Barcelona, Spain: Casa Battló

After lunch, my sister and I reserved a time slot to visit Casa Battló—another incredible building designed by Antoni Gaudí, which is located near the center of Barcelona.

Between 1904 and 1906, Gaudí designed and built Casa Battló for a wealthy man by the name of Josep Batlló. Battló lived in the bottom two floors with his family, and rented out the remaining floors, which were used as apartments. As you can tell by looking at the pictures, Gaudí used colors that can be found in nature, but more specifically, marine life.

The outside of the building is designed to look like it is made from skulls (which are the balconies) and bones (which are the supporting pillars for the building). The roof is designed to look like a dragon, and as you walk around the exterior and see the different angles of the house, you’ll notice different colored tiles on the roof. These are meant to represent the scales of the dragon’s spine.

As you walk inside the house, the shapes and colors of the rooms and features are constantly changing. There is something to be seen everywhere you turn. The railing for the staircase is meant to fit the palm of your hand, as are all the door knobs inside the house. The banister itself represents another spine of a large animal. With incredibly large ceilings, Gaudí shaped each skylight like the shell of a tortoise, and made sure that there is an even distribution of light throughout the entire house.

This can be noted in one of the pictures below where the tiles from the bottom floor going up start off as a light blue. As you continue walking upstairs, the tiles become increasingly darker. There is also a glass casing on each floor by the staircase that provides a special effect. So, when you look at the blue tiles through the glass, it seems as though you are underwater, and the different shades of blue really accentuate this. And as if the inside of the house wasn’t beautiful enough, the various views of the city that can be seen from the rooftop are also stunning.

Below, you’ll find a video provided by Casa Batlló that shows the house come to life, as Gaudí originally imagined. It is truly a spectacular piece of art, and besides being a historic and fascinating staple for Barcelona, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

http://vimeo.com/81086090

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Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia: Enjoying Our Last Night In The City

After our afternoon excursion of mud-bathing in Volcán de Lodo El Totumo came to an end, it was time for us to return to our hotel and enjoy our final evening in Cartagena. During the drive back to Hotel Carribe, we came across multiple motor taxis. We were told that you can spot a motor taxi if you see a motorcyclist with two helmets—one on his head and one in his hand.

An individual would take a motor taxi if he or she doesn’t want to wait in traffic, or if he or she is in a rush. There are roughly one hundred accidents each day involving motor taxis, and it doesn’t help that they don’t have licenses to drive others or even insurance. The issue at hand is that the first rule in the constitution states that all individuals have the right to a job. Therefore, if the government were to ban motor taxis, so many individuals would be out of a job. This would lead to protests, strikes, and the blocking of streets. So, while motor taxis are not legal, they are socially accepted in Cartagena.

Similar to Bogotá, Cartagena has zones that classify residents according to socioeconomic standings. However, unlike Bogotá, the zones in Cartagena are dispersed and not in order. So, for example, a poor neighborhood can be located next to a very wealthy one, whereas in Bogotá, the nearby neighborhoods slowly progress into wealthier or poorer neighborhoods.

After arriving to the hotel, we decided to take a walk along the beach and enjoy a nice dinner before having to pack our things and get ready for an early morning flight. As sad as it was to leave Colombia, we had a great trip, and I hope I can say I’ll be back soon!

Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia

After eating breakfast in the morning, we hopped onto the tour bus and drove to La Candelaria, a historic neighborhood in downtown Bogotá. It is said that Colombia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with 1,887 species of birds alone in the country. Besides for its bio-diversity, our tour guide explained that Colombia is also known for four major features— coffee, emeralds, flowers, beautiful women, and cocaine. The size of Bogotá, specifically, can be compared to that of New York or London, and is the one of the three largest cities in South America.

It rains in Bogotá 250 days of the year, so rainy season is practically year-long. During the 19th century in the 1800s, the British arrived in Bogotá to build railroads and neighborhoods, so the fact that so much architecture in the city is based around red brick is due to the English influence. Something interesting about the city is that it is divided by numbers, with each number representing the class of individuals who live there—1 being the lowest socioeconomic level of status and 6 being the highest. The city’s minimum wage comes out to $280 per month, and for apartments in the level 3 district for middle class citizens, apartments cost $290 per month.

The first site that we came across was Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a beautiful church in the city that has become a staple, followed by a church from the 1600’s that survived the Civil War nearly 60 years ago. From there, we walked to Palacio de Nariño, or Nariño’s Palace—the official home and workplace of the President of Colombia. Antonio Nariño was the first person to translate human rights from French to Spanish. He had these rights printed on pamphlets and began passing them out, but was soon imprisoned for doing so. The palace sits on the same location where Nariño was born, and the President lives on third floor, while the rest of the palace contains important artifacts from the country’s history.

Outside the palace stood various military guards, and upon inquiring more information, we learned that one year of military training is mandatory for everyone upon graduating high school unless you have money to get yourself out of the requirement or unless you go directly to college.

As we continued walking, we came across balconies from hundreds of years ago that were influenced by the Arabians. The balconies were designed for the women of the house with the purpose being that the women could look outside, but no one could see inside.

We then saw the first observatory in all of South America that was built in the 1800s. It was meant to be taller than the Catholic Church but the architect was told if he followed through with his plan, he would have his head cut off.

The next sight was a cloister where firstborn girls were sent to spend the rest of the their lives. Their bodies would be painted when they died to preserve them. The second girl in the family would be married off to a wealthy lord, and the third daughter, or the youngest in the family would have to stay with their parents until they died, which some say is a different type of imprisonment as opposed to being sent to the cloister.

Following the cloister, we came across Plaza de Bolívar, named after President Simón Bolívar. The Plaza is home to the National Capital, the Palace of Justice, and the Cathedral of Bogotá.

As we continued walking, we spotted a building where President Simón Bolívar lived. He had a close female friend who often hosted parties and purposely invited various guests—some of whom were known to like the President, and others who openly voiced their dislike towards him. After getting the guests drunk, she approached them and asked what they thought of him. It was in this way that she found out about an attempt to kill him. She told Bolívar about this plan to kill him right before it happened, and he jumped out the window (pictured below) to escape and run while the people who planned to kill him were entering his house.

Across from this building is a theater built in 1793 but completed in 1800 which is very similar to the one in France, with the only difference being that this one is a little smaller. Shortly after seeing the theater, we came across a house where the Colombian version of Dr. Seuss was born, as well as the Red Cross building in Bogotá. From here, we took a tour of Fernando Botero’s museum, but that will be discussed separately in an upcoming post.