Welcome to Barcelona…
Two weeks ago we welcomed the group of 14 Spring 2014 Language and Culture Students. Orientation is still going on, and as usual, activities and events have been planned throughout the semester in order to accompany our students’ learning and intercultural experiences. UPF students Júlia and Irene are acting as Guardian Angels and have been sharing thoughts, long walks, tapas, chocolate con churros and welcome events with students. On Friday, the group enjoyed a hike up Tibidabo mountain and then had a calçotada, the traditional Catalan lunch based around roasted onions (calçots) accompanied by a delicious sauce (salsa romesco) made with peppers, olive oil and nuts.
Last week we organized a special walking tour, in order for our students to explore the Gothic Quarter and understand its significance in shaping the city’s present identity. We explained the history along with fun facts and pointed out locations where popular movies have been filmed. We also talked about legends associated to the area.
In Plaza Sant Jaume we revived the city’s Roman past: the square, where the Barcelona City Hall and the Seat of Catalan Government are currently located, is the exact place where the Roman Forum was located. Since Roman times, Plaza Sant Jaume has been the location of the city's political and social debates. Moreover, the two main streets – Cardus and Decumanus – crossing Barcino (the Roman name of the city) met in the square, which still preserves its Medieval atmosphere.
Another magical square is Plaza de San Felipe Neri, a hidden oasis located behind the Barcelona Cathedral. During the Medieval period, in this was a Jewish cemetery. The square was built on the ruins of the cemetery and it bordered the edges of the Jewish quarter. Between 1721 and 1752 the baroque church that gives name to the square, the Church of San Felipe Neri, was built. During the Spanish Civil War a bombing killed 42 civilians that were seeking shelter inside the church. The façade of the church is still marked by this event. Yet, according to legend, the square was also used as an execution area. As Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote in his bestseller novel The Shadow of the Wind: “Plaza de San Felipe Neri is like a small breathing space in the maze of streets that crisscross the Gothic quarter, hidden behind the old Roman walls. The holes left by machine-gun fire during the war pockmark the church walls. That morning a group of children played soldiers, oblivious to the memory of the stones. A young woman, her hair streaked with silver, watched them from the bench where she sat with an open book on her lap and an absent smile.” The music video of the song My Immortal by Evanescence was shot here as well.
We also explored the Born area, whose iron market building has been recently reopened and converted into a Cultural Center, where archeological sites of Barcelona as it was in the 16th century are currently displayed. The Catalan word Born means “tournament”. The Passeig del Born was precisely the place where, from the 13th to the 15th centuries, people were used to gather to observe tournaments, festivals and inquisition practices. Besides, Passeig del Born has been traditionally a popular spot for movies or tv shows (our students had a great time reproducing a scene from a film on the Passeig del Born):
A semester of history and stories, languages and cultures is opened for our students to discover and live. Spanish courses, CIEE classes and HESP classes at UPF start this week, many students have already showed their interest in volunteering as English Teacher Assistants at a local high school, the first Intercambio will be held very soon. We will, of course, keep you updated. In the meantime, please, like our Facebook Page to see pictures from our activities!