Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bones, Basques & Barcelona: Day 8

Second-to-last post from actress Kirsten D'Aurelio...

"We’re back in Catalan territory here in Barcelona, though there are little touches of Basque culture here---mostly bars or restaurants, where the Euskera font is used to draw you in, but the food isn’t really Basque cuisine. It’s just a lure, a way of appearing exotic or something, and a bit exploitative if you ask me, like a Native American at a casino. No Basque flags, no Euskera on the signs here. It’s fascinating how geographically contained Basque culture is; just a short 45-minute flight southeast within Spain and poof! A whole would-be nation has disappeared. Which means that Ollie was an outsider here at 8 years old, and found herself faced with a new language (Catalan.) By the time this play begins, adult Ollie can speak Euskera, Castillian Spanish, Catalan, and English (British, Canadian, and U.S. varieties.)

To get a fast orientation to Barcelona since we’ll only be here 2 days, we hopped on a city tour bus that allowed us to hop on and off as we pleased. First stop: the Joan Miro museum. Really wonderful collection. Then we rode a cable car gondola that took us to the top of Mont Juic (“Mount of the Jews”). Ironically, the 9th century Jewish tombstones that gave this place its name were moved to a museum one year ago, so it’s now really “Mount of No Jews”...But the view from there is stunning, overlooking the whole city, harbor and sea. Barcelona really is a gorgeous city. Back on the bus, we glimpsed the Olympic Stadiums and a cool sculpture by Calatrava. Then a very tall statue of Christopher Columbus on a colonnade near the harbor. It’s interesting how many peoples like to claim him: his native Italians, Italian-Americans, the Basques (who built his ships and sailed with him), the Spanish (who employed him.)

Also saw the stadium complex for FC (Football Club) Barcelona, the city’s pride and joy athletic institution and soccer team. Ollie mentions them in the play.

Got a brief taste of the wonderful Gaudi architecture at the Pedrera house. I’m starting to understand “modernisme” (the Catalan art noveau movement) better, and in general the contributions by Catalans like Gaudi and Miro. Catalans here live inside the city, but are also outside it (one bit of graffiti read “Catalonia is NOT Spain!”) So would Ollie have felt a kinship with Catalans, who have a separate, distinct cultural identity just as the Basques do? Interestingly, there was a “Forum of the Cultures” in Barcelona in 2004 to recognize “nations without states,” and attendees included Basques, Catalans, Native Americans, Roma (Gypsies) and Maoris. A big party for the outsiders.

Late in the day, we wandered the Ramblas, a long pedestrian mall lined with trinkets, trash and tourists, which I found to be crass, commercial and cacophonous (wasn’t happy to see Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC jammed with excited tourists at 1 a.m., either.) But on one side street off the Ramblas, there is a recently-discovered Roman necropolis right in the middle of this commercial district! Not your every day find in modern day Barcelona, and the novelty of this made me wonder how the heck a person like Ollie becomes interested in antiquity (archaeology) when surrounded by so much modernity in a big, up-to-date cities like Barcelona and San Sebastian. Where did her vocational passion come from? Have to figure that one out.
Here are the tombs:

Tomorrow: my last day to soak up sunny Spain, and to find more of Ollie in her childhood city!"

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