Travel & Documentary Photography

The Top Ten (Alternative) Best of Barcelona!

Barcelona Port Dawn, #1. Barcelona, 2015
Barcelona Port Dawn, #1. Barcelona, 2015

 

A caveat…What this is NOT: A list of must-see tourist sights as you pass through town on your way to your 3,000 passenger Mediterranean cruise ship. No…Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, and Park Güell will not be mentioned here.

You can get plenty of information about these and other popular and well-known sites and sights in Barcelona simply by asking la Sra. Google.

Instead, what follows are places you could visit once you have ticked off the standard tourist attractions–or, if you are simply interested in seeing Barcelona one layer down, a bit below the obvious and well-trammeled.

These are some of the unusual little places, most not-so-well-known that, for me, give Barcelona such depth of personality. Most will not be seen by your average tourist unless they happen to serendipitously bumble upon them…

In no particular order, we have:

Pastisseria Barcelona, Aragó, 228 (original) and a new locale at Via Augusta, 166 – The desserts here are authentic works o’ fine art which you will definitely want to photograph before you bite into them. You might even find yourself getting a little teary-eyed and emotional as you watch the running videos above the counter of the talented Josep Maria Rodríguez Guerola as he creates them, so delicate and sensitive is he with his myriad specialty tools and delicious materials. He won the World Cup Pastry Competition in 2011 with his dessert art–the first time anyone in Spain had ever earned that award–and he was a mere 25-years-old or so when he did it. He is now a new and proud father.

El Ingenio, Carrer d’en Rauric, 6 – This unique place was almost no more in 2015/2016, but managed to survive thanks to last-minute efforts by a family member. Their website says: “El Ingenio (the “Creative Genius” maybe?) is an icon of popular culture. It is an establishment with 179 years of uninterrupted history in the heart of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona dedicated to creating and selling giant heads, masks, stage props, circus articles, and a long list of products related to play, games, and the dramatic arts.” Go there and buy something–keep them in business and revel in the Catalan “Big Head” tradition! 

Casa Beethoven, La Rambla, 97 – This small store has been selling sheet music, musical scores, musical instruments, and other related gift items since 1880. A must-visit for the musician in the family. You’ll find it right next to the Palau de la Virreina / Centre de la Imatge (worth visiting in its own right), between Metro stops Plaça de Catalunya and Liceu as you stroll back and forth among the hordes, flowers, and human statues along La Rambla.

Granja La Pallaresa, Carrer de Petritxol, 11 – Established in 1947, they have the best chocolate and churros in town! On a chilly winter’s eve, this is mo-definitely the place to warm up! The chocolate they give you for dipping your churros into is so luscious and creamy-thick the spoon darn near stands up vertical in the cup all by itself…and whipped cream on top o’ that…aaahhhh, this is definitely the place for the choco-cream addict! There is another, similar, place just down the alley at Petrixol, 2. It’s called Granja Dulcinea, established in 1941. It is probably just as good but I can’t personally vouch for it. So, hey…maybe try them both!?

Gavineteria Roca, Plaça del Pi, 3 – Since 1911, this shop has offered up all manner of cutting tools, knives, scissors, shaving gear, and so on, as well as other kitchen gadgets. If it cuts, they have it. If they don’t, it doesn’t exist. Their storefront catches the eye of nearly every passerby and this facade alone is certainly worth a long pause, perusal, and photograph or two.

La Basílica Galería, Passeig de Gràcia, 26 – A new location–they were in the Gothic Quarter until recently. This shop is basically a museum of contemporary art. As their website says: “The Basílica Galería is a cabinet of curiosities. In addition to contemporary jewelry, photography, art, and accessories…it is also the largest perfume exhibit in the world with more than a thousand fragrances.” A unique and sometimes bizarre display of pretty things that is worth a long browse.

