Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and of Modernista architecture. I’ve just studied a little bit about the city, its history, and its relationship to the rest of the country in my class on Spanish society and culture, so it was great to be there in person and learn about some of its differences firsthand.
Barcelona stands out for its architectural variety, and especially for the prominent buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí. His most widely recognized work is La Sagrada Familia, which has been under construction for more than 130 years. I remember learning about the ambitious project in one of my high school Spanish classes, so seeing it in person was almost unreal. Gaudí’s unconventional style, which drew heavily from patterns in nature, was controversial at the height of his career, and debates surrounding the building continue today. The church is scheduled to be completed in 2026, a century after the architect’s death, and critics question whether Gaudí’s original intentions have been preserved after so many years. Regardless, the building has become a symbol of the city’s unique identity.
La Sagrada Familia wasn’t the only one of Gaudí’s buildings that I was able to see. While walking around the city, it’s easy to spot his works from their colorful mosaics and unusual shapes. I visited La Pedrera, an apartment building that he designed, as well as his famous Park Güell. I spent a good part of my weekend marveling at the city’s architecture, but it’s just one of many things that makes Barcelona distinct from cities like Oviedo. Right now a major political issue in the region is the question of Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Some groups in and around Barcelona feel that the region’s language, culture, and political goals don’t fit with those of the rest of the country, and I spotted many independence flags displayed in apartment windows.
On top of exploring the sunny Catalonian city and seeing some of Gaudí’s incredible works up close, I also ended up being there at the perfect time to get a little taste of home. My aunt, uncle, and cousin were in Barcelona for vacation, and they were generous enough to let me join their group for several tours (thanks again!). I also met up with a friend who is studying there for the semester, so I got to catch up with him and learn a little bit about what life is like as a student in a different part of Spain. So far I haven’t felt very homesick during my time abroad, so I didn’t realize how comforting it would be to see familiar faces. Being able to spend time with family and friends while staying in another beautiful city was the perfect way to recharge before heading back for a busy few weeks at La Casa de las Lenguas.
Back in Oviedo, classes have been picking up as we get ready for Semana Santa (like spring break in the U.S.) at the end of this month. This week I’ve been especially busy studying for various tests, but next week we all get a little bit of a break from our usual academic routine. Instead of going to class, we’ll be participating in cultural workshops with topics ranging from dance to photography to botany. As an ardent lover of food, I’m most excited about the workshop on Spanish cuisine!