When I visited Berlin a few years ago, I remember the exact moment I first saw the Brandenburg Gate. Rising out of the U-Bahn station on an escalator to see it greeting me, majestically appearing before me as the sun set around it. It may be a tourist hotspot but in that moment of pure awe and surprise, it was just me and this striking monument. Just me and a piece of history. The position of the underground station is truly superb and I can only imagine the colossal amount of people who have experienced that same blissful scene. I hadn’t expected to experience a similar feeling when I visited the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.
As much as I love taking photographs, I think sometimes it’s easy to become numb to beauty. Images almost always seem far better than reality. Social media is a prime example of that one; everyone only posts the best versions of themselves and sometimes to the point where filter after filter can make people look unrecognisable to real life.
I fear that eventually, the more manipulated photographs we see, we ignore all the little intricacies that make something so unique and beautiful in real life. This too applies to travel and seeing something like the Sagrada Família in person after seeing so many photos and other representations of Barcelona’s famous landmark.
In the end, photos have got nothin’ on this bad boy of construction. It truly is a must see. I really wasn’t prepared for the scale and the splendour that hit me as soon as I laid eyes on it’s intricate, gothic design. Me and Gavin decided to sit across the street in the park that faces the Sagrada Família. We sat there for a while in amazement as we watched this work in progress. I think you truly have to take a moment from afar and watch the construction of this UNESCO World Heritage Site unfold.
Unfortunately, we did get swamped by large groups of tourists who insisted on taking selfies in front us, blocking our view. And I’m really not exaggerating when I say we were SURROUNDED. There were cameras everywhere, and a few people where generally a little rude, standing on our bench just so they could get the best angle of their face. Photos are fine, we took our fair share of them, but I’m pretty sure not one of this group looked at the Basilica with their own eyes, and that’s a shame. So please, if you’re in Barcelona and visit the Sagrada Família, sure, be a tourist, take all the photos, but once you’re done, take a seat and just look.
Another incredible fact about the Sagrada Família is that is was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, who has also designed some of Barcelona’s most incredible architectural accomplishments. These include the art nouveau Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, with their distinctive colourful mosaic tiles and irregular windows. These buildings belong in a fantasy world of dragons and other mythical creatures. It’s as if they’ve been plucked from a children’s storybook and dropped in the centre of Barcelona. Another such imaginative creation by Gaudí, located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona, is Park Güell.
Park Güell is a sophisticated Disneyland for lovers of design that could easily be the setting for a post-modern fairytale. The park blends natural formations with whimsical geometric patterns and bright colours that really make this park feel like some sort of wonderland. You can tell that there are elements that could possibly symbolize political and religious ideas, but on the surface, Park Guell is almost mythical, and a great place to spend an hour or two channelling a childlike fascination. It’s a beautiful place. Just don’t let the array of people illegally selling cheap goods on the pavement ruin that fantasy.
That’s pretty much how I spent a few days in Barcelona. It was brief but I managed to see many wonderful pieces of architecture, eat some great food, and had a lot of fun people-watching.
Barcelona, I’m sure I’ll see you again some day.