Museu de l’Eròtica, La Rambla, 96 bis – This one is actually fairly well-known, so maybe it should be on some mainstream tourist list rather than on my “alternative” list? That is, unless you are a frigid and guilt-ridden Puritan…or Catholic…or Jew…or Muslim…or adherent to any number of the world’s guilt-inducing philosophies or religions. OK, rant over. Since you will likely visit the wonderful and way over-crowded market, La Boqueria, along La Rambla anyway you might as well stop in here, too, as it is just across the street. From their website, the museum is… “a passionate voyage through the world of eroticism and its representation in art, as seen in the 800 plus pieces which make up our collection. Sensuality, sexuality, provocation… Fun! The museum you can’t miss.” 

The Ice Bar, Paseo Marítimo, 38 A – This is right on the beach. Take the Metro, yellow Line 4, and climb out at Ciutadella/Vila Olimpica, then walk 5-10 minutes toward the sea. Bring your jacket–or they will hand you one! It’s like walking into the guts of a glacier, but with bartenders and lots of the beautiful people. Currently, it will cost an adult 17.50 Euros to get in, kids between 5 and 12 are 8 Euros, and tots under 5 are free. This price includes jacket and gloves. Check out some of the pics and their FAQs at their website: Icebarcelona.

Montjuic Cemetary, on the SW side of Montjuic, the hill by the port – A most interesting place to stroll and pensively peruse the tombstones and plaques. There is no cost to enter. Photography is technically not allowed, but it is hard to resist when no one is about and you come across a gloriously ornate and decorated gypsy tomb. Some famous folks are buried here, like the artist Joan Miró, the urban planner (Eixempla) Ildefons Cerdà, and the politicians Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys (and my mother-in-law, Carme Fusté). Check in at the information station at the entrance for advice on what to see. You can peruse more info, cemetery hours, and so an at their website HERE

The Bunkers of Carmel, in the hills above Barcelona – Dating from the Spanish Civil War, this is the place to go to see the remains of an anti-aircraft site and troop barracks, as well as to get a wonderful and romantic panoramic view of the city and the sea. Movie scenes and commercials have been filmed here (Tengo Ganas de Ti). It certainly won’t be as crowded as Park Guell. In fact, you might find yourself surrounded by more locals than tourists. Bring a sandwich (entrepà), a camera, and have yourself a sunset picnic with your significant lover. To get there, you’ll need to hike uphill a few minutes in the vicinity of the Parc del Guinardó. Let Google Maps be your guide and search for “Búnquers del Carmel Barcelona“.  There is no fee or entrance station of any kind–it is always accessible.

Two bonus sites to make this an even dozen, if you have the time: the Chocolate Museum/Museu de la Xocolata and the Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum. For lovers of these kinds o’ things, or the merely curious.

Catalan Independence Declared

La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona, 2015
La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona

 

Yep, they did it. The Catalan government voted to declare independence.  

No one knows where this goes now. It’s all uncharted territory, as everyone is saying.

We could hear the sounds of the police helicopter overhead last night as enthusiastic Catalans gathered outside the Generalitat at the city’s center. The chopper was just keeping an eye in the sky on things, I guess.

Here are the likely key moves now from Madrid as Rajoy invokes Article 155:

–Dissolve the Catalan Parliament

–Remove and replace the Catalan President, Vice President, Chief of Police, Ministers, and perhaps other high officials of the Catalan government

–Call new elections for December 21st, 2017

As far as life on the street goes, it all seems pretty normal. I can still get my chocolate-filled croissants from the corner bakery, and I still plan on climbing at Montserrat on Sunday. It does look like there will be an anti-independence protest today and I am sure we will see more pro-independence protests at some point as well.

But, I wouldn’t expect any serious violence at all. Both the European Union and the Catalans don’t want that. The latter have always tried to keep this movement tranquil and peaceful over these past years, albeit with constant vocal and popular pressure against the central Spanish government.

There are really no guns around, so its not like there will be an armed insurrection any time soon and no one really expects anything like that. If you have plans to travel to Barcelona, I wouldn’t change them–just don’t step in between the police in riot gear and a crowd wrapped in Catalan flags if you happen upon such an unusual scene. Most anywhere you go you should be fine.

(Not-so-random factoid and violence comparison: Somewhere around 11,000 Americans are killed by guns every year–and there isn’t even a revolution going on there. Folks here cannot even begin to wrap their Mediterranean heads around that statistic and they figure America to be a way more dangerous place to visit.)

