Like so many other Burners said before him and will say after him.
Still, watching Playa personalities unfold via a screen gives yet another good impression of the mind-blowing journey of a people & nature spectacular Burning Man is. And of what to expect this year. For old Burners and Burners-to-be.
Oh, forgot to say… I JUST GOT THE TICKETS FOR THIS YEAR TOO!!!
Did you ever reflect over how some cities in the world seem to be loved by everybody? Like, when you’re having a conversation and the name Barcelona comes up, haven’t you noticed how everyone always goes: Oh, Barcelona! Yes, I freaking love that city, man. It’s so cool, it has everything! I really need to go back there. And if someone in that conversation reveals they haven’t been they’ll probably be told: What, you haven’t been? It’s such a must. Trust me, it’s the best! If the person himself didn’t already interrupt: I know, I know, Barcelona is definitely one of the places I have to visit asap. Everybody always tells me that. It’s on my bucket list this year.
No wonder you’ve been in a similar conversation, because sure thing; Barcelona is one of those cities you just fall in love with. In almost all rankings of Best Cities, Barcelona is among the top 3. The other highly ranked cities are almost always New York, Berlin, London, San Francisco, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires and Tokyo… Why is that so?
Personally I’ve been a devoted urban traveler for a long time and consider myself a bit over the top interested in trends within the travel industry. Although there obviously are several factors – e.g. geographical, historical and political – that count for a place to become a popular destination among many people (from many different countries), I personally think a city is amazing when it has a mix of great geography (sea, mountain, forest, rivers), friendly locals, vibrant city life (including a variety of food, art, night life & fashion), and a somewhat characteristic architecture. And that’s why I think Barcelona scores so high. It has all of that!
Since my first visit in 2003 and a six months stay in 2005 Barcelona has been one of my favorite cities – thus a city I make sure to visit every year (though I still haven’t visited half of the cities I’d like to). Out of my love for Barcelona I’ve decided to repost a popular city guide from my blog called 14 musts in Barcelona.
Starting off with the obvious temptations:
1. Gaudi, of course. The extraordinary architecture by the highly admired architect Antoni Gaudi (1852- 1926) is known for having made Barcelona into such a uniquely looking city. There is no place in the world you will see anything like the buildings he constructed over hundred years ago. Sagrada Familia, Casa Gaudi, The Guel park (see point 6), Casa Mila and Casa Batllo and much more. At the tourist information in the airport, or downtown (or at your hotel) you’ll get maps over where to find the marvelous constructions. There is also a Gaudi museum in Barcelona that can be good to start a full-on Gaudi day with. My recommendation however is to divide the Gaudi tours into two days according to where the spectaculars are and mix the go-see with other interesting things in each part of the city.
2. Understand the Spanish VS Catalan issue. The sooner you learn some about this, the better. It can in fact affect even a short stay in Barcelona, if the (wrong) person confronts you with this and feel you’re ignorant to the topic. Respect the locals’ feelings about this topic. Advice: Learn to say good day and thanks in Catalan – they’ll love you for it. “Bon dia” & “Merci” (NOT “Buenos dias” & “Gracias” – that’s Spanish!).
3. The beach! When cultural and vibrant cities have a coastline, they often get considered much more beautiful. This fact certainly concerns Barcelona with its not too polluted beaches, despite of occasionally being pretty over-crowded. The beach is long and I always make sure to spend one day strolling from one end to the other along the well-kept promenade. There is a good chance you’ll find whatever you consider is “the perfect beach slot” for you – it be more family-friendly, party-like, high-endish, or hippie-ish. There are small beach bars every 100 meter and good restaurants along the promenade. Make sure to choose local places over major chains like KFC.
4. The different barrios. In my opinion you don’t actually get to know a city before you get to know the features of its different neighbourhoods. Some cities may not have too defined neighbourhoods (something I quickly find boring), but luckily Barcelona does. You can say Ciutat Vella is what makes up the “city center” and within this area you’ll find the gorgeous and well-kept old towns Born & Barrigotic (see the Gothic Quarter!) on one side of the (extremely touristy) avenue La Rambla, and the vibrant (and very popular) immigrant area Raval on the other. And yes; all the barrios are brilliant for people watching, drinking, eating and shopping.
Then you got the area La Barceloneta & La vila Olimpica by the harbour. Here you can look at the boats, eat in a fine restaurant, stroll down the beach promenade and if you’re interested in such visit the Aquarium. If you got plenty of time, and/or are not interested in walking where all the other tourists are, consider visiting the surrounding Le Corts (a little west-endish), Gracia and Glories (though the most famous tourist attraction in Spain (La Sagrada Familia) is situated in between the two latter so you do indeed meet foreigners here too).
