Barcelona: the sleeping city
My phone says its 35 degrees but the sweat dripping through my hair, down my forehead and accumulating beneath my 20kg backpack says otherwise. I’ve just stepped off the air-conditioned train into the haze of Barcelona. Steam rises from the rooftops of graffiti-covered buildings, from the rubbish littered footpaths and from cigarettes tucked under white moustaches.
As I leave the station the city is eerily quiet; there’s the occasional car, a taxi beeping, some animal squawking but where are all the people? I check my watch – 2pm. Oh yes, the Spanish love their siestas, something I had forgotten to factor into my itinerary. I pull out my itinerary notes:
Day 30: leave Sevilla via train and arrive in Barcelona. *map of accommodation location*. May need to ask for directions. Try churros!
The map seemed easy enough to follow and the accommodation was a street away from La Sagrada Familia so, optimistically, I set out. I tried to keep the map reading to a minimum – my mum’s voice comes into my head ‘never look as though you’re lost…it could make you a target’. A target for what? As though the giant blue backpack on my back and red backpack strapped to my front wasn’t bulls-eye enough.
The city walls were crawling with graffiti. Shop windows were closed, and doorways were covered by dusty steel roller doors. The great city was asleep, and not even snoring. After wandering aimlessly through the ghost town for nearly 2 hours I gave up – I committed the ultimate backpacker sin and set out to find a taxi. But even this seemed an impossible task. For the past 2 hours I had watched taxi after taxi come past, yellow light beaming just for me and I had let them go, determined to make this journey on my own. Backpacking on a budget left no room for taxis and so I had resisted. Now, when I had finally given in, the taxis had deserted me.
Finally, a taxi arrives, and I hail it down, throw my bags in and sit down. The blaring air conditioning immediately begins to cool the sweat on my neck and arms. “¿Me puedes decir cuando llegamos aqui?” I ask and point to my map. The taxi driver looks at me in confusion and begins to chuckle. I knew my Spanish was mediocre but was it really laughing-standard? I try once more “¿Donde esta La Sagrada Familia?” Again, a chuckle but this time with a reply ‘No speak Spanish’. The first thought in my head – ‘we’re in f*cking Spain!’ but I calm myself and try English: “can you please take me here? Do you know where this is?” Again, he smiles “Only speak Catalan.” Well that’s me done for. Four years of high school Spanish to come to the capitol of Spain and be speaking the wrong language, gracias Senora Goñzales.
The taxi driver begins driving as we talk, and I continually ask ‘La Sagrada Familia?’ He nods and keeps driving. Eventually he pulls up to a grassy park filled with people and nods at me smiling; his eyes tell me ‘we have arrived at your destination.’ Despite the church being nowhere to be seen, I figured it’s a change of scenery, so I hop out and grab my things.