I turned 21 in Barcelona, and it was very different than the 21st birthday celebrations you imagine having in the United States. My friends and I said “cheers” in a quiet cafe, and then walked back to the Airbnb to call my family.
It’s funny to think about the traditions we give meaning to in each country. Nothing was different about me, especially in Europe, but I turned the age that you spend all of your teen years looking forward to.
My friends and I spent the weekend walking around and eating tapas. I loved the city and its wide streets. Architect Antoni Gaudí’s work is everywhere - we went to Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia and we saw Casa Batlló. The city is dotted with the architect’s buildings and mosaics.
If you make it to Barcelona, you have to go to La Sagrada Familia. Gaudí began working on the church in the late 1800s, and it is still under construction today. One of the facades is not due to be completed until 2026, at the earliest. Gaudí never got to see his beloved church. But can you imagine creating something so magnificent that people are still putting it together more than 100 years later?
The Spanish Civil War delayed construction for a long time. During the war, many of Gaudí’s plans were destroyed in a fire. It took years to regroup financially, and to put together what Gaudí might have intended in his notes.
Meticulous and deliberate, Gaudi gave meaning to every detail in his church. According to the museum below the church, Gaudí was a religious man who studied the bible, and his piety is reflected in each facet of the church. Each structure and statue holds religious significance.
The architect also honored the natural world in his plans for the church. Representations of nature - the light filtering through the stained glass, the ceiling intended to look like foliage, the painted fruits - were my favorite part of the building. Churches are so easily intimidating and untouchable, but La Sagrada also manages a kind of intimacy. Clearly, I was touched.
I spent most of my birthday eating, which suits me perfectly. We ate paella with fresh lemon, and we to the beach. I’ve spent every single birthday cold in Indiana, so being next to water was surreal. I felt almost proud to know that I had turned a year older across the world, with new friends. I took a rock from the sand to remember that moment.
In some ways, I feel a bit older. I know how to use a gas stove, and I eat the brown parts of bananas. Since August, I’ve been to seven countries, and I’ve made the most incredible friends. Also, I decided to stop eating gelato everyday, so I’ve definitely matured.
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<p>Born and raised in Indiana. Very likely to ask, “if you could eat anything right now, what would it be?” at the wrong times. Join me as I write my way through Italy!</p>