5. The plazas. Because Spanish people love getting together for chats and drinks (and are privileged with a climate that allows it pretty much all year), small and big squares packed with restaurants, bars and fountains are characteristic in South European cities. In Barcelona they are everywhere, however not always that easy to find on a map. Plaza Real (at La Rambla) is one of the bigger and very touristy, Passeig del Borne (Born) is more of a street than a plaza but cool (young, hipstery) people hang here, Plaza del Sol (Gracia) is small, young and hippie-ish, the huge Plaza outside of MACBA in Raval is chilled and full of skaters and tourists, Plaza triangular (Barrigotic) is tiny and quite local, Plaza de Sant Jaume connects two barrios and this and that plaza, oh I could go on forever… Just sit down for a beer or a cold Clara (Spanish for shandy), some tapas and enjoy.
6.The parks. Barcelona has many small parks hidden between streets and buildings, but Ill highlight the bigger parks where you can spend a day relaxing and enjoying a taste of nature within the hectic city. (All the parks are perfect for people traveling with children). Parc de la Ciutadella is ground of both the Catalan Parliament building and Barcelona Zoo and part of its charm lies in its ornamental waterfall and artificial lake. You can take a boat out onto the lake, play table tennis, or enjoy any of the seasonal activities and events the park hosts every week.
Montjuïc park got world known during the 1992 Olympic Games and currently offers a green oasis for culture, sports and entertainment in Barcelona. It’s located on the mountain Montjuïc with a spectacular view of the city and offers theaters and museums, fountains and gardens, sports facilities and fairground pavilions.
The park Guell, built by Gaudi between 1900 and 1924 was originally going to host around sixty houses and a chapel, but was never finished. As a result, it became the property of the city of Barcelona in 1922 and is today one of the main tourist attractions in the city. The view from here is stunning and Gaudi’s particular style is clearly noticeable in the uncommon architectural forms and bright colors.
And for even more stunning views (and potentially some hiking) you go to Tibidabo, which happens to not only be Barcelona’s highest mountain but also represents an old amusement park. The place is well known from the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona and for yet another precious cathedral.
7. Tapas! Though some Nationalistic Catalans (they’re plenty) would disagree, Barcelona is in Spain, and the Spaniards love their tapas. Get used to eating your lunch and dinner like them – and remember tapas is to be shared between people. The classic ones: aceitunas (olives), pan con tomate (bread with tomato), aioli (thick white sauce made of garlic and olive oil, to eat on bread and with seafood), patatas bravas (thick fried potato chunks with a special spicy tomato sauce), tortilla (thick egg omelet with potatoes) and albondigas (meat balls with a touch) and gambas a la plancha (grilled shrimps, or shrimps cooked in a dry-fryish way on a pan).
For the seafood lovers there are plenty of options – especially for the valiant. Grilled pulpo (octupus) and calamar (squid) is very common and delicious! Chipirones en su tinta (mini squids served in their ink!!) as well, and trust me- it’s yummy! Grilled or dry-fried boquerones (anchovies) you eat whole, and various bacalao (cod in sauce) dishes are served many places. And don’t forget your sangria, it’s just a myth that Spanish people don’t drink it themselves.
8. La Champañeria. Actually I was unsure whether to post about this, or not, as it’s one of these places you love just the way it is. But I hate it when others keep those secrets away from me, so here it goes. La Champañeria is a gem of an authentic Spanish cava & tapas bar. It’s located at the bottom of Born, in the small street Carrer de la Reina Cristina 7 (close to the harbour). You find it by noticing the crowd of people outside, especially around midday (lunch time for locals). In my opinion it’s the perfect place to go as a couple or with a small group before or after a day on the beach. The bar is tiny but takes surprisingly many people that don’t mind squeezing together..
Beware! You go to La Champañeria to get some local, historic vibes and taste their Cava and tapas (both simple, but delicious). Here you’ll kick your way through used carton plates and tissues, and order at the bar with jams hanging over your head. The old sweaty waiters are in a hurry and don’t speak much English, so be patient and speak clearly as it’s normally crowded and noisy. One bottle is served with three plates of tapas.
Open from 9am – 10.30pm, closed on Sundays.
9. La Boqueria. Originally called Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, this market is one of the oldest in town, dating back to 1217 (!). It’s easy to find on a map and by walking up La Rambla (with entrance from La Rambla). A perfect place to suck in some history and watch how a typical old Spanish market works, and to buy fresh bread, cheese, fruits, fish and meet (if you’re keen on a picnic in a park or live in an apartment and want to cook).
