Friday, 5 July 2013

Barcelona museums and parks

Sunday 2nd June 2013

We found out that on the first Sunday of every month most of the bigger museums have free entry, and with most of them costing between 8 and 15 euros per person we saved quite a bit on the two that we visited. 

Firstly we visited The Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat which is right in the middle of the city. The museum is housed in a Gothic palace dating back to the 15th century. However the palace wasn't always in this location, in 1931 it was moved stone by stone to where it now stands and whilst excavating work was taking place for the new foundations a Roman city was discovered in the earth below. The museum is now home to the excavated ruins and is the main attraction. A lift on the first floor takes you down into the ground to the ruins and as you descend a clock ticks back in time to the time when the Romans ruled. 

I personally quite like things that have been dug up from thousands of years ago and have been preserved really well and it was like being on a episode of Time Team (which I am not ashamed to admit I do occasionally watch!). There was a glass walkway over the excavated streets so you could walk around and see them whilst still being preserved. You could see where entrances to the buildings would have been quite clearly from the walls that where still there, as well as pillars, sewage drains and roads that still had groves in them from the wheels of carts that would have been pulled up and down the streets all those years ago. There was the remains of a tower that would have been used as a look out post to protect the city and the Romans liked to reuse their building materials so in the walls of the tower you could see materials that had quite obviously come from different buildings. The buildings included private houses, laundry and dyeing workshops and wine and fish sauce factories. The Roman city was founded in 10 BC and was called Barcino. 

Giant basins stained red from storing wine in Roman times

Reused building materials in a Roman tower
We wondered over to Port Vell after coming back up to the surface from the Roman ruins to the heat and sunshine of the streets above. Thinking that people today are still doing pretty much the same things that they would have been doing all those years ago on the streets hidden below, walking around shopping at markets, going about their daily lives and drinking wine. 

Port Vell used to be an old run down, obsolete harbor and home to just a few warehouses, a rail yard, refuse dump and industrial buildings, nothing that would attract tourists. When Barcelona was selected as the host of the 1992 Olympics the area was transformed and now it is full of expensive yachts and is a popular tourist destination with a massive wooden bridge taking you from the famous La Rambla to Rambla der Mar with restaurants, a cinema, shops, an aquarium and lots of bars. The pedestrianised area also gives you a good view of the Columbus monument.

The only surviving warehouse (and it is quite an impressive brick building, not like the corrugated warehouses we have today) is now home to the Museu d'Historia de Catalunya which is organised with chronological displays of the history of Catalonia from cave man days to present time. The museum was huuge and while I started out with the best intentions to read all the information that was presented with the big life like displays of the first signs of life in the region, I couldn't concentrate on all of it. But Adam was impressed with the system they came up with to water their fields and I was impressed with the weight of a suit of armour that I tried to lift by pulling up the other end of a rope a suit was tied to. I was pretty hot and irritable wearing just a breezy summer dress in not even height of the summer temperatures, I don't know how they fought people in those massive heavy pieces of metal!

Trying to lift a full suit of armour. My feet left the floor at one point!
Adam testing out the complicated watering contraption that farmers used to use to water their crops

After all that education we were pretty knackered so walked over to a park that we had visited briefly when we were last in the city for a lie down in the sun. Turns out we are pretty lucky at stumbling across things as there was a lot going on in the park that day. The entrance was filled with little kids all being given cups of water that they poured into weird contraptions, they seemed happy to play with it, I was just pretty thirsty at that point. There were a few small stages dotted around the park with people playing music on them, massive bunches of balloons were being sold and the park was packed with people sunbathing, busking, using the free WiFi accessible in the park, dancing and slack lining between the trees.

As soon as we had found a shady spot under some trees, a marching band drums past followed by these guys...

They are known as 'Giants and Big Heads' and I don't know much about them other than they are used quite a lot in festivals or when celebrating or having parades. They have papier mache heads and a wooden structure covered by clothes so that a normal sized person can wear it and make them look really tall. They danced as well which was pretty funny.

Other things we saw in the park that day was a game of human towers, which is a sport they take quite seriously and looks like this...

But on a slightly smaller scale. Then a ring master from a circus strolled past us shouting a lot of exciting things in a language I didn't understand and he was followed by a man in a human size hamster wheel running around (dressed as a hamster of course). I'm only slightly sure that this was just a normal Sunday in a park in Barcelona and not a massive trip on some sort of hallucinogenic. 

The best part of the day was moving to sit in the sun and listening to a few guys playing bongo drums on the bench opposite. Most people were just sitting around half listening, some people dancing a little bit. Gradually more and more people started to sit on the hill around us and people walking past stopped to listen and about an hour later there was over 200 people sitting, standing or dancing crazily to these guys playing their drums and cheering them on. The noise attracted other people in the park with their own drums so the band expanded and people bought tambourines and didgeridoos to join in. We went and bought some beers and sat and listened for quite some time. 

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