September 5, 2013
In my last blog post, I already gave away that I would be going to Montserrat on Tuesday. The trip was 1,5h in total, €19 for a return ticket by train, but it was worth it. The people from Cataluña are generally quite proud of this mountain range, Cristina told me. The highest peak is at 1236m. On the mountain you find the Santa Cova, famous for its much-visited statue of Mother Mary. She is considered to be the patroness of Cataluña, because she protected extruded Catalans up until the independence of Cataluña. Every year, thousands of Spaniards, tourists and pilgrims travel to this place to see the statue.
Obviously, not being a religious person and all, I couldn’t care less about the statue of Holy Mary. I did like the little town up the hill and its relaxed atmosphere. I had seen all of it in less than two hours. Most of all, I enjoyed the views, the strolling around in the little streets of the town and the examination of the peculiarly cut out mountain range.
This past Wednesday, I finally made the effort to go to the Sagrada Familia with the intention to take a look at the interior. Last time, I didn’t really feel the need to, as I had to walk past the cathedral every day already (when I was staying with Esther). This time I was really set on going. I was even planning on getting up extra early to be there before the stream of tourists had arrived, but of course, I couldn’t get out of bed because I went to sleep too late the night before. It was already eleven when I got out of the metro station and walked straight up to a horrible long line, mostly waiting in the scorching sun. I walked a couple of times around the cathedral, hoping to be able to join one of the school groups or something, but classes haven’t even started yet, so that was pointless. And I’m sure I could not pass for a 60-year-old. Eventually, I cut my losses and went back home. Maybe I’ll try again in October…
In the afternoon, I went to the local park to define a route for running. As you probably know by now, I’m living on the lower side of the Tibidabo hill. The way up there alone was tough, especially with these temperatures. I sincerely doubt if I’ll ever get to the actual running part.
Once I reached the top, I discovered the easy route. Damn. I should have known, considering the average age of the residents of this neighborhood, of course there would be an escalator here as well…
Up until now, I’ve never regretted any of the long and/or tough detours I caused myself to endure, because I was rewarded every time. This time, the reward was a stunning panoramic view over Barcelona and the Mediterranean.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that there was no grass in the park. When have I ever seen grass in Spain? Not that often, that’s for sure. And that is especially so for gardens on a hill. I didn’t want my hike to be completely for nothing, so I just placed my beach towel on one of the green benches instead. It was very quiet. The park has little ‘compartments’ with a few benches which are placed in such a way that passers-by (like joggers, dog walkers, skateboarders etc.) can’t see you, so you can really enjoy the peacefulness. I hadn’t taken into account the flies. So much for the peace I was hoping for… Even though it bothered me like crazy, I didn’t notice the 12 new mosquito bites until the next day…
That evening, I went to a couchsurfing meeting that takes place every Wednesday at the Palau del Mar in the barrio Barceloneta. It’s all about meeting people, who host or are currently surfing in Barcelona, with whom you can practice a certain language. For example, if I wanted to learn or practice Russian, I could have talked with someone from Russia. If someone would have wanted to learn Dutch, they could have practiced with me. Language exchanges, or tandems, are very popular in Spain. I didn’t participate in the actual exchange, because I arrived fashionably late. Cristina had already made my dinner an hour early at my request, so at 9pm I arrived at the meeting that had started at 8pm. I went over to some other latecomers and had a nice conversation with them. I got a first glimpse of how versatile the population of Barcelona really is. I was talking with a couple consisting of a Danish IT-guy with Lebanese roots and his Mexican girlfriend who is currently studying History and wants to find a job afterwards. They have been living in Barcelona together for a few years now. Suddenly we were interrupted by Annalisa, an Italian woman who has been living and working in Barcelona for the past 6 years. She’s amazing! We got along right away when she interrupted us with an unexpected question: Does anyone of you watch True Blood? Coincidentally, I had just watched an episode before I left for the meeting, so we started our own conversation straight away. We talked for the rest of the evening and she introduced me to some of her friends. It was a lot of fun!
