Hej hej! It is a beautiful day in Uppsala today- bright blue skies and the last of the yellow leaves clinging to their trees for as long as they can. It is cold out, but not as cold as I was expecting for this time of year. There is rumor among the students that it will snow tonight, but I am skeptical. No weather site I can find has any mention of it, but I would love a snow day in October! I am still cherishing autumn as much as I can- every time there is a day as nice as this one I worry it will be the last and try to soak up the sun. The air is crisp and dry, like it would be if I went to the Blue Ridge Mountains back home. But enough about the weather! I need to tell you about my trip to Barcelona a few weeks ago. I got back from my trip to Helsinki on Tuesday evening and left for Barcelona early Friday morning, which is perhaps the biggest climate change I have experienced within a 4 day period. Helsinki was drizzly and cold, and so was Uppsala for most of the week. I got to Barcelona in my pants and thick socks but soon realized it had other plans for me. I packed one pair of shorts for Sweden, and I think Barcelona will be the only time I use them before coming back to the states. Driving past palm trees on the way into the city having cycled through frost 5 hours earlier on my way to the train station in Uppsala was a bit surreal. That wasn’t the only big difference I noticed between Sweden and Spain while on the bus from Barcelona airport into town- the young teenagers noisily kissing each other on the seat behind me in the bus reminded me that not everyone is as reserved as the Swedes. The student nation of which I am a member in Uppsala is called Värmlands- pronounced similar to Vermlands- and is nicknamed Spermlands by some of the students here. When I ask why they tell me it is because it is the nation with the most hooking up going on at parties, but I have been to half a dozen big parties there and seen maybe three couples doing anything resembling scenes at an average middle school dance back in the states. In Spain, however, this was not the case. I think maybe it has something to do with the amount of skin showing in people’s respective outfits in the countries? Anyway I promise I noticed things in Barcelona besides the warm temperature and kissing couples. I arrived Friday afternoon and met my older sister and her good friend Olivia, who are traveling Europe together and wanted to rendezvous with me somewhere. We met outside our hostel, had a little sit and chat, and then walked out to get our first real glimpse of the city. Our hostel was a two minute walk from Las Ramblas, the main tourist street in the city. Aside from a fun food market with stalls and samples of all kinds, I was not a fan of Las Ramblas. It was engorged with noisy Americans and tacky souvenirs, but it was still interesting to walk down and observe. We ended up on the beach by an impressive plinth with a figure we couldn’t identify. It is one of the main landmarks of the city, but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t figure out what it is called and I don’t have internet while I am writing this. Anyway, we proceeded back into town and took some side streets in search of Tapas and Sangria. We were successful, and the food was expensive but delicious. The layout of the city is fun to walk through: it is gridded like most cities with blocks, but there are many streets running diagonally through the grid which creates many triangular buildings and unique views. We walked back through the city to our hostel, trying to soak up as much of its Catalan flavor before passing out early to get a head start on Saturday. We woke up and went first to the Picasso museum, which was amazing. I love exhibits which focus on one artist’s work and do so chronologically: I don’t know if I ever enjoy art more than when I have seen the artist’s progression in mood and medium over the course of his/her life. Picasso gave hundreds of his paintings to the museum before his death, and it focused on paintings he made while living in Catalonia. We then had some interesting pizza-like something for lunch, and went to the Sagrada Familia- a cathedral designed by Gaudi and perhaps the most famous building in Barcelona. The line was far too long so we decided to come back early the next day. We walked up a huge hill on the edge of the city and enjoyed the view- you could see the whole city in every direction. This is possibly my favorite way to look at cities: they have a different feel when viewed as a whole than from the streets within. I therefore was a little bummed at how brief we stayed at the top, but wine and food were calling us from the city below. We made ourselves a delicious meal and ate it on the little balcony outside our room in the hostel and then called it another early night. We did indeed make it to the cathedral on Sunday, and got there before it opened in order to beat the quickly expanding queue. The cathedral was unbelievable inside and out, a blend of themes Gaudi picked up in nature with some traditional European architecture mixed in as well. I didn’t realize the cathedral is under constant construction, with completion estimated to be in 2030. I didn’t feel as bad about my expensive ticket price once I realized it would contribute to the construction of this amazing structure. Amy and I also made it to the park at the top of the city that Gaudi also designed, but of course there was a strike among Underground workers (which seemed to start in the morning and finish around 5- seems like more of a collective sick day to me but what do I know) which meant we spent two hours getting there and back and only had time to run around and see as much of the park as we could in the ten minutes we had there before heading back down. When, not if, I return I vow to spend longer there as it was incredible architecturally but also provided views of the city from another angle, looking out over it and to the ocean beyond. We finished the night watching El Clasico in a bar with locals, a dream come true for me. El Clasico is the name of the clash between Real Madrid, the best team in mainland Spain, and Barcelona, the ‘Catalan kings’. It is my favorite rivalry in sports, not just because they are without doubt the two best soccer teams in the world right now, but because the history between the teams and the lands they represent. We met two Americans while stuck waiting in the Underground who had bought tickets that morning for $200 each, the cheapest price available. I was sick with jealousy, which turned to rage when the man told me he did not know who Messi or Ronaldo were, and admitted that soccer was pretty boring to him. I had heard all kinds of stories and warnings about pickpocketing and thieves before I went to Barcelona, but that man was the closest I came to seeing any theft while I was there, and I was the one who wanted to steal his tickets! The bar provided a brand new experience regardless, as we took a train out to the outskirts of the city to be close to Camp Nou, Barcelona’s 80,000+ capacity stadium. We found a bar, standing room only, and proceeded to sing and chant and cheer with the residents to the best of our abilities. We returned home, had a 3 hour nap, and woke up at 3:45 to catch our bus to the airport. I arrived back in Uppsala having slept on the plane, and found that it had transformed in my absence and was vibrant with fall colors. It was another day of blue skies, and I stopped my bike ride home from the train station to snap some pictures of the cathedral framed among the changing trees. I have to go again now, but I am slowly catching this blog up to the present! I will try to get another post done this weekend, and I will talk about my second Gasque and possibly my trip to Copenhagen last weekend.