Saturday, June 29: Last night Matt asked if I wanted to meet him for breakfast at 8:30. When morning comes, I don’t really feel like getting up, but I go out to the patio for breakfast only to remember it isn’t served until 9:00. I return at 9 to still find no sign of him. As a matter of fact, I eat my entire breakfast and leave for the day without ever seeing him. It’s okay; he’s young and I figure he probably slept in. Anyway, I want to do my thing today and I don’t know if he might invite himself along; it would be nice to have his company, but I find it hard to really absorb what I’m seeing when someone else is along.
I decide to take the Barcelona Bus Turistic at a cost of 28 euros for 2 days. Today I’ll go to the south of the city to see Montjuïc on the red line. Tomorrow I’ll do the north side on the blue line. It’s like many city bus tours, where you can hop off anywhere along the line that you want, and then hop back on whenever you’re ready. I love these kinds of tours when I first arrive in a city because it gives me the lay of the land. Also, it takes care of a lot of logistics and is informative as well.
Montjuïc means Jewish Mountain. The name indicates there was one a Jewish cemetery, and possibly settlement, here.
The Parc de Montjuïc occupies a hill overlooking the port, offering a plethora of green areas and gardens, museums and cultural attractions, sports facilities and Olympic sites.
Montjuïc Hill has borne witness to, and been the focus of key events that have shaped its personality. The first such event was the 1929 International Exhibition held in Barcelona which fostered the zone’s development. More recently, the 1992 Olympic Games brought about major renewal.
Montjuïc is also home to museums, such as the Fundació Miró, the Museu d’Arqueologia, the Museu Etnològic and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC. The latter, which is housed in the Palau Nacional, the centerpiece of the 1929 exhibition, holds 1,000 years of Catalan art.
The Olympic Ring, the main site of the Olympic Games, features the stadium and a the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava, among other things. I don’t really care about the Olympic sites, but intend mainly to see Fundació Miró and Montjuïc Castle, where many people were imprisoned and killed during and after the Spanish Civil War (Barcelona Turisme: Parc de Montjuic).
When the bus stops at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC , housed in the stunning Palau Nacional, I hop off the bus because the guide says that there are amazing views of Barcelona from here. On the steps, a Spanish guitarist is playing passionately away. The views are stupendous. I can see the whole of the city, the Mediterranean, Sagrada de Familia and the surrounding hills. I had no intention of going into the museum, but now that I’m here, I think it’s a waste not to check it out. I doubt I’ll be coming back to Montjuïc during my stay in Barcelona. So I pay the hefty fee and go inside. It’s huge and has collections of art from Catalonia through the centuries, ranging from Medieval / Romanesque Art, to Gothic Art, to Renaissance and Baroque, to Modern and Contemporary.
The star collection is the Romanesque Art. I don’t know why, but I adore the amazing mural paintings, most of which came from Romanesque churches in the Pyrenees. The collection is made up of works from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and includes richly painted panels, wood carvings (especially frontal altars), metalwork and stone sculpture. This is my favorite collection by far in the museum. I feel incredibly moved by these kinds of murals, because of their simplicity and rich colors, much more so than the paintings from the Gothic period, which I pass quickly by.
The extensive Gothic Art section contains interesting material such as works by Catalan painters Bernat Martorell and Jaume Huguet.
There is also a famous Fortuny painting called “The Battle of Tetuan.” Despite the artist’s inability to finish the painting, it has become an icon of Catalan culture. According to Wikipedia, the Battle of Tetuan was fought near Tetuan, Morocco between a Spanish army sent to North Africa and the tribal levies comprising the Moroccan Army in 1860. The battle was part of the Spanish-Moroccan war of 1859-1860 (Wikipedia: Battle of Tétouan).
Works by Picasso, Ramon Casas, Joaquim Mir, Santiago Rusinol, and other Spanish Modernista artists are included in the Modern collection. (Lonely Planet)
After lingering in the Romanesque and Modern collections, and rushing through Gothic and Renaissance, and enjoying the views of Barcelona from the museum’s grounds, I hop back on the bus and head to the Fundació Miró. On the way, I can see the museum I just left, standing proudly above the tree tops.
On our way we also pass by the Olympic Stadium (yawn!) and the telecommunications tower (yawn again!).