“I never knew this guy existed!” Andrew said as we started the tour. ‘This guy’ was Antoni Gaudi (1852 – 1926) and in case you haven’t heard of him either: He was a Catalan architect fueled by nature and religion and incorporated a variety of crafts (ceramics, stained glass, ironwork, and carpentry) into his work. He has a crazy distinct style and most of his work is concentrated in or around Barcelona. He’s most famous for La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished church that some say looks like wax was poured over it in the middle of the city.
I knew of him, but I didn’t really know the extent of his awesomeness until today. Perhaps that’s how everyone is… until they go to Barcelona and get their minds practically blown by Gaudi’s creativity. Which is what happened to us.Again, I might have gone overboard on the photos, but I just couldn’t help myself. We began the day with another RunnerBean Free Walking Tour (this time devoted to Gaudi) and ended the day in Park Güell marveling at the incredible amount of architecture and design and just plain awesome (yep, I said it again) art.
First stop: Palau Güell is a mansion built for Eusebi Güell between 1885–1890. We stopped on the sidewalk outside of the beautifully ornate building and heard about how expensive it was to build and how Gaudi simply didn’t care how much money he went through when designing and building the house. I think he drove the poor guy bankrupt when designing and building this house! We heard about how the first floor was where the horses would enter and the floor above was where the family received guests. I would have loved to go in, but there was a long wait and we were on to the next stop before I knew it.
Second stop: Casa Batlló (maybe my favorite house by Gaudi!) is also a mansion designed for the Batlló family between 1904–1906. It was a redesign and we were told that the interior not only reflected similar design aesthetics of the outside (curvy lines, mosaics, etc.). Even the sidewalk outside reflected the same design! The bone shaped windows and the mosaics (of course) were my favorite. I couldn’t get enough of either. At the top of the building, there was a tiny little balcony that you would see a couple every once in awhile step out onto for a picture that would be taken automatically by a camera positioned on a rod outside of the building. If I had to pick only one of Gaudi’s houses to go in, it would be this one! Why don’t more architects design crazy houses like this one!
Third stop: Casa Milà was yet another mansion built for Roser Segimon and Pere Milà between 1906–1912. As much as I loved Casa Batlló, I loved the story behind this mansion even more. We were told by our guide that when it was built, mothers would cover their children’s eyes as they passed because they thought it was shameful or something! Ha! Also the wife, Pere Milà sounded like a real piece of work. In other words, she hated the design. So much so that she even altered some of the interior design. We were pointed out a beautiful interior ceiling from the sidewalk outside, it looked like an ocean of white waves. She hated it and ordered it to be covered up.
Andrew nudged me and asked if I thought it resembled Cappadocia. I nodded, and quickly after, Andrew asked our guide if Gaudi had ever been to Turkey. He hadn’t, but our guide knew exactly what he was thinking and quickly opened his binder up to show a picture of the same fairy chimneys we visited in Turkey a few months ago! It was one of those moments where we both felt a little bit smart, and a bit of ‘We really ARE learning things on this trip!’
Fourth stop: La Sagrada Familia and no, it’s not a mansion. It’s the huge (HUGE) unfinished church that Gaudi worked on starting in 1883 until he died in 1926. According to our guide, the Roman Catholic church will be finished in 2026 (100 years after Gaudi’s death) but he seemed to roll his eyes that it actually will be finished by then. I have to say, I might be somewhat surprised as well considering how much is finished compared to the pictures of what was left to go.
Again, we stayed on the outside of the church hearing all about it, knowing we would come back another day to spend more time exploring the interior. I have to point out though, some of the designs on the outside reminded me a bit of Star Wars characters. Can you see it? I just love seeing and wondering of the possibility of all of these different artistic influences. Ancient fairy chimneys in the middle of Turkey influencing Gaudi… in turn influencing George Lucas… Maybe it’s a stretch, maybe it’s not, either way it’s fun to fantasize about the connections.
Outside the church, vendors lined up with the usual fare. A few made use of their time by sneaking in a chess game. En route to our next stop, I couldn’t help observe this out of place balcony in Barcelona. Where is the laundry? The Catalan flag? The pretty chairs and potted plants? What’s going on with this larger than life barbie?
Fifth stop: of our own, not a part of the tour, we picked up some picnic food and headed to… Park Güell! It was actually a perfect idea because it fit in nicely with our Gaudi themed day and it turned out to be such a lovely place to sit and eat and people watch! I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of this “Free Park Güell” graffiti because park officials (or maybe city officials?) are debating charging an entrance fee to the currently free park. After our visit, and considering how expensive it is to get inside any of Gaudi’s houses and/or La Sagrada Familia, it would be such a shame to charge an entrance fee to this beautiful park!
We actually sat in the lower court, enjoying the cool concrete and shade for awhile. I couldn’t get enough of the mosaics on the ceiling. Aren’t they gorgeous? Groups of tourists would try to take pictures of themselves with the ornate circles, but I was more keen on placing my camera on the ground to get a good shot with my long lens.
Afterwards we headed to the colonnaded footpath with huge rock pillars twisting up to support the roof above similar to the pillars supporting La Sagrada Familia. It was beautiful, and even more beautiful when we walked down a bit further away from the crowd and it suddenly felt like we had the place to ourselves- that is, after I politely shouted in Korean to the Korean girls looking at pictures of themselves to please move out of my shot.
The main square was lined with a snake-like mosaic bench and provided a beautiful view of Barcelona below. Park Güell was actually supposed to be a housing community, but only two houses were built- one of which can be seen at the main entrance to the park and the other bought and lived in by Gaudi.
Gaudi’s house has since been turned into a museum and features some furniture that he designed for others, furniture that he himself used in the house, and some drawings and plans by Gaudi himself.
We walked around some more, and then eventually made our way out of the park through the main entrance, past the multicolored mosaic salamander (the dragon), and a boatload of people taking their picture with it. It seemed like a bit of a circus and I thought it was a bit funny to see people posing with so many others in their picture! So, I took a picture of everyone taking pictures. You know, getting all of the madness in before we left.