Best. Weekend. Ever?Barcelona, Summer 2011

Sunday night I felt like a million euros- I had possibly one of the most productive weekends without even starting my homework.

Más que un club.

Thursday after class an amiga and I went to Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona Stadium.  The stadium feels like it's part of a campus of stadiums for multiple Barça teams (basketball, skating, volleyball, etc), so it actually took some effort to find THE stadium. In the museum part of the stadium we got to look at memorabilia including some funny looking hats, cleats (if you can even call them that) and jerseys while reading about the history of the club.  Lining the walls of the museum are countless cups, trophies the club has won over the years.  Even if you’ve never watched a Barça match, I’m sure you can appreciate the history and tradition behind this team.  It’s pretty incredible.  To say Barça pride runs deep would be an understatement.  Here futbol fanaticism seems to go hand in hand with Catalan pride, magnifying the importance of this club.  Barça fans hail from around the world, not just in Barcelona or Cataluña.  This is a global phenomenon and the stadium is its hub. After getting a glimpse into the club’s history, complete with touch screens, video clips, biographies, world cup trophies and so forth, we saw the press-room and locker-room, which was surprisingly minimalist.   A brief walk past the team chapel (yes, chapel, just a few meters from the entrance to the field) and we were entering the actual stadium. Walked up the stairs to the pitch like a pro and looked out onto the perfectly flat and brilliantly green field below a rings of blue and red seats - dope.  If the intense fanaticism of Barça fans didn’t make these soccer stars feel like gods than the feeling you have on that field definitely must.  I was tempted to throw on my cleats and kick the old pelota around for a bit but I’m pretty sure the friendly staff at Camp Nou would not have been too pleased. The stadium holds almost 100,000 people and is absolutely roaring come game time (in the museum you can put on headphones that simulate the sounds of a given match- I don’t recommend it for those with sensitive ears).  On one side of the stadium the seats read “FC Barcelona” and on the other “Més que un club”.  The latter is the the franchise’s motto- and my favorite part of the museum was learning about it’s origin.  The phrase (written in Catalan in the stadium) is Más que un club in Spanish, or more than a club and was coined by former club president Narcís de Carreras during his acceptance speech.  The slogan captures this franchise perfectly.  There is no denying that this is más que un club.

City on Fire.

After the visit to the stadium it was about time for the festivities to get underway for the eve of Dia de San Juan- a celebration of summer where everyone is a pyromaniac for a night.  I went to the beach where my friends and I were expecting to find a scene similar to those on the 4th of July with lots of people gathered for a fireworks show.  Instead we found ourselves amidst what was essentially a giant nighttime beach party where everyone sets off their own fireworks wherever and however they want.  To add to the excitement there are people (mostly kids) who throw firecrackers at people’s legs on the beach and on the streets.  And what’s more- this is completely socially acceptable.  Your first reaction when you see a 6-year-old setting off a firework a yard away from you is to give a judgmental and dismayed look to their parents who are standing right there.  But you’ll realize that you’ll find no sympathy in the parents’ eyes- in fact they’re the one’s supplying the matches and fireworks over and over again.    I’m happy to report that I returned home with all of my extremities and both of my eyes in tact.  

Do you believe in magic?

Next awesome part of my weekend was going to Montjuic to see La Fuente Mágica (Magic Fountain) show.  Every Friday and Saturday night the fountain has shows which incorporate colorful lights, music and water choreography.  I’m from Chicago so I thought I knew a thing or two about fountains (we’re home of Buckingham Fountain- one of the largest fountains in the world…no big deal), but Barcelona kind of showed me who’s boss on this one.  The displays are pretty sweet.  

I wanna go HIGHER.

Saturday a group of friends and I took the commuter train about an hour outside of Barcelona to hike up Montserrat (the peak of which is about 4,000 feet above sea level).  The mountain is home to a monastery that attracts many tourists.  Its common to take the cable care up the mountain to get to there but as a healthy, active 20 year old I was not about to settle for a cable car.  I was gonna to go hard in the paint and get to the top with my own two (albeit short) legs.  After asking directions from a friendly Spaniard at the train station, I lead the way as we embarked on our adventure up the mountain.   Conveniently, we had chosen the hottest day yet to take on this task- 85 and brilliantly sunny? Awesome. The path up the mountain was occasionally marked with slashes of paint on rocks letting us know we were going the right way.  As the first one up I was the guinea pig, first to traverse the various landscapes of this trail.  The route involved narrow lines of pebbles between brush and rocks, as well as wider clear paths, spiraling stairs between shrubbery and at times I found myself in front of a wall of rock which needed climbing.  I took on each challenge of this adventure with relentless, camp counselor-esque enthusiasm.  The path requires me to weave through thorny bushes? Sweet.  I have to scale this wall of rocks? Bring it.  There’s 7 gazillion flights of stairs to climb? I’m sprinting them.  Why not? I’m already sweaty. [caption id="attachment_27908" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mid-hike on Montserrat."][/caption] Part of my can-do attitude on this seemingly challenging hike was merely an expression of my natural disposition as well as a desire to boost the moral of the group of 9 girls who were following me.  If the first domino starts to tip, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the line. While the hike had its challenges, the scenery was incredible.  As an athletic and generally gym-going person, I am no stranger to physically challenging activity, but when I’m pushing myself with planks or on a run, usually the scenery does not include breath taking views of Spanish mountains, valleys and rivers. If the hike itself wasn’t leaving me a bit winded, every time I took a break from making sure I wasn’t about to trip over something, I’d look up to have my breath taken away.  I'm a Midwesterner so mountains are a somewhat foreign concept to me and I’m pretty enthralled by them.  So high, so peaceful, so perfectly imperfect and so not man made.  

Church on Sunday…at Sagrada Familia.

Transitioning from the great outdoors back to the man-made world, there’s few better suited to facilitate this than Antoni Gaudí, who incorporates a lot of natural elements in his architecture.  So like any good Jew I went to church last Sunday…at the Sagrada Familia, one of the most iconic places in Barcelona.  Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most well-known works, yet it's still not finished.  I would call it the never-ending construction project (its been under-construction for over 100 years), but here they more commonly refer to it as a landmark. Gaudí’s reputation for incorporating nature into his work is pretty well known, and upon entering Sagrada Familia its clear why.  You feel like you’re in a gothic church in a forest.  Whether you’re feeling the somewhat over the top style of the church or not, I think Sagrada Familia can be universally appreciated as a pretty incredible structure and work of art. Inside Sagrada Familia. Soccer, magic, history, physical activity, nature and art.  Last weekend will be hard to top.
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