From One Divided Country To Another…

At least, that is what I have taken to saying to my friends.

From Trump’s Great and Wonderful America, we have moved to Barcelona for the foreseeable future. And the times…well…they are interesting here, too.

Two Catalan officials have been jailed for sedition, the Spanish Police came down somewhat excessively during the recent non-binding (and illegal, according to the Madrid government) independence referendum, and now Rajoy & Co. are invoking the never-yet-exercised Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in order to take control of the Catalan regional government.

Where this ends is anyone’s guess.

It seems to me that the only way to really put this whole thing to bed for a siesta would be to hold a real and binding Scottish-style independence referendum in Catalunya (something Madrid so far has absolutely refused to do). Yes, it would be a risk for Madrid…yes, it might prompt other European regions to ask for the same thing, causing a cascade effect…but it is not entirely clear that the result would be “Sí!”. Polls seem to indicate a fairly even split between those opposed and those in favor of Catalunya as a separate nation. 

The debate would almost certainly be harsh with all kinds of rhetoric, including outright lies, emotional appeals, wringing of hands, twitching of eyebrows, and so on.

At the same time, Catalunya would need to carry out some serious preparation with the European Union to assure a smooth and quick transition into that community in the case of a “Sí!” vote. This, in order to avoid a huge disruption in the financial sector (to date, some 1,000 businesses have apparently re-registered their headquarters outside of Catalunya due to the recent unrest–although some Catalans say, at least in part, at the urging of Madrid).

 

So, we had yet another massive (450,000 people) protest today. Here are a few images from the tiny Sony RX100iv point-and shoot…

Note the symbols here–the unofficial Catalan flag of independence with its solitary star, the yellow ribbons, the Tweety Bird (symbol of pacifism against agression?). The political prisoners referred to in the signs are the “two Jordis”, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez (Jordi is George, or Jorge in Spanish), who were both apparently involved in organizing these large independence protests. They are being held without bail by the Spanish government and are accused of the crime of sedition:

Manifestacion, #1, Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017
Manifestació, #1, Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017

 

These protests are often a family affair, with grandparents, kids, folks of all ages out on the street dressed in the Catalan colors. What I don’t see a lot of? People of color, recent immigrants, etc., of which there are a high number in the region. Perhaps they don’t feel like this is their fight? Or perhaps they are simply content to be part of Spain?

Manifestacion, #2. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017
Manifestació, #2. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017

 

Sometimes the crowd would grow hush and everyone would raise their hands–’twas amazing to “hear” the silence of thousands of protesters–then the clapping and slogan-shouting would begin anew. A “Llibertat Jordis” (Freedom Jordis) sign is just visible left of center:

Manifestación, #3. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #3. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

There were odd juxtapositions at times…here, modern consumer society and a street protest merge on Passeig de Gràcia:

Manifestació, #5. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #5. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Those big white rings are handcuffs basically asking, ‘Is this Really a Spanish Democracy?’ The poster depicts Franco, the Spanish dictator from 1936 to his death in 1975 (a fellow fascist chum of Hitler) and it reads, “This dead man is very alive”, a reference to what the Catalans view as fascist tendencies on the part of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the national government. Indeed, Rajoy’s center-right political party, the Partido Popular (PP), can trace its lineage back to former members of the Franco regime:

Manifestació, #6. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #6. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Many very young folks were at the protest. Are they being sold a costly bill of excessive and unrealistic expectations, without understanding the huge list of technical and economic details such independence would necessarily imply?

