Saturday, June 6, 2009

Barcelona, Day 2

A trip to Barcelona without taking in the fresh seafood is a mistake. So we had an excellent seafood dinner our first night at a beach-side restaurant filled with hustle and bustle and not all tourists. We were amused when a waiter brought a live lobster to the table of a couple who were indecisive about whether to order the lobster. They retreated to the menus and ordered salads instead.
For our meal, we wanted paella -- but not just the standard rice and fish sauce. We saw on the menu something called Arroz negre, or black rice. We of course love Korean black rice, so can Catalan black rice be much different? We ordered it, we ate it, and we loved it! But the rice itself was not black, it was white and covered with a purple-black sauce. Back at the hotel we Googled what we ate and learned that the black sauce is made from squid ink! Had we known that, we might have paused before ordering -- but just a bit.

The next day, on our way back to visit the main cathedral wearing modest but not unstylish clothing, we came across the Archives established in the 14th century. Today it is housed in one of the many palaces in Gothic Barcelona, many of which have wonderful courtyards inside. From this website it says a bit about the history of the archive:

[The archive] was created by a royal decision of Jaime II of Aragon in 1318. For centuries, it was considered a Royal Archive, the exclusive property of the monarch, and was housed in the Royal Palace in Barcelona until 1770. Along with the deeds regarding the Royal Heritage, government and legal documents were kept there, among them the series of records of the Chancellory. ...

The number of cabinets used to hold the deeds that were considered useful grew to 32, and four rooms were made available as a document deposit. The proto-notary saw to it that records, Parliamentary processes etc., were periodically deposited in the Archive, as stipulated. In addition, the collections of some houses of the Order of the knights Templar, which had been suppressed, archives confiscated from rebel nobles, and archives from estates acquired by the Crown, were also deposited, also by royal decree. ...

The archives are open to the public, and have on display many texts that are over 800 years old. Much of it is legalese, which is as exciting as reading contemporary legalese. The scribes of yore were careful what they put on parchment, unlike today's youth, most of whom don't even know how to use parchment unless a mouse is attached.

We made it inside the main cathedral --- the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia --- this time obeying the univeral sign of "worthyness;" though again we saw several people inside dressed in unworthy clothing.

And here is one of them. There is a lovely cloister next to the church that is home to a gaggle or two of geese. They appear to love the water and attention they receive from visitors, or perhaps they are just more ecclesiastical than the others.

The cathedral was built mostly in the 14th century, building upon roman ruins as well as an old Episcopalian church, the house of a bishop, and a necropolis. Underneath the cathdral is the tomb of Saint Eulalia, who was the inspiration. To be an inspiration for a cathedral means, of course, that you must have suffered the most extraordinary tortures imaginable, and the fate of Eulalia did indeed meet that criteria. Her "thirteen tortures" by the pagan Romans included being rolled around in a barrel pierced with knives, cutting her skin with hooks and thistles, ...

... having her breasts cut off, being hoisted on a X-shaped cross ...

... burning alive, and finally decapitatation. And when it was all over, a white dove flew from her neck, and snow fell on her dead body to cover her nakedness. I am glad I chose the path of engineering research.

We continued our torturous day of sight-seeing by visiting La Sagrada Familia, a church started in 1866, and continuing to be built today. Much of the inside is under construction, but the outside fascades, and the crypt are finished.

Aside from being an exemplary masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi, one of the more interesting parts of this church are its cracks. Here you see a piece of plaster attached over a crack on January 19, 2007, which itself has cracked and separated about a millimeter. I wonder whether this necessitates an unplanned flying buttress or two.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the fruit market we found the day before. We got a kilogram of strawberries, a 1/2 kilo of cherries, a mango, and a big slice of watermelon all for about 4 euros! We had to lug it back about two miles to our hotel, which was torture. But when we arrived it was pure bliss.

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