Barcelona. Is. Beautiful.
Out of everywhere I stayed, and all the experiences I had, Barcelona was the best, hands down. I crashed with my college friend Moonit (short for â€œMoon Unit,â€ which is more interesting than her real name, â€œKatherineâ€) and her roommates, who were a lot of fun. All told, there were:
- Moonit, who is fluent in Spanish, French, and English, and teaches English at a nearby elementary school.
- Sergio, who is Spanish but speaks decent English, and is an IT professional. Drinks too much, smokes even more, is a little crazy, and a lot of fun.
- Sabina, Sergioâ€™s girlfriend, who is a student. Sheâ€™s Slovenian (I think?), decent with English, and possesses a great sarcastic wit.
- Miku, a Japanese ballerina who hates almost everything about Japan. The first Japanese person Iâ€™ve ever met to disagree with me by shouting me down. I suspect she is trying to become Spanish. Iâ€™m not sure how that works.
The best way I can describe Barcelona is by comparing it to London, or Edinburgh, or Madrid, or even Tokyo. All of these places are very old. In Edinburgh, for example, I routinely came across buildings that were older than my entire country. Puts things in perspective. But the thing about any of those places is that the history is off-limits â€“ itâ€™s behind a velvet rope, rationed out by the government for you to look at.
Barcelona, on the other hand, is living, breathing history. Take, for example, Parc Guell. While technically a park, itâ€™s perhaps better described as a work of art â€“ designed specifically for people to use it. It would be incomplete without kids climbing all over and cafÃ©s hawking beverages at every turn. I cannot conceive of a finer park in the world. When I compare that to the experience I had a scant few days later of going to the Louvre and standing 10 feet from the Mona Lisa, I realize I am so much more moved, so much more involved, by Barcelona.
Since I was there for some time, I managed to make a day trip out to Montserrat, an amazing monastery built into the side of a mountain range â€“ and not just any mountain range, but one geologically unique, formed into the shape of a serrated sawâ€™s blade. Hence the name Montserrat (serrated mountain). The views there were stunning, and I made a good friend who works as an archivist for the Federal Reserve in DC. Talking to her about the meetings going on during the past couple months was definitely one of the more interesting conversations I heard on my trips.
Finally, because no entry would be complete without me stumbling upon some weird subculture, I must inform you of a custom peculiar to the Catalan region of Spain. In that area, it is customary, around Christmas, to create giant nativity scenes â€“ not just the manger and the three kings, but the entire town of Bethlehem. Everyone going about their business, with figurines for every job in the entire town.
Which brings us to the Town Shitter.
This, from what I gather, is sort of like playing â€œWhereâ€™s Waldoâ€ â€“ each nativity scene has one guy, pants down, hunched down, taking a crap. The official literature professes that he represents fertility and a bond with the earth, but Sergio and Sabina informed me that, no, itâ€™s mostly just Spaniards taking the piss out of an otherwise somber holiday.
Now, these figurines are quite popular, to the point where they sell specific ones at all the Christmas markets. They even go so far as to make parody ones, with various athletes, politicians, and celebrities all squatting over a freshly-laid turd.
Of course, they had a shitting Obama. Complete with a â€œYes We Canâ€ logo on the bottom.
And of course I bought it for my mom.
That, however, is not where the scatalogically-oriented Catalonian Christmas ends! Oh, no! For how could you celebrate Christmas without the Crap Log? What, you might ask, is a Crap Log? Well, good friend, the Crap Log is a hollowed-out tree branch (or log, or what have you) with a face painted onto one end, complete with googly eyes, a pointy nose, thick eyebrows, and a Santa hat. You then stuff presents, usually small candies, into the hollowed-out anus of said Crap Log, and present it on Christmas day to the children in your house. They will proceed to mercilessly beat said Crap Log until it shits out all of its candy. The children will then clog their mouths full of the rectum-liberated sweets, chew, and swallow.
I also bought one of those for mom. It is, I have decided, the only proper way to celebrate Christmas.
Happy holidays, everyone!