Manifestació, #7. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #7. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Whenever the chopper from the Spanish police would fly over, everyone would flip the bird toward the heavens and shout (as if the helicopter pilot could hear!): 

Manifestació, #8. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #8. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

A giant “senyera”, or Catalan independence flag is unfurled, then furled:

Manifestació, #9. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #9. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Here is a close-up of the handcuffs (esposos). The small sign reads, “Europe, when will you apply Article 7 to Spain to avoid abuses of power against Catalonia?” Article 7 is a European Union provision designed to curb human rights abuses by EU member countries, the threat being sanctions and loss of EU voting rights. So far, the EU has the official position that the Catalonia crisis is an internal issue for Spain to resolve:

Manifestació, #10. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #10. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

That is Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister, dressed up as the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. There is certainly no doubt how these folks feel:

Manifestació, #11. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #11. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

A father and daughter review the day’s photos and videos:

Manifestació, #12. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #12. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

Two More Mohave Desert Oddities

If you ever find yourself on vehicular cruise control floating across the simmering heat waves on the rather isolated (and deadly, according to California accident statistics) stretch of State Route 62 between Twentynine Palms and Parker, through the Mohave Desert, stop, wake yourself up, and pay humble homage to these two unusual monuments to human creativity, boredom, and excess…

First, the “Iron Mountain Sign Pole” at the intersection of Route 62 (Rice Road) and Iron Mountain Road:

Miles From Nowhere. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Miles From Nowhere. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The Roadtrip America website has what appears to be a legit explanation of the origin, evolution, burning of, then the re-evolution of this telephone pole cum signpost. It seems the credit goes to an Aussie couple who, for God-knows-what-insane-reason traveled the road “extensively”, back in the day. So, it was Steve and Wendy Page who nailed up the first mileage marker in 1993 or 1994, which read, “Perth, Australia, 9,469 miles, 15,246? kms” (it is no longer there–casualty of fire?).

You can read their personal letter to Roadtrip America, with all the details, HERE.

A bit farther east, punch off the cruise control once again and pull over with your camera at the intersection of SR 62 and the Rice-Blythe (or Midland) 4WD road–on which, by the way, on this particular day, I ran face-to-face into a full-sized semi-truck and trailer rig, stopped and stuck deep in the sand at a narrow wash crossing. He claimed that his GPS made him do it. Once committed, just out of Blythe, he had nowhere to turn the rig around, so it was onward to the north and hope for the best! He said the cavalry (with his boss) was on its way, it was cool out (70s), and he had plenty of water, so I turned my dusty rental car around and retraced some 13 miles of desert track back to Route 62, from whence I had bounced and sand-surfed.

ANYway…The Shoe Tree and The Shoe Fence (amazingly, the latter marked on the all-knowing Google Maps with a camera icon) will be found here.

Here is an image of the current Tree. The old one was apparently an actual semi-alive tamarisk on the opposite side of the road, so this is a modern version that has sprung up after the demise of both the original tree and this service station:

The Shoe Tree, #2. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
The Shoe Tree, #2. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

Here is what Wikipedia currently says about the origins of The Shoe Tree/Shoe Fence:

“Rice became noted for its Shoe Tree, originally an underwear tree, a lone tamarisk on a turnout just south of the highway, adjacent to the main entrance to Rice Army Airfield. This hallmark for a trailer-based business that catered to personnel at what is now the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, customers passing on Highway 62 (also known as Rice Road) to and from the Colorado River would toss a pair of underwear in the tree’s branches. After a fire burned most of the tree and all the underwear, the custom changed and the tree’s burned husk became a collection point for old shoes. The tree was featured on California’s Gold, a PBSprogram hosted by Huell Howser. The tree burned flush to the ground in 2003 after which a ‘shoe garden’ replaced it; a fence on which people hang shoes. Also in the immediate area, travelers occasionally stop to spell their names and initials on the nearby Arizona and California Railroad right-of-way with the multi-colored volcanic rock used as track ballast. Hand-assembled graffiti lines the railroad for the entire distance that it parallels Highway 62.”

 

So, carve out a personal mileage sign and bring an old pair of shoes with you on this stretch of desert highway! Leave your mark!

Somewhere in the Mohave desert…

Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017
Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017

 

…you will find this abandoned site. It was originally an Air Force Station, operating ground-controlled intercept radars, from the 1950s into the 70s, then the place was converted into a minimum security prison (a “Club Fed”!) from the mid-70s to the year 2000 (See the end of this post for some curious factoids).

