Zero: the number of foreign countries that I had ever visited before coming to Switzerland. Three: The number of countries I have visited (or lived in) so far by the time that I am writing this. Four: The number I will have reached by the end of this week when I head to another famous European destination! Compared to the “Pierre” I was before leaving the US, I am definitely on my way to becoming a voyageur mondial (global traveler)! This is far from being an actual title I can claim, I still have some other continents to get to, however it certainly feels this way, being so new to this whole traveling thing. After coming back from Italy during my Spring Break, I spent one day back in Switzerland before hopping on a plane to Barcelona!
I had quite a different experience in Barcelona compared to Italy, just from the standpoint of language. In Italy, I did not know a single word of Italian, which made me feel bad every time I needed to ask someone for English, and even worse when I was on a train and had no idea how to say “excuse me” or “I’m sorry!” However, after having a single year of Spanish combined with my French, I did pretty well in Spain. As Barcelona is in the Catalonian region of Spain, the people speak both Catalan and Spanish. Luckily, I was able to meet up with a friend I met at Richmond who comes from Barcelona and did a semester of exchange at U of R. She helped me out with some key phrases that I would need to know as well, and explained to me the language. She said that Catalan sounds like Italian, and has a lot of influence from the French language, such as some of the letters and even words, since the region is so close to the French border. Luckily, she also spent a great deal of time with me, showing me some of the streets and main areas that tourists would not normally go down on their own. In the sunlight, it was so easy for me to fall in love with such a beautiful place very quickly, when looking up around me and seeing the narrow streets lined by buildings with terraces and plants coming down from them, walking into a main square and seeing a group of people start performing a dance show, and then being introduced to the main tapas dishes of the region.
My guide also explained to me one of the most notable features of the architecture in Barcelona. The modernist style is unlike anything I had ever seen before. Just like my friend told me, it is something you just have to see, and not anything that is easily explained, but with the help of my friends at Wikipedia I will attempt. The movement began towards the end of the 19th century, and combines very rich, ornate decoration and detail, while preferring curves over straight lines. One of the most famous sights in Barcelona, the Basilica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, designed by one of the most renowned modernist architechts, Antoni Gaudi, was designed and meant to feel like a forest on the inside, for example. Still unfinished, it was one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen!
Among other things that we did in Barcelona, aside from just seeing amazing architecture, I also got to tour the Olympic park where the city hosted the summer Olympics in 1992, in addition to finally seeing the beautiful Mediterranean Sea for the first time! While I know I am still so far away from being able to call myself a world traveler, it certainly is beginning to feel like it, having been exposed to two fairly different countries within the same week. Despite all the excitement of the travels, I still get beyond excited when I return to Switzerland, and feel back at ease with the language and get back to the certain degree of familiarity I have with what is still this foreign land. But in any case, the travels shall continue, so stay tuned for what is to come!