Lost in translation in Barcelona

A man wearing a costume of Antoni Gaudi’s creation, Ceramic Dragon. This character can be seen across the city.

EVERY note, every word sung by Freddie Mercury and Monserrat Caballe about Barcelona is true.

The city is, putting it simply, gorgeous.

Home to architectural and other masterpieces created by Antoni Gaudí, captivating parks and narrow streets with the spirit of the past still inhabiting them.

The capital of Catalonia and Spain’s second largest city welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists annually and it does a great job, but…and there’s always a “but”…

Here are a few “buts” Dmitry Dmitriev of Booked.net and his girlfriend Marina Solonnikova discovered in thier travels around Europe’s fourth most visited city – Barcelona:

When it comes to describing those “buts” it’s easiest to make a list.

Store with jamon (meat product) and cheese. Like everywhere, everything is written in Spanish.

1. To our surprise we found out that locals do not routinely speak English, which made it difficult to communicate, since we don’t speak any Spanish.

Most of the time we had to stick our Lonely Planet guidebook in people’s faces and became experts in sign language.

Thankfully, Catalonians were courteous enough to give thorough directions to us.

In popular tourist spots, there is less language-related drama.

In the Casa Batlló a guide spoke good English, meanwhile at the Picasso Museum we had to hunt for an English-speaking guide.

So my tip is to brush up on some basic Spanish before you go to Barcelona.

Metro de Barcelona, the stations are purely functional with no decoration.

2.Since we traveled on a budget, taxis were expensive for us, so we chose the metro instead.

It’s amazing how well-planned all 11 lines are and we never got lost using them.

We were staying in the centre of the city near the Fontana station and had to use only Lines 1, 3 and 4 to get to most of the city’s landmarks and, of course, the sea port.

When we looked for staff members to ask for help, we couldn’t find any – because, quite simply, there aren’t any.

Here human interaction has been replaced with multi-lingual token machines and map stands – it is a completely automated process.

Again, here, it does pay to know a bit of Spanish as not all signs are translated.

A bowl of sea delicacies in dry ice.

3. One of the things we planned for our trip was to sample the seafood dishes Barcelona’s famed for.

So we headed for the Barceloneta station, which took us right to the beautiful port with its assorted cafes and restaurants offering a variety of seafood cooked in multiple ways. After scrutinizing prices and the atmosphere we decided that the “Emperador” restaurant was ideal. In convivial surroundings and wrapped up in the moment, we did not pay attention to the details of the menu and ordered food that, when delivered, came as a shock.

Each to their own, but a bowl of raw mussels, oysters and other shellfish on ice was delivered to us, it is fair to say it wasn’t suited to our palates. Of course, we could have cancelled the order, but curiosity took over and we decided to give it a try – our mistake. It was so terrible that I had to drink huge quantities of liquid to wash the taste from my mouth.

So take my advice and do not order blind, make sure to ask for a menu in a language you understand or call for a waiter to help you.

In conclusion…

Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia

Those were minor inconveniences in what is one of Europe’s most intriguing and beguiling cities.

We spent four days there.

It was not enough.

While the city is easily navigated in a day, there’s an atmosphere there that begs you take your time, relax, and soak up the unique mix of architecture, history, natural beauty and culture.

I want to go back.

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