We decided to visit Barcellona for our daughters. Andrea and I had already been there 3 times together… in 1997 for work, in 2001 for a soccer game, in 2003 to visit an Italian friend who was living there at the time. We had really good memories… but 15 years have past since our last visit. It seems like an entirely different era… before the invasion of overpriced entrance fees, smartphones and coffee franchises. Much has changed. WE HAVE CHANGED…
IS IT ME SEEING THIS BEAUTIFULLY ARCHITECTED CITY WITH OVERLY CRITICAL EYES OR HAS EVERYTHING ACTUALLY BECOME ABOUT THE MONEY, THE POSING and THE EATING? DOES EVERYTHG INCLUDING CULTURE HAVE TO HAVE A PRICETAG?
After our first night spent in a rundown, pricey camping area (especially since there was no hot water in the dirty containers called bathrooms, the water hose offered to fill our RV was broken, and the WiFi went more than it came) in a convenient part of town (which means it was only 300 meters from the metro), we began our self guided tour early the next morning at Park Guell, one of my favorite places. I remembered it as a fantasyland with its ‘gingerbread’ looking houses and mosaic tiled benches. One of my favorite photos was taken in front of the multi-colored lizard in the center of the entrance’s main stairway. I was excited to relive this with our girls.
But, as I said, things changed.
The once free to enjoy park now had an entrance fee: 8,50 euros per person. Eight and a half euros to visit a park that was currently 75% under contruction taking a bit of the fantasy out of the ‘land’. This obviously didn’t prevent the park from being flooded with tourists; many more than I remembered. There was actually a line to take a photo in front of ‘my beloved’ multi-colored lizard… as well as a wait to snap a memory in front of other selected Gaudi branded monuments…
no one other than I seemed to notice… everyone else was immersed in the absolutely insane, selfie mania!
After the park, we went on to Las Ramblas, Barcellona’s best known strip, La Sagrada Familia, Barcellona’s best known church… we visited the Gothic Quarter and the Old Port, we travelled the metro and roamed the main avenues in search of Gaudi’s other buildings which are magnificantly splashed around town (a Starbucks just strategically opened on the opposite corner of own of the most famous ones). We snacked on fried sweets and savory, spinach filled pastry and enjoyed the city’s mild, sunny weather… the girls had fun. We did also… but something didn’t feel right… underneath the fancy buildings, the edible delights, the energy of the tourists and the extremely pleasant weather… hmmm….
Take away the rose colored glasses and all I saw was that everything has actually become about spending money… eating a small order of french fries from Burger King while posing in front of the Sagrada Familia for only 3 and a half euro… 2 euro and 15 cents more than in any other ‘Home of the Whopper’…
what I saw was that people have become zombie-like, roaming the tourist attractions with their smartphones and credit cards always on hand….
Why don’t people visit foreign places anymore to learn, to explore, to become more worldly… more cultured? Why has travelling become all about the selfies… being able to instantenously post them on Facebook and Instragram in order show the world that they have been there, seen that… to appear more educated, worldly, cultured? Whether the snapshot is taken at the Placa de Catalunya or in front of a Desigual storefront doesn’t really matter. They are in Barcelona… where like any other tourist spot… purchasing their worldliness is made easy… 18 euro per person to walk up the Sagrada Familia, 55 per person for a hop on-hop off bus tour, 15 euro for a bad paella along Las Ramblas, 8 euro for a cup of Nesquik and a couple of churros served at a table facing the beach. Everything has its price and the farther you have travelled the more you are willing to pay. When you get home you will never wear that bag with Barcelona written all over it, and you definitely won’t know where to put the plastic statue of the Triumphal Arc that you couldn’t resist buying! Even the peddlers with their colorful clothing and fortunes to tell, the musicians with their YouTube Channels, and the street artists with their sales pitches have something irresistable to sell to you. All the time, everybody, both tourists and natives are breathing it all in with their heads down and their monitors on… whether you are strolling around the city streets, sipping a caffè con leche in a chic spot or riding the subway. Nobody talks, nobody looks, nobody really absorbs anything. No need to speak Spanish… there is no need to make contact with anyone at all, whether it is to learn something new or ask for directions. Why should you when Google offers all you need to know in one slight touch of the finger? Things sure have changed…
or is it only ME?
We were in Barcelona… beautiful as ever… but besides for what Gaudi has left behind it could have been any other city in the world… it could have been ‘home’ where even there we are accostumed to paying for our entertainment , posting our last meal and waiting for someone else’s reaction... this is the consequence when the entire world becomes connected and McDonalds, Starbucks and Pull & Bear become the main attractions.. when the adventure is taken out of the travel, travel is only accessible to those of us who can pay the price, and the ultimate goal is to receive a stamp on your passport and 100 or more Likes on your page.
love and besos,
Next post… we go off the beaten track… Looking foward to telling you about Marinaleda, a a small, independent town with a population of 3,000 located south of Cordoba in Spain… a town that cares more about social justice than economic growth! A town that will confirm that the smaller the city, the bigger the heart!