Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Spanish Souvenirs!

“Who’s to say what a ‘literary life’ is? As long as you are writing often, and writing well, you don’t need to be hanging-out in libraries all the time. Nightclubs are great literary research centers. So is Ibiza!” …Roman Payne.

“Cities, too, are embracing digitization. Barcelona has installed in-ground parking sensors and launched connected public transportation as part of its Smart City strategy”... John T. Chambers.

Well, I think above two quotes defines characteristics (read attitude) of the two cities of Spain, both famous for their own specialties! Yes I am writing about cities (big exception “Apale Pune”) after a long time (may be a decade) but then I haven’t visited any in the long time & happy the fast broke with these two names (three actually but third one is separate subject) as year after years visiting forests & natural reserves yet there is a small wish list for me to visit few places & if Ibiza was surely not in it Barcelona was long pending! Right from the days when I first came across terminologies like Urban Planning, Public Transport, Civic Infra the name Barcelona was included in the To Visit List & finally it took my forester friends group only to make my wish list become a reality. So in a way its forest only which made me travel to the place named Spain & made me realize there is so much to learn & adopt & so little I have done! Well, Spain is one of the largest & most historic countries in Europe though not as advanced or rich destinations like Germany, England or France, neither it carries glamorous heritages the places like Budapest, Rome or Prague has & certainly it’s not as scenic as Austria or Salzburg or Swiss Alps but then I will say is it has dash of every above thing making it wonderful destination to visit! We the Indians are funny lot, we often visit places going by what people speaks about them or what’s been shown in our Bollywood movies & after the popular movie Jindgi Na Mile Dobara, in which three bachelors travels across the Spain countryside for celebrating pre marriage freedom of one of friend, a journey which starts as fun, ends up with soul searching for each of them; suddenly Indians came to know there is  place named Spain which they should visit as it has much more to explore than Bull Fights & yes there is a festival also where people throws Tomatoes on each other!

Well, Spain is lot more than that actually & as the first quote by Pyene, who wrote one of the best books on travels i.e. “Cities & Countries”, let’s talk about Ibiza! When our forester groups decided about visiting Spain & three destinations, Ibiza, Barcelona & Valencia, I knew very little about Ibiza, just that it’s an island & famous for beaches! Well, when I told my sons that I am going to Spain & Ibiza, their faces turned purple! As then I came to know Ibiza if world’s Goa actually so you can imagine my sons’ excitement about their forest loving father visiting Ibiza! As I said Ibiza is an island with green hills covered in rolling mists & clouds & beaches covering most of the periphery! While starting for Spain we have been told that this will be good season & lots of sun & warmth but as the flight approached Ibiza, it was all cloudy & raining heavily & I thought gone is our sight-seeing with such weather to welcome but then that’s what I knew little about Spain & her weather mood changes! The airport of Ibiza was in a way show case of what it hold behind i.e. everything in bright colors & lots of bikini wear shops along with cocktail serving joints right outside the gate of flight! More to my astonishments most of the cabbies were women & do mind language is a big problem in Spain. Yet when asked about clouds & rains our driver smilingly said tomorrow it will be sunny & clear sky! I looked outside of window & dark clouds & wished I could have such trust in our weather forecast (well it’s much better now sure). The cab pulled along our hotels porch & we were welcomed by opening of chilled champagne bottle by the lobby manager, well this is what Ibiza is, I said to myself!

And next day morning when I woke up for walk (that’s best thing you can do at any new place, a long walk) it indeed was sunny & clear blue sky outside & I realized this is western culture, they do what they say & or they flatly refuse! And then next three days exploring Ibiza by every possible mean on feet, local bus & taxi sometimes; we were located near to old city which is spread around an old castle or church. I am deliberately not putting names to the churches or streets or castles as one sitting in your home or office it hardly makes any difference & second & really don’t remember as all are Casa D Something or Saint D Something type names which sounds all same for me! Ibiza being an island has many water boats for transportation as water ways are major part of the same. We took a ferry to old town from a jetty right in back yard of our hotel & trust me every my planning book funda I saw melting down in very first sight of Ibiza. As right along the shore there are lots of buildings even new also. And then the old city which is a huge conglomerate of shops, cafes, bars, & residences around the castle cum church! I have been told Europe is costly affair for shopping but frankly that’s relative term & I personally found Spain much at par to our country as the country is not in much good shape on financial front & if the tourists don’t spend on shopping pr eating, how you are going to make revenue & if you want tourists to shop you need to keep food & goods in their budget is simple funda which they are wise enough to understand & adopt! And Ibiza has full of all such shopping places right from hand made goods to souvenirs to branded items to lure tourists & when tourists are done with shopping well, there are beaches, sand, cocktails & paella i.e. Spanish cuisine made of rice with vegetables or meat or fish, to make them relax! The best part of Ibiza apart from beaches, yachts & shopping is the old town around the central castle/church; walking through those narrow cobble stone paved lanes I was living like some English novel chapter as people sitting on chairs on pavements, people walking on streets, people shopping, people drinking wine, people clicking selfies, people with their pet dogs & bright sun with blue sky, I realized this is Europe! Even the sea side promenades is worth studying, in-front of my eyes images of sea side walk near Hotel Taj in Mumbai came & I was thinking how great that site can be made if worked on these lines, alas only if had it been Ibiza!