Flirting with ghosts…faint voices floating by on the dry desert winds…

I didn’t see the No Trespassing signs (8 1/2 x 11 photocopies on a wall) until I was on my way out. Regardless, I feel like it is important to document such sites and their reaction to the wind, rain, human abuse, and the passage of time. Touch nothing, take nothing but pictures, and be careful where you step…and definitely stay away from the radar dome as that is an active FAA site.

Better yet: If you see signs, comply, and don’t trespass!

With a little internet research, you can find a pile of interesting historical facts about this place.

 

The still-active FAA radar dome sits above the abandoned Air Force Station/prison site:

Abandoned, #1. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #1. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The Bureau of Prisons seal by the main offices slowly disintegrates as the passage of time and the elements do their relentless work: 

Abandoned, #3. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #3. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

Main offices? Purpose? For visitors?

Abandoned, #4. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #4. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

I’m not sure if the “Don Vito” here refers to Don Vito Corleone of Godfather fame, and I am also not sure if any of the many Don Vito’s in history actually came up with this quote. But, it is indeed a wise quote:

Abandoned, #5. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #5. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The visiting area as of the fall of 2017:

Abandoned, #6. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #6. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The sunset view from one of the bedroom suites:

Abandoned, #7. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #7. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

A toilet of penal luxury in its time:

Abandoned, #8. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #8. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

I’m guessing young vandals (or, perhaps, Goths or Visigoths), threw these mattresses out of the building so they could take turns jumping onto them from the roof. Just a guess, though:

Abandoned, #9. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #9. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The graffiti is everywhere, as it always is in such places:

Abandoned, #12. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #12. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

It appears the handball court makes a nice secluded gangland bonfire site and art studio:

Abandoned, #13. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #13. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

A basketball court with a view of the empty (yet teeming with hardy non-human life) Mohave Desert:

Abandoned, #14. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #14. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

An eerie eye peers out onto a courtyard:

Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017
Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017

 

This looks like it was once fairly nice family housing for the Air Force Station folks. From what I have read, the structures were converted into group housing for the low-risk inmates:

Abandoned, #17. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #17. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

This dark corner must have tremendous meaning to someone, somewhere:

Abandoned, #18. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #18. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The slots below were telephone booths. Imagine the place full of inmates calling home to family or friends (or to their stock brokers or lawyers) far away. On the vertical posts, it said “Monitored” and “Vigilado”:

Abandoned, #19. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #19. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

This I saw on the way out, posted on a low cinder block wall. Oops:

Abandoned, #21. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #21. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

Some interesting details about the site when it was refurbished as a prison…

 

–This “Security Level 1” facility housed some 300 to 500+ mostly white-collar-type criminals (“paper crimes” mostly).

–The prison had no walls–unless you interpret the vast desert expanses surrounding the facility as “walls”. Very few tried to escape as getting caught likely meant getting sent to a “real” prison  with all the abuse that implied. 

–The prison included dorms, classrooms (profs from Barstow Community College came calling), various workshops, a chapel, a medical clinic, a fire department, racquetball and basketball courts, two libraries (one specializing in law since many inmates worked on their own cases to some degree), and so on.

–Inmates were paid a small wage to work for Unicor’s Vehicular Component Factory, fixing up government vehicles. Rehabilitation work at its best, I’m sure.

–Some of the more interesting characters who resided here: Grant Affleck (real estate fraud–victims were primarily working class Mormons), Ivan Boesky (insider trading; he was mostly at Lompoc, but apparently served a few months here, too), Senator Joseph B. Montoya (a CA state senator convicted of corruption and misuse of funds), Michael Milken (insider trading; still alive and now worth a couple of billion dollars), Harold Rossfields Smith (embezzled over $20 million from Wells Fargo bank–money not recovered), David Jenkins (Olympic athlete convicted of distributing steroids), and Rueben “Porn King” Sturman (convicted of tax evasion and eventually of extortion, briefly escaped, then eventually died in federal prison in 1997).

Barcelona Peace Rally, August 26, 2017

 

More than a half million Barcelonans, many carrying a single long-stemmed rose, filled the streets this afternoon for a peace rally in the aftermath of the senseless terrorist attack on Las Ramblas. There were people of all kinds–Catalans, tourists, recent immigrants, even a large number of Muslims.

