This post was delayed due to being illegally written on my work laptop


“The city’s ok, but the architecture’s a little Gaudi…” OMG architectural pun FTW

Scarcely a week since I was enjoying the exotic luxury of a Dutch desk, I’ve returned from yet another business trip, this time to the much more envy-inducing city of Barcelona. Even packing my bag, I knew things would be different. This time, I would need nothing more than two thin cotton dresses, heavy-duty suncream and some unspeakably elegant beaded designer sandals – well, I managed to provide the first two at least. And yes, arriving in Barcelona was pretty much the sexiest thing ever; the spiky palm trees decking the airport’s outer terrace, the airbus ride past traditionally styled casas, walking to the office under scrolled and leafy balconies…

And my god is it a cool place. The city is so good-looking you want to keep it a secret from your parents. There are arches and alleys and cupolas and churches and statues and plazas crammed among streets so dense and knitted that it only takes three minutes to get lost even walking in a straight line. Everybody has that despicable mediterranean glow of abundant health, relaxation and gorgeousness. I’d love to say that I had much time to explore, see the famous Gaudi buildings (seriously, if you don’t get the pun now then shame on you), indulge in a few piping hot tapa, but unfortunately it was a business trip, and unfortunately business never sleeps. My bus ride to the office had to serve as a tour because within moments I was back at a desk on my laptop arranging meetings and drafting spreadsheets and taking minutes. (Counting them, too…) The day was consumed with meetings and as soon as everyone else clocked off to go to the beach for a lazy beer by the waves, I had to begin my other work that had been postponed for all the meetings.

Infuriatingly, I didn’t even get a chance to sample any Spanish delicacies because my savvy Spanish colleagues took us to a pizzeria for lunch – seriously? Even the North Koreans have pizzerias! – and for dinner, wait for it…a Mexican restaurant, so we could eat quasi-Hispanic food three metres away from a place selling quiveringly fresh seafood tossed in yellow rice with spicy glumptious chorizo. Bastards. The  hostel I was booked in was a flavourless white plastic box serving nothing but cornflakes and melon for breakfast and by the time it got to lunch on the last day I was so angry I went out and got the first actual Spanish speciality I could lay my hands on. This came from an amazing charcuteria selling beautiful cured meats and offering a special ‘snack’ of cubes of some of their most resinous Iberico in little cones of birch-tree bark with a packet of grissini. So at least that was something.

Apparently my colleagues went for fondue. What is wrong with them?!?!!!one!

But that’s enough complaining, because I did at least see enough of Barcelona to know that I simply have to go back. It is, frankly, stunning. I was so captivated by the fronts of all the buildings that I accidentally stomped all over a small girl in the street because I wasn’t looking where I was going. She didn’t understand my profuse apologies because I don’t speak much Spanish (I suppose I could have thanked her for her company, or wished her to have a nice day). The sun was casting a luxurious sticky yellow warmth over the sandy-coloured streets. Every new blink of an eye may as well have been a shutter-frame closing on a postcard photoshoot.

And that is all very interesting, because the whole time I was absorbing this place, I was asking myself two questions: “Why the bloody hell didn’t I move here?!” and “Actually, why do I not want to?” There’s no family or husband or pesky stuff like that forcing me to stay in Berlin so I could happily hop over to Barca at a moment’s notice and set up shop. So why doesn’t it call to me in the same way that Berlin does, that city that makes me grin like a small child high on Smarties?

And the more time I spent in the city, blasted by the deafening noise that barged in through the office windows, sprinting across scary quadruple-carriageways, and injuring vulnerable infants, I knew exactly why. Barcelona is wonderful and vibrant and exciting, but it is completely nuts. Not in the lovably-insane sense like Berlin, but in the frantic I’ve-had-three-lines-of-coke-and-a-couple-of-E’s kind of way. The streets are wild, the building works harsh, the streets narrow and humming. There’s no air, no peace, no…space. No time to relax. No room to breathe. It’s thrilling for a day, but a headache for a life; for my life, at least. I love Berlin for its wide and quiet streets, for the fact that its main tourist-street is startlingly placid all the time, for the fact that it feels like every other real capital city having a day off. The balconies still overflow with plants like in Barcelona, but softly, like clusters of coral, rather than wildly, like an hobbit’s afro. I guess the fact is that I’m still a country lass at heart; Barcelona and Berlin are both big cities, but Barcelona is just too much city for me.

Rose T