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The Great Gaudi Treasure Hunt

SPAIN | Wednesday, 25 May 2011 | Views [1970]

Casa Batllo, #7 on the Great Gaudi Treasure Hunt

Casa Batllo, #7 on the Great Gaudi Treasure Hunt

Antoni Gaudi is probably Barcelona’s favorite son and you can find many of his best creations here.  Some are famous and easy to find.  Others are more obscure.  But Connie has mapped out a strategy for us to see them all.  We could probably rush around and see them all in a day but we decided to take our time and make a game of it – The Great Gaudi Treasure Hunt.

After two weeks on the ship it felt good to be out walking, even in a city.  La Ramblas is the Champs Elysees of Barcelona and is a great walking street, tree-lined and upscale.  Strange as it seems our best city map is sponsored by Mac Donalds, so our landmarks are golden arches and metro stops, which will make the hunt a bit more difficult.  But our first find, Palau Guell, is just across the street from our hotel.  Guell was Gaudi’s chief benefactor and his name will keep popping up.

We had to hike three miles each way to reach Park Guell.  The park contains 15 acres of Gaudi at his natural best, with caves, tunnels, arches and bridges in his dribbley sandcastle style among a labyrinth of winding, climbing pathways.  The park was originally planned as an upscale housing development but only two homes were ever built.  Gaudi himself lived in one, now a museum, from 1906 until his death twenty years later.  On the way back we wandered through un-named side streets not shown on our map looking for Casa Vicenes, another unmistakable Gaudi design.  Today’s score: 3.

The plan for Day 2 included four sites that Connie believed to be part of a World Heritage Site.  They were some distance from La Ramblas and scattered about so we elected to take the metro.  We found Finca Guell near the University metro stop without too much trouble.  It was originally a farmhouse owned by, you guessed it, Sr. Guell.   It is open only on weekends for guided tours and is now guarded by a ferocious dragon.  We had to ask directions to the next site, Port Finca Miralles.  All that remains is the wall and the entrance to a former farm, now an upscale apartment complex, with a statue of Gaudi, himself.  After more walking we stumbled upon Collegi de las Teresianes.  It is now a private school where we were reminded it is illegal to photograph the children.  

Torre Belleguard was the most distant and required a taxi ride and a long, uphill hike with great views of the city.  Halfway up the hill we could see construction cranes on the hilltop and decided a long-distance photograph with my telephoto lens would count as proof and save us many steps.  As it turned locating a metro station for the ride home was more difficult than finding any of the sites today.  Friday’s count = 4.

When Connie checked online she realized that the Gaudi buildings we saw yesterday weren’t World Heritage Sites after all, just some of his more obscure structures.  But we added another on our way to the train to Figueres on Saturday.  Casa Batllo is one of the more famous of his buildings, the last one he started and the final one finished.  Guided tours of the interior cost 14 euros, a bit more than we were willing to pay.  Total so far: 8.

Casa Calvet would be hard to identify as a Gaudi creation, but not so Casa Mila.  It now houses offices and apartments and I shudder to think what the rents must be.  These are the last two we have to find before the ultimate, La Sagrada Familia.

We saved the best for last, La Sagrada Familia, The Sacred Family.  Gaudi began construction of this cathedral in 1881 and was still working on it when he was run over by a streetcar in 1926.  Nearly 100 years later and it’s still a work in progress!  I wonder how Gaudi planned on building La Sagrada Familia at a time before construction cranes.  It seems that he would have set aside a few centuries or more.  The unemployment rate in Spain is the highest in Europe but the few lucky enough to be working on this project will have jobs for life.

We had thought to view the inside of the cathedral but the long lines changed our minds. Three or four people deep, the line stretched around the block, more than one hundred meters long.  And that didn't include the tour groups.  The inside must have been mobbed. All together we accounted for 11 works by Gaudi.

Post Script 31 May, 2011

Who knew?  We stumbled upon yet another Gaudi creation here in Leon.  "Bolines" doesn't look much like his other works but that doesn't mean we can't count it.  Number 12!



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