History of Barcelona
Barcelona is a town with a history that like a good Catalan red wine is both rich and dark. Its foundations stretch back to at least the 15th century BC, if not earlier. Like so much of ancient Europe the Romans founded the first semblance of the town we know today as Barcelona. In the centuries that followed Barcelona was invaded by many powerful groups of people including the Visigoths, the Moors and the Muslim ruler Al Mansur. Plundered, conquered, nearly destroyed and under siege for much of its life, it comes as no surprise that Barcelona is also a city with a particular penchant for civil rights and freedom. Where the fight for liberty, and some evidence of both local and national political justice and peace, would eventually lead to Barcelona becoming one of Spain’s largest strongholds for those who believed in the idea of anarchism.
In the most basic of essences anarchism is a system of political beliefs which dictates that a society (or group of people) will be free from laws, police, governments and other forms of imposing authority. Instead of this type of governed society anarchists feel that a libertarian culture should be founded around mutual cooperation and help amongst the members of the anarchist society.
When and what exactly planted the first seeds of anarchism in the people of Spain and the city of Barcelona is hard to say. Perhaps it was a result of the industrial revolution or a way of revolting against the stark rules and ideologies of Victorian Europe, not to mention the highly uneven distribution of wealth amongst the rich and the poor of Spain at the time. By the middle of the nineteenth century a visible anarchist movement had sprung up in Spain. At the turn of the twentieth century Spain had the largest anarchist community of any European nation, with the biggest following coming from Barcelona’s industrial workers, who in 1911 formed an anarcho-syndicalism trade union called the National Confederation of Trabajo, or the “CNT”. This union was the only one that was willing to take on members who were not qualified or able to join other unions.
On the whole, the ideals of the CNT focused largely on overthrowing the ruling Capitalists of Spain. Yet almost as soon as it was founded divisions sprung up amongst members of the CNT, some of whom took to radical acts and crimes that today would be classified as acts of terrorism. A large part of what the CNT and Spanish anarchism were about was demonstrating their opposition to the way that Spanish workers – primarily those in the lower classes of society - were being treated. Strikes and demonstrations, meetings and rallies were exceedingly common ways for the anarchists to show their stances and beliefs.
Towards the end of the First World War, and in the years that immediately followed, Barcelona was home to many strikes and protests against the ever-increasing rate of joblessness and the continual slashes in many workers’ wages by factory owners. During this time the memory of a tragic uprising in 1909 which saw 6 people killed, 1, 700 charged with crimes and five executed for their alleged involvement with the uprising – including Francisco Ferrer, a well known Spanish free-thinker – was still fresh in the minds of the people of Barcelona as this is where the event had occurred.
In 1934 the CNT had some 1.5 million members and by the time the Spanish revolution began in 1936 this number had grown even larger. While it is nearly impossible to sum up the events of the Spanish Civil War that followed in a few lines, it can be defined as a conflict between the left wing parties of Spain (including anarchists, socialists, communists, and some republicans) and the right wing Nationalist party which was headed by the infamous Francisco Franco. By the end of 1939 Franco was successful in overthrowing the current Spanish Republican government and creating his own dictatorship. Thus the right-wing side had succeeded in winning the three year long civil war.
The Spanish Civil war may have officially ended, but the Second World War was just beginning and Franco’s power in Spain was to remain strong for decades to come. The reign of Franco’s government would not be shaken until the 1970’s, however by this time a great deal of the country’s left wing groups and anarchist parties had either been destroyed during the second world war, transformed into other groups or disbanded on the whole.
In the past thirty years Spain has seen continual freedom and rebirth, albeit with some setbacks, which may be a large part of why membership in groups such as the CNT has greatly declined. However, at the same time the CNT continues to exist today, and Barcelona is still considered to be Spain’s “anarchist hotspot”. While many thing both tragic and positive have come from Spain’s long history of fighting, civil unrest and anarchism, one thing is for sure - the beautiful city of Barcelona will forever be a city with an unshakeable will of its own.
The Modern European City
If you are planning to visit Barcelona here are some helpful tips
- Visiting the old part (Barri Gothic Area) of the city is a must-see, yet in my opinion, the best parts of Barcelona are its contributions to 20th Century architecture.
- One must definitely visit all monuments left by famous 20th-century architect Antonio Gaudi; Parc Guell, Casa Miro, Casa Batlo, and most of all, the famous, unfinished Sagrada Famiglia Cathedral.
- Other definite monuments to be seen are the Palau de la Musica, The Maritime Museum, Picasso Museum, The Olympic Complex, and for the best nightlife of all, the Olympic Village.
If you are on holiday in Spain and are considering a day trips around Barcelona, here are some ideas:
Atrip to Salou, where one finds the magical theme park of Port Aventura. We spent 2 nights in the resort which adjoins the park, and booked this directly via the Internet. When I tried booking via my agent it was going to cost me 15% more. Hence, simply book this yourself since it’s very easy to do so.