Going back home was… challenging. I left the party together with Annalisa a little past 11.30 pm to catch the last train. I had to take three different metro lines to get to El Putxet. By the time I reached the second stop, it was five minutes past midnight and the metro closed. Shit! I tried to calm myself. No biggie. I’ll just take the night bus, called Nitbus in Catalan. It runs on a few routes all night long. Cristina had explained to me once which bus to take during the day and which one at night, but I hadn’t listened. I don’t like to take the bus, because I don’t know where to get off. Especially in a foreign city. I’m totally serious here, I rarely even take the bus in my own city for fear I might end up somewhere I don’t wanna be. In short, I wasn’t planning on taking the bus. Ever. But now, I didn’t have a choice (because I wasn’t going to splurge on a taxi). I walked around Plaça Catalunya at least 3 times before somebody could tell me where the N5 departed. In the meantime, I had discovered that the N5 was the one I needed thanks to an app, called Urbanstep Barcelona, that Xarli – someone I’d met at the CS meeting – recommended to me. Awesome! Anyway, the journey on the way up had taken me about half an hour, but the way back took me three times as long. Somewhere past one o’clock I could finally go to sleep.
The next day, Thursday, I wanted to go to Sitges, a little coastal town 20 to 30km outside of Barcelona. It has been recommended to me quite often, so I wanted to check it out. The only one who had something negative to say about it, was Xarli. He warned me that it is basically ‘gay party town’. Anyway, I followed these directions that I had found on the internet about how to get there – I even had timetables of the trains.
At 11am, I was on my way. I had to go to the Passeig de Gracia station and, according to the instructions, take the C2-train, which I thought was kinda strange. Then I found out why. This fucking train didn’t even exist!! There was nobody there to ask for help, so I thought about going to another station where trains left to Sitges. Guess what? I got on the wrong train. It happened twice before in Paris, but never before in London or Barcelona. I think the reason was because I was so tired. Which is partly my fault of course. I go to bed late, wake up early (because Cristina wakes up early and she sleeps in the room next to me and there’s a narrow wall between her bedroom and mine), I am constantly going everywhere, it is so hot 24/7 and just being in another country is exhausting. It’s only logical that I’d make mistakes. In the meantime, it had gotten too late to go to Sitges, because I had read somewhere that the last train to Barcelona left Sitges already at 4.30pm. Good, the trip to Sitges has been postponed to next week. During the weekend it will be too busy and besides, they’re expecting rain and thunderstorms. It’ll be better to stay home for a day and work on my bachelor thesis. I spent the rest of my day at Bogatell again and stayed there until I was on the edge of getting sunburned. Yes, I put on sunscreen mom.
Granted, since my mom left, I haven’t been to Starbucks anymore. Until today. My favorite summer drink – I tasted it for the first time while working at Starbucks this summer – is a lot less expensive here. I was so thirsty and really wanted a Cool Lime Refresha!
Just before I left the next morning, my first roommate arrived. Her name is Anjelica, she’s from Virginia and she’s a tiny dark skinned girl who’s taking a business program here until the Christmas holidays. My other roommate arrived later that day. I forgot to ask her for her name. I do know she’s from Arkansas, she’s in the same program as Anjelica. Apparently, they’re obliged to go abroad and Spain seemed most interesting to both of them (except for Australia, but that was too expensive). The ‘other’ roommate seems very American in terms of appearance and behavior. I’m sure you can imagine what that must be like. She doesn’t speak nor understand any Spanish; a bit like me when I first came to Spain 2.5 years ago. Anjelica understands what Cristina means from the context mostly, but she still has difficulty answering in Spanish. Compared to them, I am the most advanced right now. They were both very tired from their long journey and went to bed straight after dinner. I worked on my blog a bit, and the result is what you’re reading right now.
* Here you can listen to the song that inspired the title of this blog post. One of my Spanish professors from the UA made us listen to it last year and it kind of stuck with me. Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. It’s difficult to translate and capture the full meaning of the sentence at the same time. I’ll give it a try. While walking, there is no path. You make the path by walking. Basically, the path only exists because you made it. Compare it to a trail of footprints you leave in wet sand. The path is not in front of you, but if you look back, you see the one you made. I see my stay here in a similar way: nothing is going to happen until I make it happen. I may have to do a lot of walking. Hell, I will probably get lost and, consequently, I’ll have to retrace my steps and try another route. But it in the end, I’m sure it’ll all be worth it and it will not be useless.