Barcelona August 14th, 2013 12:58am
So yesterday I just sat around, watching movies on YouTube and rehydrating, recovering from Monday's Dali Ordeal:
Left the apartment at 8:30 am to catch a 9:17 train to Figueres, where the Dali Museum is. Now many people have problems with Dali - since he went from artsy anarchist to obsequious Francoist, all the while being an opportunistic egomaniacal coward - but as Orwell said "One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously: the two facts that Dalí is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being." Also my mother was an artist, and of the big coffee table books of hers I still have one is of Dali's work, which I still look through from time to time. So I'm with Orwell on this one.
It's an over 2 hour train trip to Figueres, and I had a seat facing backwards. I hate that. By the time you see something interesting it's receding into the distance. I'm also looking for beautiful Catalonian landscape, which seem to all be located on the other side of the train. All I get is the ass ends of little towns. I make a note to be on the south side on the return trip.
In Figueres the first thing is to get yer butt to the museum before everyone else from your train can get in line for the museum. I know this NOW. But at least I, unlike the vast majority of people I see, am wearing a sunhat. So the 45 minute wait isn't too bad. The only thing is people keep leaving a friend to hold their space while they run off to get ice cream, but since I'm alone there's no one to hold my space. Feh. But there's a street clown entertaining us, so the wait doesn't feel too long. And once inside it's like going into another world, like being inside someone's head. Dali picked this site - an old theater-turned-fishmarket for his museum, and redesigned it himself. He even had a bedroom here, so it feels bizarrely personal. There are amazing pieces here, so the trip feels worth it.
The thing with Dali - besides the whole actively trying to be weird thing - is that much of what he was trying to do was paint dreams. Most impressionists were combining the visual world with an emotional world, trying to show what it feels like to look at something, but Dali was trying to take the scramble of ideas/memories/impressions/feelings that we call the sub-conscious and make them manifest in paintings or sculptures. Sometimes he's clearly just putting weird stuff together for impact, but sometimes he's trying to make concrete the absolutely ephemeral. It's unique and interesting, and very well done.
The museum, though was packed. Apparently it's the second most visited tourist attraction in the country. And to add to it is the fact that it is very confusing to get around - little numbered arrows show where to go, but sometimes they make no sense: up two floors to get to the next section, down one floor to the next after that. I liked this seemingly arbitrary, chaotic design - it goes with Dali's style. But some folks were pissed, and the halls were choked with people doubling back in frustration.
The chaos ends with a peaceful little courtyard, right before the exit. I'm guessing after the madness of the museum everyone finds the courtyard as much a refuge as I did.
Next I decided - over the strenuous objections of my feet - to walk to what I was told is the largest fortress in Europe. It's not very far, but it is uphill. The thing about the fort is I was expecting more of a castle, and wondered why I couldn't see it from a distance. But this fort was built in the 1700 - 1800's, during the time of cannon warfare. So it is massive, bit very low to or under the level of the ground. It was built to stop French incursions - the border is very close - but I think it turned out to be a kind of a Spanish Maginot Line - the French just went around it. It was the last place the Catalan Government met before the were driven out of Spain by the Francoists (ironically enough, driven into France,) and spent most of its life as a prison. Like so many places here it has the blood of the Republic on it. I walked around it for an hour or so then, having once again depressed myself with thoughts of the brave men and women who were so pitilessly let down by the western "democracies" in the fight against fascism, I headed back to the train station.
And that's when I found the supermarket!
An actual supermarket! Barcelona is filled with tiny, itsy-bitsy "Supermerkats," most of which could fit in our apartment, but this one was actually super market sized! So I went shopping for stuff that wouldn't go bad on the train. Then another over two hour train ride back to Barcelona. And this time I snagged a seat on the south-side of the train, and got to see the beautiful Catalan countryside, with its rolling hills, vineyards, and even castles dotting the mountaintops.
Hobbled home around 9pm, and after an over 12 hour day of touristing my working/walking class feet staged a very successful rebellion against me.
And that's why I spent all day yesterday watching movies, and drinking cold green tea.