Barcelona…part of Spain and yet not wanting to be anymore.  (Ok…no day 13…it was a sea-day…had to investigate more….wine. 🙂 )

2000 years ago the Romans built Barcelona and some of that remains to this day.  There are 4 native languages in this 2nd largest country in Europe (if you don’t include Russia) and a number of regions.  Catalonia is one and Barcelona is in that region.  Over the years Catalonia has had its own share of…difficulties, especially under the reign of Franco.  They have lost their language, their government and their culture (for a second time in their history) under his rule and finally, with his passing, have managed to regain those once more.

The first train in Spain (no comments please!) and the first industrial complex both were within Catalonia.  That was some 200 years ago and the wealthiest families lived and worked in the area and accepted they should pay more taxes.  Now the economic climate has evened out through Spain.  With approximately 1/6th of the population of Spain living in Catalonia they feel they should, realistically, be responsible for about 16% of the taxes.  In fact, they pay 37% of the Spanish taxes.  As little as 5 years ago, their VAT was only 5%.  Now it is 21%.

This has led to a massive support of a referendum, to be held next year (2014 being the 200th anniversary of when they lost their independence), to separate from Spain.  The Spanish government has in turn suggested that, should they attempt to separate, the military will be moved in to prevent the referendum.  Depending on how much further this situation escalates, Barcelona may not be a place to visit next year.

Some little known trivia tidbits…

An often shown video of the archer lighting the Olympic torch at the start of the Barcelona Olympic Summer Games, does not really highlight the fact that he missed.  The area in and around the stadium is very windy and he trained, shooting the arrow a thousand times, trying to hit the torch.  At the actual crucial moment of lighting the arrow came close, but the ignition was done by remote control…a button press by someone out of camera range.

A rather large office building (the Torre Agbar) in downtown Barcelona is home to the main water company of Barcelona.  It is politely referred to, by the locals, as the Suppository…due to its overall, rather distinctive, appearance.

Catalonian culture does not permit bull-fighting (which is rather prevalent throughout the rest of Spain).  They build human pyramids and so far, the largest has been 10 people high, the topmost person being a 10 year old boy.  Given that would be a total of 55 people, all on top of each other, dismantling is almost as difficult as creation.

Montserrat (which borders one side of Barcelona) means Serrated Mountain.  Given its very pronounced peaks and valleys, it is easy to see why.

The statue of Christopher Columbus, which was built for the International Fair that was held in 1888, now also contains an elevator to take visitors to an open view point just below the actual statue.  One year, a group of 4 got stuck near the top when the elevator quit working.  They eventually were plucked out by a crane 4 hours later.

La Sagrada Familia, one of Antoni Gaudi’s most recognizable (and yet unfinished) works, was started in 1882.  Two years ago, the Pope visited Barcelona and, wanting to have something very special to show him, work on the inside was fast-tracked.  With his visit and resulting interior (near 100%) completion also came a realization of how to fund the balance of the exterior of the building.  It now costs 15 Euros to go inside, but at least there is something to look at.

Eventually there will be 18 exterior towers of which 8 exist today.  The groups of second-in-height towers on the outside are 110 meters tall.  The tallest, that will stand in the middle of the structure, will be 180 meters.

La Sagrada Familia is now slated to be finished in 2026, marking the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  His crypt is in the building.

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