Mission: One day and one night in Barcelona, 8 hours of time, sniffing out one district until I know every hidden spot.It‘s ten in the morning, I‘m sitting in a small bar, a cup of coffee and a sandwich in front of me, trying to swallow the hangover from last night – I just couldn‘t resist the alluring nightlife of Barcelona. It was worth it and I cannot waste my day – I‘ve got nine hours left before I‘m going to catch my train back home and my curiosity screams louder than my buzzing head. Also, I feel quite twitchy, because the city once again trapped me and even tough I really love the quietness of the little villages, I sometimes need this bustling atmosphere – I‘m normally living in the middle of Berlin.
What am I going to do, with this little time and in a city, which seems to birm with liveliness? The benefit is, that I already know, where I want to spend my day. I‘m not a big sightseeing fan, I‘m anyway to small to catch a glimpse on a building between all the tourists. It‘s the district Raval, located south of the Rambla and looking like the shape of a fist on the map, which is attracting me. A few years ago, rarely any visitor would have come here and Raval appeared to be the contrary of the dazzling tourist promenades of Barcelona. Prostitution and crime were on daily occurrence, the general conditions of living were disastrous and the educational level was low. It was not till the city started to improve these conditions after the death of Franco, that Ravals dark face became a little more friendly. Bit by bit, a vividly subculture of young people developed and charming, little cafés and bars found their way into the district. Even if there‘s still a rough wind blowing trough some of the streets, Raval is now presented as one of Barcelonas most scenic quarters.
But that‘s not the main reason, why I‘m so curious about exploring it – I‘m normally living in Berlin Neukölln, which could be the identical twin of Raval. Therefore, I‘m also seeking for a little feeling of home in the outland – which would make it impossible for me, not to return to Barcelona for a longer time.
One hour later, after I managed to escape the crowd walking up and down the Rambla, I finally find myself in the chaotic tangle of narrow streets, which demand full concentration of my groggy head.
It‘s astounding, how quite the place all of a sudden becomes – I feel like slipping into a cocoon and the rest of the world is unable to follow me. But it‘s not only the silence, which is diffrent. Little by little, greengrocerys and cornerstores replace the shops, where the tourists are usually buying their souvenirs.
I neither have a travel guide nor a citymap, that‘s why I decide to wander around aimlessly. The streets soon become more and more narrow, some of the houses are built so close, that their balconys almost touch each other. Colorful shirts and dresses flutter on clotheslines above my head. The alley in front of me is now almost deserted, I can hear kids screaming and the noise of a hoover. On the contrary of the crowded Rambla, Raval seems to be more honest and I can find marks of the everydaylife of it‘s inhabitants almost on every corner. As I‘m used to it from where I live in Berlin, I soon notice, that there are diffrent areas in this district. The deeper I get into it, the more I betake myself into the cultural melting pot.
The silence merges into a noisy soundscape – I walk into alleys, in which market stalls and greengrocherys line both sides of the path. Women, wearing headscarfs, fill up their shopping bags and tattle with each other, children are playing at the roadside. When the first kebab shop appears, it finally reminds me of home.
A few streets further down, the first graffitis appear – the evidence, that I slowly walk towards the subcultural heart of the Raval. Cafés and bars are scattered all over the place, the terraces are full of young people, wearing sunglasses and drinking carafes of sangria, the smell of incense sticks and creativity seeps out of the shop – doors.The apartments are mostly populated by students, flags and posters stick to the grey walls.
Altought the atmosphere of Raval is very colorful and seems to birm over with agility, it‘s impossible to walk trough this district without catching a glimpse into it‘s ugly face. I cross areas, in which the silence gives way to a ambience of depression – the air is so stifling hot and sticky, that I don‘t even want to breath it, piles of rubbish line the road like termite hills. The plastering comes of the walls, windows are broken or not even existent. The gazes of the few people I meet, are distrustful and grumbly – I put my camera and my note book into my backpack, otherwise I would feel like a sensation – seeker, looking for the most touching evidence of incapacity.
This seems to be the place, where the older inhabitants of the Raval went. Or better said: they where banished, from where they were living before, when more and more students moved into the cheap flats and the rental prices started to rise. That‘s the other side of the picture: subculture and scenic spot on the one hand, gentrifictation and uprooting on the other.
After eight hours, I finally break out of the cocoon – the chaotic chrush on the Rambla seems even more artificially to me. I don‘t want to draw a conclusion after this day – the Raval is anyway to multilayered and rich in contrast to describe it with only a few words. But I‘m clear in my mind about one matter: Barcelona has stolen a little piece of my heart and I have to fetch it back.