The above short video will give you some flavor of the event.

Some of the signs:

“We are not afraid”

“No, to Islamophobia”

“Your wars, our dead”

“Felipe [the King], if you want peace, don’t traffic in weapons”

“The best answer is peace”

 

Here are a handful of images with my commentary:

The crowd moving down Passeig de Gràcia on their way to Plaça de Catalunya:

Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

The idea is to have the Muslim world together with us (as just about all already are) in this battle against extremism:

Protest for Peace, #2. Barcelona, 2017

 

The sign that is being dismantled said, “Spain against terrorism…Thanks, Your Majesty! [the King]” and was accompanied by a number of Spanish national flags being waved about on tall poles. The message sounds good, except that it was really pissing off the local Catalans and the police siphoned them away from the main march and had them disband as they were being bombarded by jeers, whistles, and shouts from the home crowd. Why? Well, these protesters were Madrid loyalists (Spanish flags) and, from the Catalan point-of-view, Madrid is essentially in bed with the terrorists and the root cause of the various terrorist attacks in Spain due to Madrid’s support of the Iraq wars and ongoing international arms sales. Then, of course, there is the Catalan tendency to dislike all that is Madrid and anything related to the Bourbon royal dynasty (see especially the Siege of Barcelona, 1713-1714):

Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017

 

Red Cross and police vehicles were soon decorated with roses in thanks for their service during and immediately after the attacks:

Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017

 

Much of the crowd continued on past the Plaça de Catalunya and visited the various memorials along Las Ramblas:

Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017

 

Muslim marchers rest in front of the Las Ramblas Burger King after the rally. The messages: “Love wins over hate”, “We want peace”, “Barcelona embraces peace”, “We want peace…end terrorism”:

Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017

Terrorism on Las Ramblas, Barcelona

Las Ramblas, #25. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #25. Barcelona, 2017

 

Yes, it is yet another inhumane and disgraceful act of inhuman cowardice. This time, on one of the world’s most famous and beloved pedestrian walkways, the Las Ramblas (or La Rambla) corridor in Barcelona, Spain.

I absolutely don’t want to take away from the weight of the tragedy in Catalunya, but in the past few months, as a reminder, the world has seen…

15 April, in Syria: 126 killed, mostly children, in a car bomb attack against evacuees

31 May, in Afghanistan: at least 80 and up to 150 killed and some 350 or more wounded in a suicide truck bomb attack in Kabul

23 June, in Pakistan: 75 to perhaps 100 killed and at least 150 wounded in twin bomb blasts and a third targeted attack

24 July, in Pakistan: 26 killed and 58 wounded in suicide bomber attack

12 August, in Pakistan: 15 killed and 32 wounded in bomb attack

This is just an abbreviated list. There were a number of other attacks throughout the world during this period.

The main point is this: ALL of these attacks are horrible tragedies, leaving behind a bloody trail of mangled human bodies–physical and psychological trauma, lost limbs, brain damage, excruciatingly painful burns, and destroyed lives. Perhaps because these events are somewhat rarer in Europe and the United States, it is the attacks in the west, which seem to garner the bulk of the sympathy and publicity in our U.S. and European news media. 

And three other points:

  1. Terrorism committed by “Islamic extremists”–who aren’t really “Islamic” at all, by the way–is not the only kind of terrorism there is. Consider the killing of nine black parishioners by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. I’d say that fits the definition of terrorism.
  2. The vast, vast majority of Muslims aggressively condemn terrorist attacks committed in the name of their religion. Those in the west who criticize Islam, rather than separating out specific criminal deviants for vilification, risk alienating portions of the Islamic population. The world would be a better place with Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, all working together against the scourge of terrorism. (Actually, maybe the world would be better off without any of these religions–with the possible exception of Buddhism–but that is a topic for another day.)
  3. Finally, it sure wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask ourselves just why individuals turn to terrorism. What are the economic and political factors driving such an extreme decision? Remove these factors and you remove the raison d’etre of terrorism. This requires clinical study, not simplistic emotional reactions.

