I was thinking about Barcelona recently and realized I hadn’t written about my time there yet! It was fantastic and one of the best decisions my friend John and I made on our Eurotrip. We were initially going to go to Barcelona for about three days then go to Madrid and stay there for about four or five days, but something in me decided to do a bit of research on both cities, just to see which one had more to do and see. It ended up me switching the days around so we got four or five days in Barcelona and three days in Madrid. Then sitting around with John and discussing train travel, we decided to just spend eight days in Barcelona (the fact that it had seven beaches and Madrid none was the end determinator) and maybe take a day trip to Madrid. An amazing decision it was! Barcelona is stunning, the beaches are beautiful, and there’s just so much history and art about the city, we were practically in love.
We stayed in a hostel–Equity Point Centric–which was on Barcelona’s main avenue of Passeig de Gràcia. We were walking distance from everything! Literally, a few minutes away from the Gothic Quarter and La Rambla, a twenty minute walk from the beach and Casa Batlló was just right down the block. We had to take the train to Park Güell and Montjuïc, but it was all well worth it, for both places are simply stunning and the Poble Espanyol was right on the mountain. We didn’t get to take the funicular either to or from Montjuïc, but that is definitely going on our list for next time! We made a handful of friends at the hostel and since we were in Barcelona for a little more than a week, it almost felt like we were just hanging out and not really travelers to a new place. It was very nice and very welcoming.
But the sites weren’t really the most memorable part of this trip to me. When checking in, we were told that we picked an interesting time to be in Barcelona. We stayed in Barcelona from September 7 through the 14th of 2012, due to it may being a bit off-peak tourist-wise, but still maintaing decent beach weather to enjoy. So it was a weird statement, but we sort of just let it slide.
Until September 11th.
We went to the beach that morning with a few of our friends and after spending the early part of the day there, John and I decided to head back to the hostel, but not after stopping by a few shops we wanted to hit again in the Gothic Quarter. We were going to meet up with our friends again that evening for tapas and told them we’ll see them later that night at the hostel. Getting to the shops was fine. We purchased what we wanted and were heading back to the hostel when we got to the crowd. The really huge crowd.
We had stumbled across a demonstration of sorts, but really we had no idea what was happening. There were people wrapped and/or holding the flag of Catalunya (as I found out later), chanting something in Catalan and walking at a slow crawl through the streets of Barcelona. There was orange and red everywhere. We tried going around, but overshot the hostel by a block and was stuck in the crowd a block away from our hostel. We were a bit frustrated, but in the end, I approached one of the guys handing out independence flyers and asked for one, then proceeded to follow the crowd and chant what they were collectively chanting, as I weaved my way down the block to the hostel, with John not too far behind.
It wasn’t until we got to the hostel and I was able to shower and change, did I sit on my top bunk and stare out at all of the people from the window in our room, while going on Google to find out what was happening. I think I managed to read every Wikipedia page and more on the significance of the date in Catalonian history and before I knew it, I knew what was happening and I was proud I did.
We had landed ourselves right in the middle of history in the making. September 11, 2012 was marked as one of the biggest Catalan independence demonstrations ever to occur in Catalonia (except for maybe the Human Chain, which occurred this past September 11, 2013). September 11 is known as Diada Nacional de Catalunya or the National Day of Catalonia, and lately it’s usually the day in which many Catalonians from all over the northeast region of Spain known as Catalunya, gather together to protest against the Spanish Monarchy and demand that their government vote for independence from Spain.
Apparently, Catalunya once had great autonomy prior to King Philip V of Spain conquering it with the fall of Barcelona on September 11, 1714, in his attempt to unify Spain under one rule. Catalonia culture was suppressed even more under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, that after his fall, a great Catalonian Independence movement emerged that is still prominent and even stronger today. From what I understand, Spain’s system of government now is one of the most decentralized governments I’ve ever seen. Spain is consisted of different states and each state has its own form of government. So even though Catalunya has some sort of autonomy from the Monarchy, it wasn’t what it once was. My understanding of it is a bit vague, and to me, it doesn’t really make sense, which is why I can agree with the state of Catalunya wanting to run its own government apart from the failing Spanish monarcracy.
I apologize for the semi-history lesson, but this day and what happened to John and I really impacted my thoughts and feelings of this trip. It was all very cool to experience. I’ve never been so immersed in another culture in my life. Being trapped in that crowd had me learn Barcelona’s history, Catalunya’s history, and apply it to real life in a completely different way than just going to a museum and seeing and reading stuff about it. I was physically in a cause and effect moment of history. It was quite amazing.