two weeks have never flew by this fast! So much has happened since I arrived that it will be hard to pack into one post, but I’ll do my best to give the highlights.

Stepping out from the plane after a nine and a half hour flight was certainly disorienting. As I walked past the airport security agents, I noticed something incredibly odd. They were speaking a different language to each other. For some reason, it had never really sunk in that this would happen. I think half of me expected for there to be an English translation of what they were saying over the loud speaker. Still, I moved along to customs where I started to break out the Spanish. I delivered “Hola!” and “Gracias!” with the charm of an American tourist. The agents rolled their eyes, and I continued on my journey.

A short bus ride later, and I was at my dorm. One of the things that struck me immediately about Barcelona was all of the graffiti and art lining the streets. I had always pictured every city in Spain to be picturesque and quaint. The art gave the city a much more urban feel, and I liked it.

The first day consisted of experiencing the fresh markets in Spain, pointing to pictures on menus, and taking naps on public benches (which is totally acceptable here). Despite the lack of sleep, many people decided to go out for a taste of the Barcelona nightlife. We headed to a club, and I soon discovered something hilarious. One of the rooms in this club had an “American” theme. The DJs were donning jean overalls, American flags lined the walls, and a completely random video of Dolly Parton was being looped in the background. I spent most of my time in that room. However, the best part of the club was the people. Over that night, I met a group of three Italians, five Germans, a guy from France, and a girl from Barcelona. Most of them were on “holiday”, and they all spoke some English with the exception of the Italians (communicating with them was like playing charades). They all had different stories to tell and differing opinions of Barcelona and America. (The most interesting fact: the girl from Barcelona learned English almost exclusively from American movies)

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

After a long night, we woke up the next morning to explore more of Barcelona. We headed down to the beach during the day, witnessed a spontaneous parade over lunch, and hiked up to Monjuic in the afternoon. For reference, Monjuic is a old military base overlooking the town. It was great to get a sense of Barcelona so early. I never would have been able to grasp the layout otherwise. Monjuic also provided an interesting mix of old and new. The base was built in the 1600s, and includes cannons that are now covered in graffiti. I thought that I would be opposed, but it actually provides a very interesting contrast. On the way down, we passed through parks and other landmarks while being informed by the group’s leader Sabir Kahn. He was incredibly knowledgeable about Barcelona and filled us in on a lot of Catalonia history.

Soon, it was time to go to class. Unfortunately, the campus we are commuting to is 40 minutes away by Metro :(. Still, it is nice to see college life outside of the states. For most of the week, I was able to explore Barcelona during the night. Sometimes, I would wander to a new part of town to see if I could discover anything new. Because the program is split between CS and Architecture majors, the programmers are getting much more exposure to architecture. One place I traveled to was the German Pavilion, which is extremely prevalent in Architecture. I went with a couple architects, and they explained to me why the building was so important. Their excitement was very interesting. However, the weekend soon rolled around, and I had the opportunity to go to two extremely exciting events: the X-games and the FC Barcelona game.

While at the X-Games, we got to see Moto-X and skateboarding big air. It was a lot more exciting than what you see on TV, but the announcers spoke Catalan (different from Spanish) so it was hard to understand. Another amazing thing was the age of the competitors.   The kids probably averaged 16. On Sunday, we traveled to Camp Nou for the Barcelona game. We fought freezing rain, but there was still a surprising amount of people out. One thing about Barcelona sports: people watch the game. Unlike America, when I went to go to the bathroom, there was almost no one in the halls. I was even the only person in the bathroom (something you would never see at a football game).

This weekend, Barcelona was blessed with great weather, and I went with a group of others to hike up to Tipidado, a mountain that contains the odd mixture of a cathedral and an amusement park. The hike was beautiful, and the top of the cathedral is the highest point in Barcelona. That night, I had the opportunity to meet up with friends from Madrid who were studying abroad as a part of the University of Kentucky program.

These experiences were just the high points of the first two weeks. As the program progresses and we start to travel, many more incredible times will be had.

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