10. Get inspired! Absorb quirky art and fabulous street performance. Regarding street performance, many seem to think that the street artists in La Rambla are of the best in the world! Regarding contemporary art, visit MACBA in Raval, follow this and google where to find different galleries. Between Barrio Gotic and Born you have two streets full of photo shops and posters and quirky art that I love to visit. For graffiti-interested, the whole city is a gallery actually (just read this). You’ll also find plenty of inspirational stuff by googling the topic.
11. Bars! Oh yes: BARcelona! First of all; the nicest bars are obviously not the ones you find in the middle of La Rambla. Then again some of the most historical bars (and also frequently visited by locals) are very close by. Just google and mark them on a map and start your round. The level of cocktail making skills is high! In Raval you have Rabipelao, Ambar and Lobo bar: all stylish, yet odd, chilled & fun. Close by are the two old and unique bars Bar Marsella (be careful with the absinthe, they’re not joking), and Le Pastis (Raval). However Boadas in Barrigotic claims to be the oldest in Barcelona and you should definitely go here if you want a peak into the 1940′s. Sugar bar, Pipa club and Le Petit Jet lag are also all in Gotic, tiny and innovative. In Born around Passeig del Borne and its side streets (mentioned above) you have many more! Not to mention in Gracia.
12. Nightlife! My favorite club when I lived in Barcelona was Sala Apolo; An old small theatre situated in Raval (metro stop Paralel). It still exists and hopefully will forever, has amazing bookings and loads of experimental electronica and hip hop. Razzmatazz is also great, a huge venue with 5 rooms and good concerts from time to time (but check their events online first). La Paloma is a historical gem but be sure to check if it’s open. It constantly has neighbour trouble as it’s in the middle of a resident area in Raval. La Terraza is beautiful and located up in the hills of the city (perfect for warm summer night), though it’s not my kind of vibe (quite high-endish). City Hall (on Placa Catalunya) also had some good concepts going on, but I’m afraid you have to find out of these things yourself when first deciding to go somewhere. It really depends on your music and style, amigo, hence I’d check ResidentAdvisor.com and Timeout.com to find recommendations for the style/music I’d fancy.
El Row 14 is apparently a mad club where they play with inflammable toys and dress out. It typically offers electronic music and is probably for the more party valiant as it’s situated a bit outside town and in the Spanish clubbing-way open til early morning (I’ve heard many people start their daytime party here around 10am). Very good bookings of national and international DJs. (EDIT: This place is closest as of 2014)
13. Festivals. Sure thing, the Spaniards embrace their festivos (“holy days”) and find any excuse to throw a party or celebrate something with a festival. Ill mention the most known events for now. Late March: Sitges (gay) carnival has become a wild tourist attraction. Late May: Primavera sound. Mid June: Sitges gay parade. Mid June: Sonar: Barcelona’s biggest festival – and one of my all time favorites (thus promoted several times before). It offers electronic music but also all kinds of experimental stuff including old school hip hop etc. June 24: San Juan (celebration of a saint (generally speaking: a massive beach party). Mid September: Merce. A massive traditional carnival alike party in which locals, families and tourists gather to celebrate Catalan traditions, watch endless parades and intense street fireworks (!).
14. Avoid getting pick-pocketed or mugged! With mass tourism Barcelona – that unfortunately holds a large number of poor inhabitants – has become a Mecca for pickpockets. Like in any other place in the world you have to take precautions, and the typical advices are: Don’t watch street performers in crowded areas/ stand on crowded metros/ walk in crowded streets without having control of you valuables. It’s also common that poor kids wander around tourists’ tables asking for money, cigarettes or directions, but with an attempt to steal. I’ve been to many places considered more ‘dangerous’ than Barcelona (and it may of course be a coincidence) but I’ve honestly never heard of/ seen (and even stopped) as many robberies as here.
General points: Barcelona is perfect for a lot of walking so wear good shoes. To travel further you depend on taxis and public transport. The latter is more environmentally friendly and a cheaper and fun way to see the city. Also, Barcelona is very children- and gay friendly.
Just like people, music also travels.
I bumped into this wicked interactive map on today, surprisingly made by Thompson.
With a stylish design it shows in a very simple way how music genres evolved and spread over time from Africa to the Caribbean, the US and so on and so forth.
Click on images to make them larger.
As you can see from the above screenshots it ends with an interesting proof on the massive global development of various electronic music genres of the world today. Oh, internet haven’t you just been the best that could happen to us?
Check the map out in action out here !
After my first Burning Man I lean more than ever to what Miriam Beard once said:
“Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights, it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living”.
The rest of ideas and impressions I’m left with is under heavy digestion, so a post about it is to be continued.
In the meantime, reflect over these. In the middle of the Nevada desert.
