The one unique thing that links all humans throughout the ages is the need to surround ourselves with beauty. We might perceive it differently, use different materials and colors… but the drive to see the beauty and to create it, seems to be integrated with our humanity. That’s the reason why I love to go and see new places created by humans – even though I generally prefer to be surrounded by Nature. I especially love to just wander around old towns, narrow streets with houses tired with old age.
Visiting cities is not easy to me, as there are always people there and the human presence is the main trigger of my anxiety. I can’t fully relax or not be self-conscious when there others walking in my vicinity… I try to fight it by focusing on what I see, on the neutral walls and stones who don’t care about me or my worries. But it is still worth the anxiety – to see all the beauty around me.
To walk on stones polished by thousands of feet before me, look at architectural details that are foreign to me but which someone patiently created – first in their mind, then by hand – is such a privilege. I might not know the names of the particular architectural forms or ornamental details but it does not stop me from enjoying their shape. I rarely care much about what a particular building’s history was – although I do read all information provided. But it’s always secondary – first is simply me versus the shape.
When I visit a new place I have a general idea of the “must see” places and sometimes I even have a vague plan in my head, but most of the times I forget about it anyway and just go… turn left and right whenever something catches my eye. It’s always almost by chance that I bump into a famous building or another “must see” and realize it’s the one from my guide. But when I find it by chance somehow it’s nice, as if I were the first person to discover it.
And so my wanderings through the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona were haphazard, chaotic and random. I am not sure what some of the buildings are, what their names are… But I still love the way they look, the texture of the stone they are built of, the way light hits their windows or the unique turn of stairs against the clear vertical lines.
The one place that caught my attention, though, was the old Jewish Quarter. Being Jewish myself, it is natural to be drawn to the bits and pieces of history of my people. The history of Jews in Spain is quite dramatic – there are beauty, growth, unbelievable heights of human achievement is academics, poetry, and philosophy – but there is also hatred, persecution, death, and banishment. There wasn’t much to see – 500 years after forced eradication of Judaism and the Jews from the land it’s hard to expect much. But I am eternally grateful to people who try to preserve whatever is left. To not hide painful past but to show it as it was.
I visited the Gothic Quarter twice – at the beginning and at the end of my two weeks stay in Catalonia. In between those visits, I trekked through the beautiful Catalan Nature and walked through a few other small, old towns. This is the reason you will see different weather and light in the photos. I don’t have to say that visit to the Gothic Quarter is “a must” – all guides to Barcelona will tell you that. But I advise you to drop the clear trails from one point of interest to another – and just wander around, discovering them by yourself.
I truly loved wandering through the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. It was a bit crowded but I can’t blame the tourist to do exactly what I was doing – to see the old charm of this city. If you have the time, try and go for a walk through other districts of Barcelona, like the Gràcia, for instance. It was my first visit to Barcelona but I hope to come again – I really liked the architecture and the feel of the city. I am in love with all the balconies protruding from every building and all the ways the tenants add their own personality to them – through decorative plants, art, and trinkets.
Have you been to Barcelona? Have you had a chance to wander through the Gothic Quarter? What were your impressions? Do you enjoy visiting cities or do you avoid it?