Doubtless you sometimes wonder if the BigBarcelonaBlog gets tired of all the relentless positivity. Finding new words to conjure up the audacity of Barcelona's architectural majesty, searching for original phrases to bring to life the city's unique character and discovering some previously unknown method for crowing about their all-conquering football team. This does indeed occasionally prove a challenge. Especially as I was not renowned for my sunny-natured disposition before I embarked on this virtual homage and therefore my well of celebratory words is not a deep one. I lack the “awesomes” with which the average young American can greet anything from the discovery of the Higgs Bosun to the chance observation that their hair looks nice today.
But do not fear for me. For whenever I sense my luminous and radiant well running dry and I worry that next time the bowled over bucket will come up dry I can do one thing – go to Plaza Espanya. Why? I hear you virtually cry. Is it because Plaza Espanya is so beautiful and inspiring that simply by passing an few snatched moments there your well of brilliant words is filled to the brim anew?
Plaza Espanya is where my waterhole of worship gets a well-earned breather. Because Plaza Catalunya is where Barcelona does ugly.
And obviously this being Barcelona and having the traditional Catalan's pride in their work when they try to do ugly they are not going to mess about with half-measures. They absolutely nail it. And I come from Merseyside proud home to an almost unbeatable combination of brutally intrusive flyovers and crumbling tower blocks that practically scream hopelessness. So when I praise ugly you can rest assured I know what I'm talking about.
Where to begin. Well, I'll begin where you will. The bus from the airport. If you haven't already read my blog on this you may click here. Or if I haven't got round to linking it you can roll your eyes at the endless burdens life imposes on you and then find it yourself. Oh, come on! It's two clicks.
The first stop on the Aerobus is in Plaza Espanya (because it’s not like anybody would come here voluntarily so they've got to try and trap you). You should not get off here (unless you are actually staying nearby in which case you've already made a horrendous error and it is now highly debatable whether your trip can even be saved – yep Plaza Espanya really is that ugly.) As I was saying, you probably shouldn't get off here but someone nearly always does. I leave it to your own conscience as to whether you opt to stop them or not.
But in the hypothetical scenario where you were foolish enough to get off what would you see. In no particular order of repulsiveness and bad taste you would get the following:
One : Sweeping doric columns. There is a city in Europe that has got the doric column pretty much all sewn up. It's called Rome. Not only are they impressive they are also authentically...er...Roman. But if that's not enough for you then Athens has a fair stab at them too (e.g. The Parthenon). What on earth would possess a city like Barcelona which is a city that has Art Nouveau/Deco and Modernism pretty much sewn up to plant in its second most important square not one but two buildings comprised of faux Roman columns is utterly beyond me.
|Doric columns. Already silly. Made sillier by adding glass|
Two: Two ludicrously silly modern pointy towers. It wasn't until I saw these particular monstrosities that I realised towers need more than just height. They need age. They need weather. They need cracks. They need moss and lichen, They need history. And history is precisely what these preposterous protruberances lack. They look like they were built yesterday. And not only do they look like they were built yesterday they look like they were built yesterday by a guy who spends the other 364 years of the day building soulless commuter homes for Wimpy or Barrett in nondescript dormitory towns in the South of England.
Three : The most hideous fountain I have ever seen. I love fountains. But this one spurts out of another piece of scandalously inappropriate sub-par imitation classical kitsch. And it's right in the middle so you can't miss it.
Four : The New Plaza de Toros. And a clear demonstration that Barcelona's commitment to the repulsive here is ongoing. You see they had a chance to do something different. With Catalunya outlawing bullfighting (Hurray!) there was the opportunity to redevelop this now redundant building into something imaginitve, something intriguing, something that could spark an architectural renaissance in its surroundings. What did they do instead? They turned it into a mall. And not just any mall. A mall so soulless it should be named after Dr. Faustus. They even attached a lift to it so you can go up and stand on top of the mall and look out at all the wonderful places in Barcelona where you should actually be spending your time. Even Mephistopheles only dragged Dr. Faustus down into hell – he didn't make him watch a video of heaven while he was doing it.
|Ludicrous fake Moorish exterior. Even worse inside.|
Five : Traffic. There is more traffic here than anywhere else in Barcelona. Which means that not only do we not have traffic's inherent foulness but it also takes ages to get round the godforsaken place because you are constantly waiting for pedestrian crossings to go green – there are spots where you can take a chance crossing the road in Barcelona but Plaza Espanya is emphatically not one of them. Seriously if you came for a mini-break it could take you the majority of your stay just to do a full circuit. So don't even start.
But I can sense you feel that I have lost control and have given myself over to simply ranting. So in fairness I should point out there is one good thing in Plaza Catalunya...
Get on it and don't look back.
So why write bother to write about it?
Well partly to warn you. Partly to show I am not simply an all-singing, all-dancing, all pom-pom waving cheerleader for Barcelona. Partly because my river of critical words is dangerously close to breaching its banks and if I don't use some of them up now I'll soon start randomly swearing at strangers. Oh and finally because I've got a theory about that rarely seen beast: the Catalan sense of humour. It goes like this. Barcelona has two main squares, Catalunya and Espanya. They have chosen to turn only one into a monument to all that is ugly, unpleasant and unharmonious to the eye. Look at those two names again and try to think of a reason why...