In the end blogging opportunities didn’t really arise for the rest of the hols, but it left me with loads of ammunition, and, having stepped back in to the predictable shit-storm here at work after two whole weeks away, I think I would rather talk about times just past that work for a while anyway, so here goes.
A tale of two cities.
Barcelona and Firenze
(Why do Anglophones have such difficulty calling for’n places by their proper names? It’s hardly difficult, and it has a Z in it. I like Z’s so there….)
We had a trip out to each on days four and six respectively, and I was left with the following impressions, having never been to either before. Oddly, both cities seem to trace their origins back to early Imperial Rome or there abouts, but they couldn’t be more different.
Barcelona, from my admittedly very touristy prespective, is a brash noisy kaleidoscopic place that owes much more to Gaudi, Picasso and Joan Miro than to the Romans or any intervening cultures. Ok, there is a gothic quarter, with a very grand cathedral, and geese, but the whole city is dominated by the building site that will be Sagrada Famiglia as and when it gets completed.
And what a weird building it is. I can’t help but feel it has been wrecked before it is even completed (and that is still a projected 40 plus years away). The thing is the bits that Gaudi did before his efforts were cut short by a fatal encounter with a tram, all look very organic, with forms taken from nature. There are very few straight edges to be seen and motifs of plants, lizards and fruit combine bizarrely with the biblical images of annunciation, birth and redemption. At the other end of the building some cubist monster has reconstructed the passion all angles and boxes. Now I know I’m getting a bit old and set in my ways, but this mish mash of styles just didn’t do it for me. It’s almost as though the good burghers of Barcelona all went out one night after realizing they had to come up with one arm of their spangly new showpiece cathedral and got the least sober of their fraternity to draw up the plans on an etchasketch.
That said, the “Spanish Village” atop Mount Juic takes tourist kitsch and turns it into art. In one small “village” they have recreated buildings and landmarks from all over Spain, and turned them all into little retail outlets selling marvelous glass, wood and sundry other artifacts (along with killer green apple slushies).
And the whole town abounds with architecture, sculpture and art from the likes of the aforementioned artists, and even Roy Lichtenstein gets a look in with his surreal “Head of Barcelona” sculpture.
I never did Acid as a student, but I get the feeling, having seen Barcelona, I now know what I was missing.
Firenze couldn’t be more strikingly different. A city of high renaissance splendour set out on a grid that would probably have been familiar to its Roman founders. The “wedding cake” Cathedral and churches, clad in particoloured marble, seem to pop up round every corner. The statuary of Michelangelo Buonarroti ( I never even knew he had a surname before…. Duh!) and his rivals and near contemporaries dominate the main square of the city or Piazza Signoreia (ok I know they are all copies now, but they are none the less striking for that) seemingly unchanged since they were first given life by their sculptors. In short the Medici would feel at home if they were zapped back into being there tomorrow. And they’d probably do something about that funny looking policeman with the ponytail too. Call me old fashioned, but if a copper is going to “pack heat” he should at least be man enough to go for the crew cut look as well.
That about wraps it up for this installment. More to follow when time permits….