Well, what we earn from places like Ibiza as have we not our very own Goa to match its vibrancy, is what many will ask! Let me tell you, it’s the difference of scale & variety of presenting everything is what we should learn. Though the season at Ibiza was yet to start so we couldn’t actually experience night life or the party type mahaaol yet even what was on show, was enough to give the idea of what Ibiza offers to its patrons! Apart from party night & shopping, Ibiza is center for art & culture for Spain with hundreds of studios, art galleries & art schools giving opportunity to thousands of youngsters to take route of art, which is dearly missing from our once art rich country!  I took back colors from Ibiza & lots of them as well the way you use these colors in everything you create!

And then if Ibiza is happening, vibrant typical tourist heaven then Barcelona is all time awake, buzzing, celebrating life yet very businesslike city where old meets new with grace! And when the name Barcelona pops up then first thing comes to mind of most (well football lovers I meant) is FC Barca i.e. the world’s one of the most decorated football club’s home town! One can’t say he or she visited Barcelona if the trip doesn’t includes the tour of the FC Barca stadium again not just a sports ground but an engineering marvel in itself!  I am not great follower of football but I like any game especially ground game & no two minds this game has great energy in it! And with names like Messy, Suarez, Nyemar & Innista playing here no wonder from all over the world tourists come to visit FC Barca which is smart enough to en-cash this fan following. The audio visual tour of the club ends in a three storied shopping store which sells everything from tee-shirts to key-chains with FC Barca on it! We the Indian’s love cricket shade more than the Europeans loves football & why cant in place like Mumbai we make something like this at Wankhde Stadium or at Eden Gardens in Kolkata where histories have been wrote & legends like Gawaskar, Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Dhoni or Kohali has mesmerized one twenty crore Indians with their game for years after years! It’s not commercialization of the game which many can say but its conserving heritage of the sport which has kept this country united is a fact! FC Barca is a tribute to every sport & sportsman who has given something to the game is what they say!

And apart from FC Barca the city is one of the best planned smart city with wonderful public transport system where eight lines of Metro serves you twenty four hours in tune with bus system. Do mind, Spaniards doesn’t like English much yet even once in four days we needed to use taxi for our commuting such is the system of public transport. Once you buy a 48 hour ticket then you can hop in or hop off on any public transport line of the city any numbers of time with an app in you cell phone which guides you towards nearest bus stop or Metro station to your destination from your location & timings of the bus or train too! Well, that’s why even the millionaires of the city you can see riding Metro or Bus here as its time saving & comfortable! And unlike London or Moscow, the Metro here is fairly young i.e. recently developed leaving us no space to face-off saying “oh these cities has it since long back that’s why it’s possible or easy for them”!

Just like FC Barca one more name rules the city & that is legendary architect Antonio Gaudi, whose forms & structures gave new dimension to the construction industry! His buildings are now in a way monument & his residence has been developed in one of the best conserved structure. No wonder even his incomplete building i.e. Sagrada Familia Cathedral also has become most visited place of the city for the tourists. Now, this I say is being great where the jobs you left incomplete also becomes memorial! On this background I remembered images (read condition) of so many so called heritage structures in our Smart City Pune; do I need to mention names! It’s the people (citizens) in the city which makes the city, indeed really true & if they have Gaudi then more applauds for the citizens of Barcelona that they acknowledged his greatness & conserved that & marketing it perfectly, who has stopped us doing that here in Pune? One more thing you notice in Barcelona & that is public places & lots of them where plantation has been done to conserve biodiversity & yes in Pune we have many but these gardens are actually forests in Barcelona with grass, shrubs, mid level trees & big tress all growing together in harmony making it a complete life cycle! And yes do visit Rambla Street, one of the world’s most loved shopping market where you will be zapped by the sheer verity of eating stuff which is displayed in such a way that you must be Saint if you comes back without buying anything & needless to say with millions of people visiting every day no shouts, no garbage or no horns of vehicles!

What I found most interesting about Barcelona is the way it lives life even being a business center i.e. on Sunday evening in a full summer tourist season every brand’s fancy shop on Passeig de Gracia i.e. main shopping road of the city, was closed as Spanish people loves their holiday & probably life is something more than making money for them! Call it arrogance or foolishness but by me they have understood the purpose of living & that’s why I saw a café or bar in every block of buildings & every such bar was in operating means the owners must be making some money sure! I think when we visit places like Spain, agreed the Euro vs. Rupee scale refrains us from shopping much ( for most visitors) but as usual we took back some magnets or key-chains & yes selifies as our souvenirs but real souvenirs is the learning which we must take back about understanding the way we should live as a society as well as an individual, which we conveniently leave behind like excess baggage & start behaving as a perfect Punekar the moment we hit the roads by spitting on road or jumping red signal or refusing to wear helmet & we feel we are a Smart City!

To conclude, there is a poster hanging at the end of the tour of FC Barca Club, it says “If you can’t support us when we lose then don’t cheer for us when we win”! That’s the attitude mate… mind it!

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Sanjay Deshpande 
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