La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell

The Sagrada Familia is on another level of architecture than any other building I have ever seen.  Still under construction, the masterpiece of Gaudí is “on schedule” to be finished by 2026. By the time it is finished there will be 3 amazing facades: the Nativity (enter for baptisms), the Passion (enter for funerals), and the Glory (enter for weddings). There will also be 18 towers (12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Christ, and Mary) and will tower to 580 feet high. It will be the tallest church in the world and probably the heaviest too. They are slightly concerned of it collapsing the metro underneath it, but they are “pretty sure” they will have that figured out. I love the Spanish attitude evident in this whole project. Our tour guide was quite passionate about the project but was very relaxed about technicalities such as when and how things would happen. I understand their relaxed mindset, but it is so far from the American paradigm that I just had to laugh.

My favorite part about the Sagrada Familia was how very inspired by nature it is. The filtered light through the stain glass felt like it was coming through trees that the towering columns mimicked. It felt like an ancient forest of stone. It was simply fascinating the way Gaudí designed it.

Park Güell was our next Gaudí destination. Güell was a very rich family that often funded Gaudí and his work. The park was supposed to be a residence but it ended up as a beautiful public park. And it is gorgeous. It has a very effortless feel to it; as if it simply grew out of nature. I like to think that I experienced it the way Gaudí would have wanted me to, despite the huge crowds of tourists: sitting in the gardens sun bathing, people watching, and smelling the blooming flowers.

Even as I act as a tourist while traveling through Spain, I can see the unfortunate effects of tourism on cities, such as Barcelona, that are not capable of accepting the thousands of foreigners into its arms everyday. Park Güell, once a free public park, now charges admission fees to enter the main plaza surrounded by the famous mosaic fence. Locals must wait in lines to access a park that Gaudí declared in his will to belong to the people of the area. I have become more conscious of my impact upon the places I visit and try to be as respectful as possible, but I could only imagine how frustrating it must be for the people that live in these cities. Venice, for example, no longer houses actual locals as the price of rent has skyrocketed so much that nobody lives there except the tourists who visit. This creates a kind of fake reality that people visit. In a documentary (that you can find on YouTube) called Bye Bye Barcelona, it is mentioned that this kind of tourism can be incredibly destructive and is threatening to convert Barcelona in to a Venice-like city as well. I only hope that as we travel to other places to see these beautiful cultures, we remember that this isn’t Disneyland; there are actual people with actual lives trying to live in peace there.

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