Sunday, October 7, 2012

Most Beautiful City Has No Tides

Interesting piece, looks the same from
both sides. 
Today, Sunday, I stood in line for an hour at the Teleferico to ride the aerial tram across the port to Montejuic, an almost-mountain between the bulk of Barcelona and the sea. I thought (and I should quit thinking and read maps better!) that the teleferico went from the tower on the edge of the beach all the way up to the castle visible on the hill. Wrong. It only went across the water, the highway, and parked in about 10 minutes at the exit building on the other side. For that I paid $10 Euros and waited......and waited.

There was another teleferico with a starting point along the road near the middle of the mountain, but by that point I was a fed up, I just took a bus up the hill to the castle.

In line, however, I met a young German man who has been around the world a couple of times, once in each of his two adult decades. Nice man, thoughtful, introspective.  He said this is his fifth trip to Barcelona, just for the weekend and specifically to attend the hugely popular soccer playoff between Madrid and Barcelona. He also said that Barcelona is, in his opinion, the most beautiful city in all of Europe.

Bicing, a bike rental business with
stations all over the city.
It may well be true! Cleaning crews are always out picking up trash, dumping the trash receptacles, and sweeping machines wash the street. Everywhere I look there's yet another striking building, tree arched street, interesting sculpture, patterns in the plaster finishes, or carved lintels. Traffic seems to flow well, probably because most of the human traffic is on foot or underground in the Metro. Wheeled traffic is mostly bicycles, buses, taxis, and delivery trucks, with a few personal cars tossed in for good measure.

I almost got hit by one the other day, it was electric and made no noise whatsoever. I simply was walking on a pedestrian surface, that somehow became a driving surface and stepped right in front of a car. The driver never even honked but continued to rush up on me until I saw him and jumped out of the way.

Bicycles are everywhere, there are even businesses where you can take a bike and use it for a while. It's similar to a club, you buy a pass and use it at a bike station, ride the bike, then leave it at another station. If there are no bikes, or too many, a code on the post will let your cell phone locate the nearest one for you and you can ride or walk to that place. I see people whizzing around on them all the time. For those who don't want to pay the rather high "joining" fee (ie tourists) there are a number of just plain old-fashioned bike rental shops that also rent mopeds and Segways.

A common Barcelona street.
One of the more beautiful aspects of the city is the beach. It is almost entirely artificial, a creation back in the early 90s when Barcelona hosted the summer Olympics. Hugely popular, it is a series of scallops along the city's edge, each with it's own name and reputation. One is the nudist beach, some are more popular with families, another is where gay people tend to hang out though it's not exclusively a "gay" beach.

Dalila asked her friend Tarik over for dinner. He's Egyptian, raised in the US and Canada, and has been living in Barcelona for about 20 years. He swims the ocean every day except the very coldest days of winter. So early yesterday morning, she and I met at his house, picked up bread, cheese, coffee and olives at the local market, and had a picnic breakfast on the beach. We waded and played, napped and finally left about 2:00 when the crowds got too thick, and I looked like a strawberry. At any point in time, during this trip I could have gotten food and gone to the beach but it never occurred to me, and certainly having a picnic alone would have left something to be desired. It was a wonderful "local" experience, brought about by using AirBnB as a lodging finder. Otherwise, it's unlikely I'd have met too many of the "locals" in a city this big.

This morning, I donned the swimsuit and went alone to the beach as the sun was coming up. Never saw Tarik out swimming, but I did join another fellow who was bobbing up and down in the water. It was cold, but not as cold as the unheated swimming pool in Madrid! I let the waves come as they would and eventually I was wet enough to dive in and enjoy the water. It's so clean and clear, I could look straight down and see the red paint on my toenails!

The nudist section of the beach?

More people were out and about than I expected so early in the morning, walking their dogs, letting them run like mad on the beach to splash in the water. Many were exercising, running, roller blading, or bicycling. Floating around in the waves was wonderful, I could always stand up. No one bothered my little pile of clothes. And the waves never reached them, even though the pile was only a foot or two above the edge of the drop-down in the sand. That's because the Mediterranean has no tide. Water comes in and goes out very consistently. A few waves are puny, a few higher but in general there is a maximum zone they reach and it never varies. Once the artificial beach reached some kind of equilibrium, it hasn't eroded or washed away.

The water doesn't rise above that drop-off, nor
go out much further than the breaking waves. 

So this begs a scientific question: At what point is a "lake" big enough to have tides? And since the Mediterranean is actually connected to the Atlantic, why isn't it affected by the tides in the Atlantic?


Along the beach walk.

Wonderful fish sculpture above the barrier wall
for a section of the beach.

Common scene, especially on Saturdays.

On a clear day......
you can see a cucumber.