Barcelona, Spain: Catedral de Barcelona

The hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off in the Barrio Gótico, also known as the Gothic Quarter. I’ll describe the Gothic Quarter more in depth in a later post, but as we walked around the area, we spotted the Catedral de Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona.

After waiting in line, we finally entered the Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning.  Construction for the Cathedral began during the 11th Century, but whatever had been built was destroyed by the Moors in 985. Construction began once again a little later on and the central part of the building was completed in the mid 1400’s. However, the building’s facade was not completed until the late 1800’s.

There are twenty nine side chapels within the church, one of which is said to contain a “miraculous crucifix,” which supposedly helped defeat the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

Some other interesting facts about the Cathedral include the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona. During the Roman period, Santa Eulàlia was tortured to death, and her body lies buried underneath the high altar. February 12th is dedicated to her, as locals celebrate a day of feasting in her memory.

On the side of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful Cloister with additional chapels, tranquil fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It has been said that from this area, you can hear nearby geese. Years ago, the geese supposedly “warned against intruders and thieves” (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

There is a small elevator inside the Cathedral that takes visitors up to the rooftop. From there, we saw incredible views of the city from such a unique and special vantage point.

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Enjoying Lisbon, Portugal

As mentioned in a previous post, after our trip to Colombia, my sister and I traveled to Israel for a week to visit some of our family members who live there. On the way, we had plans to stop in Spain for a few days, and it just so happens that we were able to find a flight from Miami that stopped in Lisbon, Portugal for a few hours before continuing to Spain.

We arrived in Lisbon at around 5:00am, and had nearly ten hours to explore the city before having to return to the airport. After passing customs and dropping our suitcases off in a locker room, we hopped on the city bus that took us to the city center, nearly thirty minutes away from the airport. By the time we arrived to Praça de Comércio, also known as the city center, it was around 6:30am. Almost every store and restaurant were closed, and the only people on the streets besides us were store owners getting ready to open, people who were making their way back home after a long night, and street cleaners. We had what seemed like the entire city to ourselves, so naturally, we walked around and explored.

In preparing for the trip, I found a walking tour itinerary, so we followed the directions and began our tour. After walking through the city center, we made our way to the first stop, Igreja de Madalena which dates back to 1783, although it has a history that dates back centuries before. “This Church was founded in the 12th century, ordered by the first Portuguese king, D. Afonso Henriques in the 12th century, yet it has suffered many transformations over the centuries, namely in 1363 when it was quite destroyed by a big fire; in 1512 with other architectonic alterations; in 1600 was partially destroyed by a small cyclone; and with the big earthquake of 1755 was almost totally destroyed and rebuilt afterwards, maintaining some ancient elements, as well as several Lisboa’s buildings that wererebuilt after the big catastrophe” (www.getportugal.com).

From here, we walked down the street until we came across Igreja de San António, also from the 1700’s which was built atop what is said to be the saint’s birthplace. After walking around the church, we found Sé de Lisboa, which is Lisbon’s cathedral. Here, in Lisbon’s oldest building dating back to 1150, is where Saint Anthony was baptized and where the casket with the remains of St. Vincent, the official patron saint of Lisbon are located. (http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/cathedral.html).

We were fortunate enough that by the time we made it to each particular site, the doors were just being opened for entrance. Our morning was off to an incredible start, as we were able to see so many beautiful sights, but this was only the beginning!

Day 1 in Cartagena, Colombia Continued: The Walled City and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

After seeing Las Bóledas, we drove further into the Walled CIty. One of the first things we noticed was that many houses had little knobs on the corners of their roofs. Years ago, if you were Catholic, you would put these knobs on your roof for witches to fly over your house. If you didn’t have it on your roof, it meant that you were not Catholic and since you were most probably considered a witch, you were taken into the inquisition.

Every year on September 26th, there is a competition to see who has the nicest balcony in the Walled City. For this reason, almost every house we saw had beautiful gardens on their balcony, and the reason being, the winner of the competition doesn’t have to pay taxes for an entire year. If you were to buy a new house in the Walled City, you must restore it or the government can seize it and sell it to someone willing to make the necessary renovations.

The Inquisition took place here in Cartagena during 1610 and lasted for 201 years. If you were not Catholic, you were considered heretic and would be brought to the building pictured below where you would either be tortured or killed. Either way, all women were brought here and were weighed because you could only weigh a certain amount depending on your height. If you were deemed “too skinny,” you were considered to be a witch with the capability of flying. If you were deemed “too fat,” you were considered to have the devil in you. Additionally, if a woman thought her husband was cheating on him, she could go to someone she thought was a witch and ask her to do a prayer for the husband to be faithful. If the husband was in fact faithful, the woman would be brought in and punished by having her breasts removed. If the husband’s behavior didn’t change after the prayer, it was assumed that he was still unfaithful and he would be brought in and punished in the form of having his testicles removed.

As we continued walking, we came across what translates to “Bitterness Street.” This street received its name because during the inquisition, two men were being walked toward their hanging and as they reached the end of the road, one turned to the other and said, “This should be called Bitterness Street.” Apparently, ever since then, the name remained.

The next building we saw was one in which the Spaniards would use as the main building to bring all of their merchandise into the Walled City. The square itself is called Custom Square because this building is where customs once was. Hangings during the Inquisition took place here as well.

The last sight we saw as we walked around was the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, or the San Pedro Claver Church, started by a Jesuit priest who helped the cause of the African slaves. He was called the Patron Saint of Slaves because he dedicated his life to helping the slaves. This is the only church in Cartagena with indoor balconies, and back in the day, the rich people would sit upstairs and the poor sat downstairs.

As the evening tour of the Walled City concluded, my mother, sister, brother, and I ate dinner in at Porton de San Sebastian, which is a restaurant that has a beautiful story behind it. Before owning her own restaurant, the owner would cook meals and give them to local workers in the city who didn’t have much money as a token of her appreciation. Someone wrote about this quality of this woman’s food and the premise behind what she was doing, and eventually, the writer’s review helped build up enough of a reputation for her to open her own restaurant. When she did open her own restaurant, she continued her tradition by closing her restaurant off one hour each weekday during lunch hours for local workers. The food was incredible and knowing the story behind the restaurant and its owner made the meal that much more enjoyable.