In an attempt to get the most out of this year as possible, we’re making it a point, while living amidst so many architectural, cultural, and natural marvels, to engage in least one culturally/personally enriching experience a week – preferably more, but we set reasonable (surpassable) goals. After all, we’re not tourists here – we’re living, working, cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, working more, and trying to have some semblance of a normal life.
As the weather forecast looked a bit sketchy on Saturday (partly cloudy, mid-60s, chance of showers in the afternoon) we decided to start with a museum visit and see where our feet (and the weather) guided us after that – we’d walked by the massive Museum of Catalan History many times (it’s on the way to the beach and outdoor gym) but had never stopped in. After reading a number of reviews (as he’s wont to do), Joe confirmed it would be well worth our time – millennia of history combined with special exhibits sounded like a recipe for success.
We were not disappointed (except by the fact that the floor housing the 18th-20th centuries was inexplicably closed) and found a well-designed, very large, beautifully modern and thorough museum. We first made our way through a visiting exhibit on the Knights Templar – and between Google Translate and our combined Spanish, Catalan, Latin and French skills, we were able to decipher much of the writing on the walls (only to discover, towards the end, that the little pamphlet I’d picked up at the beginning translated everything into English). The visual appeal of the exhibit was so strong, however, that partial translations usually did the trick: floor-to-ceiling murals, paintings, quotes and color-blocked walls created a riotously eye-catching tunnel that guided visitors through each of the small side-rooms housing artifacts and historical sound-bytes. I didn’t remember that the Knights were only really active from the 12th-14th centuries – it’s amazing how much death and destruction (on all sides) can be accomplished in so relatively short a time.
After focusing on such a specific period, we headed up a floor to take in the entire known history of Catalunya from around 9,000 BCE to the 17th century CE. While we didn’t read every plaque, I got to nerd out on some Roman-era history, and we constructed a basic picture of the early development of towns and then cities, Roman presence and takeover, post-Roman development, cathedral building and Crusade-era ties, the age of the knights…and much more. These exhibits also had a number of interactive aspects – Joe and I tried to lift an amphora full of wine (not happening!), I climbed up on a horse, and Joe tried on a bit of armor. The curators must recognize that many visitors are still young at heart. The Roman sections of the museum (as well as a stumbled-upon bit of Roman-era city wall and reconstructed aqueduct) inspired us to add a self-guided tour of some of the Roman ruins in Barcelona to our list – stay tuned for highlights from that expedition! Overall, this was a stunning museum – and, as an added bonus, we enjoyed a refreshing glass of cava on its lovely rooftop terrace while taking in sweeping views of the harbor and grand, tree-lined avenues. Then, our soles rested and our appetites piqued, we set off for the next round of Saturday adventures…
(To be continued!)