Our Best Holiday To Park Guell, Barcelona
Human beings travel to distant places for vacation as well as for vocation. I believe that serendipity is silently in action and there is a reason for each visit or a connection to the people we meet. For the past few years my wife and I have been maintaining a long distance relation owing to our job requirements. Holidays come rarely to us and have to be planned with a lot of care to ensure value for money and to include our individual requirements. Travelling to me, like most people is to unwind, know a different culture, learn new things and definitely appease my wife. My wife on the other hand values trips to places which are near nature, are shopping paradises or have some historical relevance .This time I wanted to plan a trip to a place which had most of the above ingredients and also something special. Barcelona was on my mind for some time and every time I browsed internet or spoke to my travel agent, visit to Barcelona seemed the right thing to do.
Though I am a banker by profession, I have a fascination for architecture and architect. Thanks to Ayn Rand read during the college days, I love to follow the works of architects who were not only immensely talented but also had the nerve to stand by their creations and not succumb to the popular demands (to make money or attain fame). I wanted to plan the itinerary with some underlying theme and since Barcelona is known for its architecture and has many amazing buildings, I chose architecture. On doing a preliminary research, I was intrigued by the name Antoni Gaudi a prominent architect, who came across as a maverick and was known for his innovative methods and experiments with different styles .He was a famous architect and initially known and respected only in Barcelona when he was alive, but after his death his fame spread across the world. Seven of his creations made it to the UNESCO World Heritage list and I made it a point to include in my trip a visit to buildings created by him. The architect who had initially worked as a draughtsman during his college days to support his education, had over the years grown in his methods and had successfully amalgamated various techniques resulting in a unique hybrid style and was known for his flamboyance.
We decided to stay in a hotel near Park Guell, a prominent feature of Barcelona and created by Antoni. It can be accessed from city by bus or underground railway. Since the hotel was very close to the park, we decided to trek to this master piece. The entrance itself indicated the grandeur of the place and its magnitude. I was surprised to see that both tourists as well as locals were present in large numbers.
Our guide was happy to rattle out the history of this place which was a brain child of Count Eusebi Güell, and was actually conceived as a housing project. This idea was based on the English Garden City Movement and aptly named as Park Guell. It was initially conceptualised as a housing site for sixty (luxury) houses for single families. Muntanya Pelada a mountain with scanty vegetation and few trees was selected for the ibid project. Antoni Gaudi, a talented and trusted friend of Eusebi Guell was selected to translate this concept into reality. The venture did not succeed as desired by Count Guell and no prospective buyers came forward. Only two houses were on the property and one of them was occupied by Eusebi Guell and another by Antoni but interestingly none of these houses was constructed by Antoni himself.
One wonders what fate this concept (which was a bit premature for its time) would have met had it been timed a few years later. However one visit to the place will make one to be thankful for the way events unfolded or else we would have been bereft of an opportunity to see this masterpiece. The intellect of the architect is evident from the way the elements of nature have been utilised while constructing various features and buildings. The architect has preserved the natural beauty while complimenting the same with functional requirement of the residents (had the housing venture been successful). The park was taken over by the city and opened to public as a park and in the year 1969 was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest. The park has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
My wife and I embarked upon a stroll to explore and understand the park. Every structure in the park vouched for the genius of both the patron who had conceptualised the idea and the architect who had translated the concept on ground. I was amazed at the brilliance of Antoni which was displayed in designing and constructing the serpent bench. The location of bench was appropriate not only in terms of the view it offered but also the comfort it provided. Earlier our guide had intimated that Antoni Gaurd had taken into account the shape of human body while constructing the bench to ensure the comfort of the user, this concept was formulated fifty years later .Our guide further added sheepishly that Antoni had made one of the workers to sit on the wet plaster sans his pants for recording the correct dimensions. We sat on the bench for almost an hour admiring the comfort and the amazing view.
Antoni had over the years developed his unique style of construction while combining Catalan style, religion and oriental styles. He has used ceramics extensively in this park. One is captivated by the beauty of the place and the brilliance of the creator in combining the elements of nature with the functional aspects of construction while simultaneously honouring the aim of his patron. The park and features in its entirety indicated the acumen, calibre and genius of the architect. The centre of the park the Gran Placa Circular is a terrace which was intended as a market plaza for the residents with serpentine bench bordering it and supported on eighty six columns resulting in a hall Sala Hipotilla under it. A colourful animal which looks like a dragon or a lizard at the centre of staircase is one of the favourite spots of the park and is thronged by people of all ages specially children. The features like drainage system, catchment area for containing rainwater and via ducts for vehicles and pedestrians incorporated natural elements while catering to the practical needs of the residents.
Visit to the museum next day was equally interesting, amazing and entailed an entry fee. The house was actually constructed by Francesc Berenguer, an assistant of Antoni. The house was utilised by Antoni as his residence and it appeared to be the most favourite place of our guide who shared many stories related to Antonio and his patron.
At the end, we were happy with our decision to stay near the park and to spend two days at the park rather than few hours that most tourists do. The long walks in the park and time spent on the serpentine bench gave us an opportunity to be with each other and a much needed break from our hectic and fast paced life and the stress which travelling generally entails. I did not have to ask my friends to visit Barcelona but the smiles on our faces said it all and most of my friends have visited the place since then.
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