Here is a selection of images from the Las Ramblas tragedy, with my occasional commentary, made early in the morning of August 25, eight days after the fact…

Before dawn, a city worker stops to contemplate one of the larger memorials. As the candles slowly burn out or are blown out by the breeze, only the candles along the edge are easily relit or replaced:

Las Ramblas, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

One of at least 20 smaller memorials, some specifically for individuals who died in the attack:

Las Ramblas, #3. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #3. Barcelona, 2017

 

People from many countries have written their supportive messages on the tree trunks and the walkway tiles. One common phrase that you see everywhere is “No tenim por”, or “We are not afraid” in the Catalan language:

Las Ramblas, #6. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #6. Barcelona, 2017

 

Las Ramblas, #7. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #7. Barcelona, 2017

 

One of the victims, 40-year-old Silvina Pereyra Cabrera and originally from Argentina (or Colombia?), had lived in Barcelona for ten years and worked in the famous market, La Boqueria:

Las Ramblas, #9. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #9. Barcelona, 2017

 

As I was photographing, I ran into this young guy who was relighting as many of the candles as he could. Speaking in Spanish, he made the point that terrorism occurs all over the world and victims in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria deserve just as much sympathy as victims in Europe. We are all human, we all have families, and we all suffer, he said. I neglected to ask, but I would suspect he is an immigrant from (perhaps) Morocco:

Las Ramblas, #12. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #12. Barcelona, 2017

 

Others stopped to relight candles as well:

Las Ramblas, #16. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #16. Barcelona, 2017

 

At the intersection with Carrer de l’Hospital (Hospital Street), near La Boqueria, you’ll find the largest memorial, a vast field of flowers, posters, notes, letters, stuffed animals, candles, and other personal items. I believe this is about where the criminal asshole’s vehicle finally came to a stop:

Las Ramblas, #17. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #17. Barcelona, 2017

 

Three-year-old Xavi Martinez was the youngest victim of the attack:

Las Ramblas, #21. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #21. Barcelona, 2017

 

Mickey and Minnie:

Las Ramblas, #22. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #22. Barcelona, 2017

 

I found an American flag in the memorial closest to Plaça de Catalunya, perhaps intended for Jared Tucker, a 42-year-old American construction worker who was killed here. The police in the background are the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalunya’s provincial police. Passersby and crowds often spontaneously break into applause when the Mossos appear, such is the people’s appreciation for their rapid reaction to the attack:

Las Ramblas, #27. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #27. Barcelona, 2017

 

“Muslims against terrorism”, in a field of compassion:

Las Ramblas, #28. Barcelona, 2017
Las Ramblas, #28. Barcelona, 2017

Old v. New in Cozumel Harbor

Old and New. Cozumel, Mexico, 2017
Old and New. Cozumel, Mexico, 2017

 

I thought this image told a nice story of the old versus the new, in this case on the high seas.

The Norwegian Jade is the big cruise ship, one of several similar vessels operated by the Norwegian Cruise Line. Indeed, you can see one of the Jade’s twin vessels, the Norwegian Dawn (if I read the cruise schedules right) directly behind.

The three-masted ship is the Alexander von Humboldt II, launched in 2011 and operated by Deutsche Stiftung Sail Training out of Bremerhaven, Germany. If you want to learn something of the old ways aboard a sailing ship (“Aargh, matey! Hoist that scurvy dog from the yardarm!”), you can take one of their awesome courses.

Some interesting comparisons…

First, Norwegian Jade:

–93,558 tons

–Crew of 1,037; Guest capacity of 2,402

–965 feet long with a beam of 125 feet

–Built in 2006, refurbished in 2017

Now, the Alexander von Humboldt II:

–992 tons; 24 sails

–Crew of 79 (includes trainees)

–213 feet long with a beam of 33 feet

–Launched in 2011 to replace the original 396-ton Alexander von Humboldt (1906 launch)

An aside…When considering which type of ship might be what you’d like to board, it might be worth considering the amount of waste that is generated by each and what might simply be dumped into the sea. Lots to check out on Google on this topic. Different cruise lines and ships rate quite differently…the dumping rules are different depending on location and type of waste…and so on.