Friday, 31 May 2013

Barcelona – Casa Batlló II., Inside the house

Even though what we think of the facade has been left to our imagination the inside of the house gives us a clear image: being under water. There are hardly any straight lines inside the house to mimic the waves and every little detail supports this fantasy.

This is the entrance where you can get your audio guide, luckily it is included in the ticket. It looks like any normal entrance but have a look at the door behind the ladies.

This is the room where you can find the grand staircase that leads up to the living quarters. Let’s stop here for a second.

I have to admit I’m not sure what these urns are for but they look very similar to the ones I found in Casa Vicens.

And the staircase. It definitely looks like a dragon’s spine. With this house Gaudí wanted to provide the inhabitants with many sensory experiences, not only for the eyes but also for the touch. Notice how the shape of the bannister moulds around the hand.

Have a look at the ceiling. There are no edges and corners, even the colouring of the ceiling gives us the illusion of the sun reflecting back from the water. The circular windows look like bubbles.

After you walk up the staircase you arrive to this smaller room. Even though it´s not big in size it has lots of things to take note of. Have a look at this fireplace. For Gaudí, function was not a thing that would limit his imagination. He made this little niche in the wall mushroom shaped. Apparently the fireplace was intended for young couples and their chaperons where they could have a more intimate but still supervised meeting.

You can even have a photo with him!

Notice that above the door there´s a light shaft. Gaudí used many techniques to let as much natural light into the house as possible by devising all these little tricks. When looking at the doors you notice the colourful circles straight away. They are designed so that they are a different shade according to the time of the day. And another little curiosity: they have different colours on one side than on the other!

He paid a lot of attention to air ventilation and used these slits to assist it.

Even the surface of the doors is not flat.

Some other details of the house.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the famous reception room on the first floor.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Barcelona – Casa Batlló I., the facade

Even though I have been lucky enough to visit many of the famous sites of Barcelona I have to admit I have been putting off writing about them. They are so daunting and there’s so much to write about. Today however I will make a start on it, starting with Gaudí’s famous Casa Batlló.

At the beginning of 1900’s the habitants of Barcelona enjoyed great economical growth. The city was growing as well and it was decided that the wall that the Romans built around the city had to be knocked down to allow the city to spread. As suddenly there was plenty of space the rich people of Barcelona started to buy up big areas of land that were still close to the city and build nice big houses. This is how Passeig de Grácia was born.

The Batlló family was amongst these rich families who had a house on the new land. This is how it looked originally.

They wanted something a big more exciting, however. They asked Gaudí to make some changes to it. Gaudí worked on the house for 2 years and he managed to make it WAY more exciting than it was before.

Before I launch into the story of the façade I’ll quickly tell you something interesting. At that time people were convinced that the best part of the house to live in was the first floor. They didn´t have to climb too many stairs, it wasn´t too hot in summer and wasn’t too cold at winter, so it seemed like the perfect floor to live on. This is why on all those houses that were built at that time the first floor balcony is the most lavishly done, has the biggest windows and satisfies an important social aspect: to see others and be seen by others. When you walk on Passeig de Grácia, and generally in the inner city, keep an eye on the houses to see this phenomenon for yourself.

Usually the ground floor was a welcoming area and a grand staircase lead to the living quarters. When the family wasn’t too big they let out the second and the third floor to others, and the top floor, or the penthouse, that now would be the most expensive part of the house, left for the servants.

Nobody really knows what Gaudí wanted to envisage with this house. It is so colourful and unusual that there are many theories that circle around about it. According to one he got the idea for the façade after the carnivals that used to process in front of it. You can see the many colours that remind us of falling confetti and the balconies look like masks. Some say that the front looks like a big pond where the balconies represent water lilies, and there´s a connection mentioned with Monet´s garden. Have a look at the painting and compare them, what do you think?

The most popular theory (the one I like the best) says that the house looks like a huge dragon, perhaps it is a reference for Saint George, Barcelona’s adored patron saint. If you look at the roof, it clearly resembles a dragon’s hide with the scales sticking out of it, and the blobs on the edge look like its spine. The balconies represent the skulls of the people the dragon ate and the grey columns look like bones. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine that the first floor represents the belly of the beast. This why many locals call it the Dragon or the Bone House.

I have to walk in front of Casa Batlló every day and I never fail to look up and admire the house. I admire Gaudí and he was a genius but I also admire the people of Barcelona who were happy to ‘let him loose’ and come up with ideas so strange and so radical at that time and make a house like this.

I could hardly wait to go inside and finally yesterday I made it happen. I will continue the description in the next few blogs. Until then, enjoy the photos of this amazing house.    

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Camino Ronda – From Cadaqués to Rosas

The Catalan coast that runs from the French border to just outside Barcelona is the Costa Brava, or ‘Wild/Ragged Coast’. The coast boasts excellent climate, rich fauna and beautiful beaches therefore it is an extremely popular tourist destination with Spanish and foreign people alike. It is due to this that tourism became the primary economic business and fishing that was the main source of living before, became secondary. Still, some of these villages managed to retain some of their charm and have not given in fully to the tourists.

Because of the geographic situation of the area, people used boats for travelling between the villages or simply walked. At the end all these little trails were connected together and Camino Ronda (GR-92) was born. The path runs along the whole Costa Brava and its length is about 220km. It is well marked and takes you to little coves and through countless perfect bays. On foot you also have the option to explore inland whenever you prefer and if it gets too hot you can stop for a dip in the crystal clear water for a dip.

We only did a small part of the Camino Ronda, the 22km stretch between Cadaqués and Rosas. It took us about 6.5 – 7 hours altogether. It was a very long walk, probably the longest of our lives. Instead of boring you with the details of all the 7 hours I will show you our experience in pictures.

We went there in the perfect time of the year as all the flowers were in bloom and the hills were covered with colourful patches. The walk was not flat, we went up and down many times and discovered perfect little hidden beaches one after the other. We caught the last warm rays of the sun on the beach of Rosas. As Paul said, every walk should finish on the beach. Couldn’t say it better. 

At the end of the long walk.