Monday, 16 May 2016


After sleeping in to recover from 3 days of Grand Prix hours, we opted for a quiet day visiting the Montjuic hill (pronounced "mont-jweek"). The metro station 1 stop south of us connects to the funicular that goes up the hill.
The funicular
At the top, you can walk the next 90 vertical meters to the summit, or take the cable car, which was like riding the gondola at Sunshine.
At the start
There's even a curve station
At the top of the hill sits a castle, which has been there in some form or another since ~1600, though the main fort seen today was built around 1775. On a hilltop overlooking a city, it seemed an obvious place to build a lookout and a defensive fortification, and since the early days it has gotten bigger and bigger, and been used for things other than defense. It was used in the 1800's on several occasions to bombard the city itself. It was used as a prison from the 1940's to the 1980's. There were people executed there. It's history is rich and varied and bloody -- and today, it houses and International Centre for Peace. Fitting, I think. (Note: all the guidebooks I have say castle admission is free; it actually costs €5 per person)
The dry moat approaching the entry bridge
Ivy covered walls
The entryway
Like all good fortresses, come in the front door and you have to split your forces
Towers on the ramparts
Monuments in the moats
A ravelin. Surrounded by moats, a defensive position that supports the hornworks
Extended observation post
Walls of the interior barracks build in the 1850's
The front main basition
More interior walls
The interior barracks the fort tries to protect
The entry bridge. Drawbridge at right
The watchtower.
Built to watch for bad guys sailing in
Interior hallways of the garrison
More interior hallways
The stairs to the rooftop
The watchtower itself
Corner garrisons
So as mentioned, this castle is now an International Centre for Peace, and there's an art exhibition on called The Flowers of Peace that turns the fortress into flowers symbolizing the opposite of what the fortress was about.
A flowered gun
Sunflowers on the ravelin
Poppies on a cannonball

A giant flower in the parade square
The flowers made from rocks painted by kids

On of the folks executed up here (in 1940) was the President of Catalunya, during the Spanish Civil War. In 1934, he led an uprising to declare Catalunya an independent state. Franco wasn't happy with this. The fortress remains a symbol of Catalunyan pride, so its yellow and red flag flies high over the castle.
The state of Catalunya has tried to gain independence from Spain for 50+ years. 

The castle also features killer views over Barcelona & the ocean.
Tibidabo hill in the background
The city sprawls below
The waterfront
Interesting building...
Hilda contemplating... Life? Jumping? The boat about to hit her head?
And more happens up here than executions (okay, they don't happen up here anymore. But they did. Lots of them). For instance, there's an archery club that shoots in the moat (where most of the executions took place).
More targets were set up when we arrived
A dude lines up
Ready, aim...
Hey... he's good!
That's one heck of a single action bow
I was up there and am still not sure what was on the southwest side of the hill below the ravelin of the fortress. And the sat images in both Google and Apple Maps don't want you to know either; it's all blured out.

On the way down, we stopped at the Jardins de Mirador (half way down on the gondola) for a civilized sangria. This spot is a popular viewpoint with tour groups...
One or two taking in the view
...but features intricate and interesting mosaics, made of things like gears and glass bottles, on the pathways.
More gears and mechanical parts
Glass bottle bases
Metal strips
Glass bottles again
On our way home, we made one final stop: the Arenas de Barcelona, a modern day castle. Karen and Hilda were here a few days ago while Mike and I were out at the races, and insisted we come back. Built in the style of a Roman amphitheater in the late 1880's, it was revitalized as a bullfighting palace in the 1930's, then fell into disuse in the late 1950's. In the early 2000's, it was re-envisaged -- as a shopping center. They kept the facade, gutted the interior, and created something quite interesting... with a rooftop patio full of restaurants.
The building; it's round
The main entrance
Detail of the name
Floating escalators inside
More spacious interior
The views from the (free) rooftop balcony shouldn't be missed.
The museum of the art of Calaunya
Place d"Espanya
Park Miro, with a Joan Miro sculpture
And the roof is full of restaurants. Like all good shopping centers, there are 12 movie theatres, and the restaurants are open until midnight, 7 days a week.
The rooftop deck
One interior
Another place
Le menu
Mike and Hilda head off to Seville tomorrow, so we will return to the "land of the local" and not do so much every day. In fact, after the last 10 days, we may not do anything tomorrow. And I get to decide that, because it's my birthday.

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