“Barcelona is so Medieval.”
Being a tourist in the rain offers a unique opportunity to see how a city works in times of stress. Things are messier, wetter, brusque-er. Chances are everyone who is not a tourist is staying home, as you would if it was raining cats and dogs in your hometown.
On the Metro in Barcelona I overheard a tourist say to her companion (in a contrived, world-weary tone) “Honestly, all European towns look the same.” This is like saying all neighborhoods in NYC look the same because hey, they all got streetlights, right? Silly tourist.
Barcelona, like all cities, has those little quirks that separate it from the rest. One of the first things I noticed was that almost every apartment window has an outdoor awning/curtain thing. To guard against the rain? The Catalan sun? the effect to me was that of a million mini shop windows in a riot of color.
The Awnings of Barcelona:
But awnings are not Medieval.
Finding shelter from the rain in a pastry shop, I notice a powdery brown material on the floor rapidly turning to mud-slush under my feet.
“What am I stepping in?” I ask Maya.
“Sawdust. To soak up the rain.” she answers.
Really, Barcelona? Your number one rain-soaker is the material that for centuries was used to soak up blood in operating rooms? The sawdust isn’t only indoors, but sprinkled liberally on the streets, where it doesn’t so much soak up the rain as turn into a pulpy paste and make the bottom of your shoes look like a stableboy’s. This sawdust puzzles me. Isn’t it grosser and harder to clean up a brown wet mess then to swipe off clean water with a squeegee? Barcelona was really tidy otherwise so I guess they have some sort of system in place.
Another habit that struck me as medieval, but quaint is the Barcelona habit of ordering a bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling water and then watering the wine with the sparkling water to create sparkling wine. Nothing wrong with that, but in every book I’ve read set in a Medieval-ish time there is some line like “….and they supped on bread and cheese and watered wine…” As far as I know, In the Middle Ages when water wasn’t safe to drink, the beverage of choice for children and adults was watered wine or beer; watered to prevent everyone from being falling-down drunk all day.
So anyway, because it’s not the Middle Ages, it was cool to see people doing that.
Rainy Day Impressions: