Montjuic, translated as Jewish mountain, is a hill situated not far from the centre of Barcelona overlooking the harbour. A funicular train ride connects the mainland metro station to the hill. From here a cable car takes us the rest of the way to the top. At the top of the hill is the Montjuïc Castle. A number of fortresses were constructed here and now only the Montjuïc castle remains. The castle played an important part in the Spanish civil war between 1936 and 39. Political prisoners from both sides, republicans and nationalists, were imprisoned, tortured and executed here.
Back at the base of the cable car ride and a short walk from here is the Joan Miró Foundation centre. A Spanish artist who was born in Barcelona, Joan Miró’s collection which is explained as surrealism is displayed here. Early in his career he was influenced by Van Gogh and Cézanne. The artwork we see is here is more Picasso and cubism. I can’t seem to follow or enjoy it. In one room there is a couple of giant canvases with just a scribble on it and I see people sitting and gazing into it. One girl looks quite forlorn and I wonder what she is thinking, surely she is not trying to decipher the meaning of this scribble or contemplating the meaning of life. It is quite bizarre. I almost give up when I see a giant tapestry work hanging on a wall. A joint venture with Joseph Royo, it is titled ‘Tapestry of the Fundació’ and I am taken aback. It is pretty spectacular. I later read that one of his tapestries were hanging in the WTC during the 9/11 attacks and is one of the most expensive artworks destroyed as a result. I also find a number of his paintings on the internet which I enjoy but not at this exhibition. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.
A little further along the Olympics stadium where the 1992 games were held is situated. Built in 1927 it fell into disrepair before being renovated for the games. Concerts, football matches and other sporting activities have been held here since,
Not far from here is another national monument, the National Art Museum of Catalonia. It is one of the largest museums in Barcelona and also offers breathtaking views from its roof terrace of the city. After lunch we find ourselves a little bit lost and walking in the wrong direction. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we ended up quite close to the the last private residence that Gaudí was commissioned to build before he gave his full concentration to the Sagrada Família.
Casa Milà or La Pedrera is another one of Gaudí’s impressive creations. Described as a huge wave set in stone with swept up algae that has become entangled to resemble the balconies it is another one of Gaudi’s creations which have been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Our journey in this building starts at the courtyard where once again the columns resemble the trees in the forest and the wings of insects cover the sweeping stairwell. Next stop the roof terrace where the chimneys and ventilation towers are cleverly disguised into different forms sitting atop an undulating surface. ‘Undulating’ is a term that I hear repeatedly throughout as I listen to the audio guide.
The attic gives the impression that we are in the belly of a giant whale and its rib cages surround us. Gaudí was way ahead of his time when he designed his buildings. The strength of the house is not provided by the walls but by the columns, which is able to hold the large volume of the roof terrace and attic. He also believed in having the houses flooded with natural light which he was able to do effortlessly. Everything was designed with nature in mind and you get the feeling that you are standing in a giant sculpture rather than a traditional house when you are in one of Gaudi’s creations. The tour ends with a walk around some of the apartments which are kept in the style it was a century ago. As I leave the building and look back, I realise that once again words cannot describe the beauty of this unique building.