I’m off to Barcelona for a couple of days together with some friends of mine. My birthday is comin’ and I usually spend those days abroad. Often in Spain because of those first rays of sun that don’t spell spring but summer. For now it’s Spain but maybe next year or the year after that it could very well be Italy or even Greece. Just for change, but why change?
Soit, for now it’s still Barcelona. It has a lot to offer. I really like going there. I think it’s the 7th time, I’m losing count. Anyway, always just for a couple of days. I never spend a long time there. Maybe that’s why I like coming back. I’m a city person and Barcelona really is the city of cities - just as one can have a musicians musician but only this one is a very well known one, a real VIP.
I guess it’s the most complete city around and they know it and they know what to do with it. They practically invented city branding. Somethin’ every city today is keen about. One city does it better than the other but Barcelona was first and does it best. There’s an idea or a plan behind it. It’s not just marketing. It’s the result of almost 25 years of brave policy, of living for and working with the city. At first, just after the death of Franco, it was only just very basic stuff but gradually it got more advanced, experienced and daring. There’s always something new going on. They’re always looking and planning ahead.
They also have a thing with towers. Something some other cities are scared of. The city gets one landmark after the other. A while ago it was Foster’s Torre de Collserola and now it’s Nouvel’s sensational Torre Agbar. Almost all of them ad meaning to the city. In the way you experienced the city and certainly in the way you see and read the city. The skyline is lid by these beacons of light.
I’ve always lived in the city. Most of the time in an apartment building. Nice ones. I can’t imagine my life without it. Sure, I like spending time in the countryside, at the sea or in the mountains but it’s different. I really feel alive in the city. Any city. Off course I’m most of all attracted to the things that make’s one city unique or different from the next one and I have my favourites (Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul, Prague, Rio,…) but there’s also a basic quality that any major city has and which is almost a kind of generic feature. I can’t really explain what it is. I sometimes wonder whether it would be possible to simulate it in a studio like in that movie, the Truman Show. If everyone around you is a hired actor and just tries really hard enough, one can just sit, relax on a terrace in the middle of a setting underneath the sun with a little drink and image that one is part of city life. But than again one has to be able to wonder around too and get lost among crowds or empty streets, continuously discover new quarters, places and stuff. The sense of entering a unique place that nevertheless resembles so many other places. A sense that you’ve been there before although in fact, it’s the first time and probably also the last. It’s a strange sensation which resembles what the French situationists called detournement. An unsettling, even destabilizing sensation. Great movies can also have that moving, or even chocking effect. Shedding a different light on certain things. It’s off course very closely linked with the very act of traveling. Getting away from your normal habitat but in great cities you can have it almost any day, extremely loud and incredibly close. When you least expect it. Maybe 9/11 is also something like that. Changing the appearance of an entire city and the way one perceives it. No matter how cruel, it’s an act of pure (bad) genius but one, one can better live without.
For many people all of this can maybe be difficult or to hard to handle. That why so many people leave the city I guess, to live a more quiet life in the countryside. Maybe at peace. In don’t know. Maybe I should give it a try myself to see what it’s like.
In this sense, returning to Barcelona could very well be a kind of semi-religious or piteous act of believe in the city that I’m not aware of. Renewing the vows so to speak :-) I don’t know. Usually it’s rather a more bacchanal and wasted affaire I have to recover from afterwards.
I also have more personnel reasons for going back. I really have a love/hate affaire with Barcelona. I lost my first love to the city. She left for Barcelona with an exchange program called Erasmus, well known to most European students, and never came back. So maybe I still feel like it owes me, like for instance a new one. How silly, I know, but true.
So I’m off for some ace architecture, climbing yet unclimbed towers, watching some Easter Hanky Panky, walking the walk, talking the talk, shopping for shoes, having my way with great food, partying, drinking and loving the city, life and my friends. Tell me, what else does one need or want…