Jackson Berkley
February 20, 2013

The “honeymoon” phase is well over — Barcelona is no longer a foreign curiosity or a brave new world.  It is where I live and study, work and play, where I ride buses and trains and walk, sometimes with my eyes glued to the asphalt.

That is not to say this place fails to mystify me daily.  Whenever I don’t have class I explore the city, often without any particular direction or need to accomplish anything.  Inexplicably waking up at 7 a.m. is a blessing: there are different people out early in the morning, older people, more workers and athletes, more people with something to do, or nothing to lose.  At the beach all the joggers stop to stretch and stare out at the sea.  Around two some businesses close.  Others stay open.  Sunset summons the old men to the bocce ball courts at the top of my street, and dusk whisks them away.

I like to think that while I haven’t figured Barcelona out, it has figured me out — it has magnetized me.  One place in particular has become my “spot,” where I go instinctively when I feel most inspired, or my imagination fails me completely: the MACBA.  In Raval, beyond the frustrating chaos of La Rambla and Plaça Catalunya, the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) sits squat beneath the skyline, adjacent to its counterpart, the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània).  The buildings do not project themselves upon the surrounding landscape like the Sagrada Familia, or even the Corte Ingles: they create a pocket within the city where people come to be at peace, to play basketball or skate, to eat and smoke and drink, to bring the kids.

It’s refreshing to have found a place in Barcelona where I know I won’t be harassed, and do not feel eyes on me constantly — people mind their own business at the MACBA, not in self-defense, but rather because they recognize how precious it is to be able to move through such a diverse, vibrant landscape and be independent, free of obligation but full of purpose.  At least that’s how I feel, with my favorite kebab right around the corner and a plaça where I can sit outside and enjoy it, and watch people passing by, knowing those sitting beside me are doing the same — there are always people, always skaters.  It can be noisy.

I’ve been to a one-night exhibition at the CCCB, but I have yet to step foot inside the MACBA.  I know I will, though — it’s not going anywhere.  Inside the courtyard of the CCCB there is an enormous structure consisting of several panels of tinted, reflective glass.  It arches up past the roof, then bends in towards you.  Stand back far enough and you can see the Mediterranean.  It dwarfs you.  Walk out into the street and suddenly you are filled with the sense that you are somewhere great.  There is something about this place.  It breathes.

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Jackson Berkley

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! I&rsquo;m a third year English major and film enthusiast at the University of Virginia. I grew up in Great Falls, VA &ndash; a suburb a few miles outside Washington, D.C. &ndash; but have always wanted the chance to explore a city like Barcelona independently. In recent years I&rsquo;ve travelled through many cities in Western Europe &ndash; including Berlin and Prague &ndash; and I spent three weeks this past summer visiting my sister in Kuanton, Malaysia, where she was teaching English at a state school. The blog she kept up during her time in Kuanton inspired me to blog for IES. I hope you enjoy my musings!</span></p>

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