Gaudi and Zafón´s Barcelona

Selma and Anniqua in Barcelona

The walk starts from the Port of Barcelona

Watch your step as you walk along the waterfront. Barcelona is covered in a dense fog that rolls in from the sea at this time of year. And it’s easy to slip on seagull droppings if you don’t pay attention. January mornings at the port are fascinating in an otherworldly manner, but they can be treacherous.

Waterfront fog

Now, with your back to the Mediterranean, look towards the Columbus Monument and the tree-lined boulevard in front of you. The mist lingering over La Rambla makes it look like the open waterway it once was, when mountain streams flowed into the sea. Once the mist clears up, you´ll see why crowds gather here in the summer. Young or old, this is where they come.

Fill your lungs with the salty sea air. In the summer it will be gone, drowned in petrol fumes and perfumed tourists who flock to this part of the city. Wooden booths selling  flowers and souvenirs will fill the street with colors and fragrances. Street musicians will play their tunes, and people will hold hands and dance the sardana in the street. In the summer, we will dance too, up and down La Rambla not paying any attention to dangers lurking in the shadows.

La Rambla, Barcelona

Then, one August evening in 2017, terrorists will drive their van into holidaymakers right here on this street. They will kill 16 people and injure over 160. The stunned city will mourn in silence. The whole country will mourn, a mixture of rage and sorrow. The world will feel this loss of innocence, but Barcelona will return —brighter, even more colorful and fragrant than before. Once again, throngs of tourists will walk under these trees in summer dresses, tank tops and shorts. They will laugh. The sun will shine again.

The first turning on your right will take you to Barrio Gótico where a quaint little perfumería is located. The one in the movie, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. But we’re not going there today. That is for another post and another time. Today, we’re going to walk straight up La Rambla towards the Sagrada Famila —to the barrio where Carlos Ruis Zafón grew up.


The Sagrada Familia in all its splendor

Away from the sea and fog, the lofty spires of the basilica, glimmer in the morning light. The tall slender pillars of the nave are inspired by nature. They look like tree-trunks reaching for the sky. See the light and shadows playing on the walls? We could be walking through a forest with the sun shining through the leaves. Light filtering through the stained glass windows and skylights are as ethereal as the figures of angels and cherubs.

Come, let’s climb up a spiral staircase. You know we can move between the towers too. It’s like walking through the passages of a labyrinth. This is a once in a lifetime experience for most of us. Now, imagine Ruiz Zafón walking past the Sagrada Familia every single day on his way to school. How could it not have left its mark.

La Sagrada Famila, Barcelona

The inspiration behind Carlos Ruiz Zafón´s gothic mysteries

Antoni Gaudi, born a hundred years before Zafón, could not have possibly known that his spiral staircases, serpents, geckos, and dragons, would inspire the young boy so profoundly. Nor could he have foreseen that this boy would grow up to write a series of macabre gothic mysteries. And that these would then be translated into 40 languages, and sold in the millions. If he were alive today I wonder how he would react.

While Gaudi lies in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, and Zafón passed away in Los Angeles, I like to imagine that high above the towering spires of the basilica, two of the world’s most creative minds, Antoni Gaudi and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, are enjoying each other’s company —for eternity.

The Shadow of the Wind

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs their eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

~Carlos Ruiz Zafón,

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