Arriving to the destination is very easy since the resort and the theme park has a station located only 100m away from it. Whilst, Port Aventura may not be as large as DisneyLand Paris in size, it is said to have a certain atmosphere of adventure which the Parisian park lacks.
Other day trips worth considering are a visit to the wonderful Montserrat Mountains, as well as a visit to beautiful seaside resort of Stiges. You may acquire very advantageous day trip packages which include transportation, museum entrances, and lunch at the Tourist Information Office.
Besides buying a good guide book about Barcelona, I would suggest that you would log onto the Barcelona Tourist Information office website, and contact them asking for some literature. For a very small charge, they will send you very useful maps and guides which will definitely help you in planning your trip.
So Much Fun In One Day
The city of Barcelona, Spain, as all the Iberian Peninsula, has been clearly marked by its long history which dates to the Roman times. But what really left a deep impression and can still be fully appreciated today is what the Arabs left behind. Not only can you awe at the lovely cathedrals, temples and other buildings but you can feel it in the powerful, brave character of the people in Catalunya. The cities of Lleida, Girona, Tarragona and Barcelona make up the region called Catalunya and with it an extensive shore line which starts at the French border and goes mid-way down the Mediterranean until the Community of Valencia.
Having so much coast, Barcelona has not only been able to captivate tourism in the summer with excellent beach resorts, hotels and water sports, but also thanks to its cultural and architectural activities. One of the most outstanding sights that everyone wants to see when travelling to Barcelona is the Sacred Family or as many people know it even though they do not speak Spanish is the famous Sagrada Familia at the Placa de la Sagrada Square. Antonio Gaudi, a renowned architect started to build a church for the needy in 1883. He, together with other architects, worked on this project which was supported by donations from those who cared. In 1898 he decided that he wanted his masterpiece to one of the most original known up until then and changed the typical bell towers which were always square to be rounded off. He also added the Swiss cheese appearance to them. By around 1923, the chapel called Saint Joseph, the east facing and the crypt had been completed. It had been worked on vigorously up until Gaudi died in 1926 and therefore buried in the crypt designed by him. Since then all the bell towers and other parts have been completed but it still has not been finished. But all around the city you can find gaudi´s works: La Pedrera, Mila House, and the park Guell. But The Sagrada Familia is still one of the most impressive pieces of architecture ever seen.
A city full of Museums and Attractions
But if you are looking for more strong emotions, then head over to the Picasso Museum. This museum is shared between five medieval palaces which contain a nice overall view of his different phases. Therefore, it lets you travel from Malaga which was his home town to Paris, so well reflected in his paintings, to Russia and his captivating detailed ballet paintings and finally to Barcelona where he settled. This is an absolute must and even more interesting is that it is cheap and has long visiting hours to let you roam about, great public transport combinations and is found in the Cuitat Vella Parc. The Ciutat Vella (the beautiful city), was once the entire city of Barcelona until the end of the 14th century and was the principal and only surviving zones made up of four areas: The Gothic Neighbourhood, La Ribera, Las Ramblas (flowered promenade ) and the Raval. It is so easy to find and get there because there are four distinctive landmarks that lead us by the hand as if it were a famous framed picture. Using the Catalunya Square as its left frontier, you go straight down Las Ramblas Street until you see the impressive Christopher Columbus Monument towering over you as soon as you reach the edge of the port. Leisurely strolling towards the north in the direction of the Olympic Port you come across the Cuitadella Park. At this point turn left to feast your eyes on the emotive Arch of Triumph some blocks away. Within this enclosed circle of narrow cobblestone streets and typically set up shops, you are wrapped up in living history.
It does not matter if you are an avid Barcelona Football fan and know that this team is usually called ´Barca´, or just a visitor who wants to enjoy a good match, do not forget to pass by the Nou Camp football stadium to reserve or buy your tickets. Football season is usually between September and May.
The Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, as this area is referred to, has clean cared for beaches and caters to the tourist both inside the city as well as on the outskirts with a wide selection of accommodations. There chalets, semi-detached homes and apartments for rent or all kinds of hotels starting from a simple youth hostel, passing through a bed and breakfast type lodging to three, four and five star hotels. Whether you are going to be in Barcelona for a romantic honeymoon, just a quick weekend getaway, family holidays or a business trip, you can enjoy yourself in one way or another.
You will never be bored because the information available on Barcelona can be easily found on the net, through travel agencies, or going directly to a tourist information booth when you arrive at the airport. This information is offered to you in many different languages and is usually free. It provides the traveller with precise information about museums and other monuments (their prices and hours), temporary exhibitions, banks, entertainment, restaurants and shopping areas, the sorts of hotels and where they are all located on very simple maps.