During my first visit to South Africa in 2009 I got hooked on its culture, and over the past three years I’ve traveled in and out to what became my favourite city in the world; Cape Town. Like I said after the visit in 2009, I can say again after having spent two longer periods there: The city has everything: Wonderful welcoming people, an interesting and vibrant culture, breathtaking (and extreme) nature, amazing weather, delicious food and one of the things that fascinate me the most: a thriving MUSIC scene.
And I don’t know if you know this, but South Africa – and other African countries – are on a very interesting roll these days what concerns expanding their electronic musical scene. Without Europeans knowing much about it – as Eurocentric as we’ve become – South African musicians have for long indulged in various electronic beats and developed their own specific sounds. Kwaito is one of them, and from there a certain local House music style emerged.
In the country’s fashion however the electronic scene has been very divided according to race, having blacks and whites predominantly producing and listening to separate styles, and this was one of the things we found a bit curious when first there in 2009. Wherever we went to party we found that the crowd was either white or black. And the music seemed to change according to it.
Though the explanations to this situation are many – and any situation obviously always is evolving and changing – observing what we did in 2009 gave life to the idea of a project based on the believe that electronic music is a universal language that can be used to break down socio-economic boundaries.. Two years down the line the launch of Bridges for Music became a reality and its first events took place in South Africa together with national partners and local and international DJs this year.
The below picture for instance is from the day Bridges for Music arranged a workshop with a following free popup party featuring Richie Hawtin and local artists like Culoe de Song, Euphonik, Dj Fresh, Vinny da Vinci and Nastee Nevin. It took place in Kliptown, a neighbourhood of the township Soweto in Johannesburg, and I’ve never ever been to anything like it really.
Seeing how people in all ages and from different communities and races came together through music in these surroundings – dancing nonstop for over seven hours – was an eyeopening and unforgettable experience. In fact, Richie Hawtin later said: it was the proudest moment of his career. Personally I will forever recall that day and look back at it with a big smile on my face.
As much as the mentioned event was a success, so were the ones with Skrillex and Luciano who both joined Bridges for Music for township workshops and events in Cape Town and Johannesburg. And I can confirm that Luciano took some South African house tunes with him back to Ibiza where he made the audience go wild last summer.
Sure thing; bridges are being built from Africa to Europe as it suddenly seems as the global electronic music scene finally is opening its eyes to African sounds. A good example of that is South Africa being the topic of the upcoming Amsterdam Dance Event this year’s October, to what many South African artists are invited (some for their first journey outside of Africa).
Yup. Good stuff is going on in the world with regard to the spread of South African electronic music. Check for instance what BBC News just reported:
If you have spent any time in Johannesburg or Durban, South African house is a sound that you will have heard. This music is played everywhere, from taxis and barbers shops to bars and parties. Now that the hypnotic township sound has reached Europe and other parts of the world, it has helped some young Africans to reconnect with their roots.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely want more of this!
Watch BBC Africa’s Lebo Diseko report from the London underground club scene here.
Go here to see the video of Richie Hawtin’s visit in South Africa.
Here is the epic music video of the song Bad Kingdom from Moderat’s newly realised album!
The video tells a tale of mid-20th century adventure; including corruption, greed and murder – from the colonial school to the corridors of power – all in a series of illustrations in a vintage, style of the 1950s and 60s.
It’s the work of Pfadfinderei, top Berlin-based design and direction collective, who´s created various visual assets for Moderat (and many other electronic musicians) in the past, including tour visuals and ads as well as full videos.
I’m a fan.
Yup I still keep searching for the artists I love and their gigs around. Among them are (un)fortunately plenty I haven’t seen live, but to not bore you with a very long list, I keep it at my lucky number which is 7.
The below list extends the last list I wrote back in 2010 over artists I dreamed at seeing then. I just realised it needed to be updated.
1. Radiohead (or Thom Yorke solo)
2. Fleetwood Mac
3. Cinematic Orchestra
4. Moderat (but I did see Apparat!!)
5. Femi Kuti
6. David Bowie (can’t believe I had forgot him on the last list?)
7. Daft Punk (fuck them for not coming to Glastonbury this year the way eeeeverybody predicted…)
Since the last bucket list I could line these over
8. Jonsi (All alone at Sonar weeping my eyes out)
9. Bonobo with band (at XOYO, London)
10. Portishead (PURE MAGIC at Glastonbury 2013) 11. The Rolling Stones (Sorry I’m cheating as they weren’t even on the last list, but I did see them for the first and probably last time in my life at Glastonbury 2013. It was wicked) 12. Trentemoller. TWICE! (And can’t believe he wasn’t on the last list either..)
Before March 2010 I was able to line these over:
Tori Amos Antony & the Johnson Bjork Madonna Ingrid Olava