Sunday, December 4, 2022

Not Even Not Traveling 23: Barcelona 5, On Archaeology, On Travel

Barcelona, 2022

The Archaeology Tour at Born CCM

On our first tour in Barcelona, we came across an outdoor mall excavated to reveal seventeenth century ruins beneath. In last tour in the city, we scheduled a walk through those ruins.

Right away, I could see why the Europeans of the time considered Americans to be unsophisticated bumpkins. These were ordinary city houses we were strolling through. They'd been carelessly, almost randomly buried and excavated. But they had plumbing, bridges, wood-fired stoves, stables, workbenches, and more all built in, all in stone. In contrast, Americans were just discovering log cabins and mostly still used dried mud as mortar.

During the war of Spanish succession, the families of Barcelona were tied by trade to the English and Dutch. Nevertheless, they supported the more local candidate, Philip of Anjou. The forces of Archduke Charles, backed by the English and Dutch, sailed into the harbor and bombed Barcelona into submission. The locals switched their support to Charles, as required.

For eight years, Barcelona survived in that arrangement as the most significant city in semi-independent Catalonia. The French-Spanish forces led by Philip weren't strong enough to recapture it. In the end, though, Philip's army and navy surrounded the city and bombed it until it surrendered. The defeat was the end of Catalonian independence.

When Barcelona lost for good, about a fifth of the city was flattened. It didn't happen in the fighting but as part of the conditions of peace. Philip wanted to make sure Barcelona couldn't rebel again. He had a fort built over the demolished neighborhoods. 

A hundred fifty years later, locals knocked down the fort and replaced it with a park. A century later, they paved over the park to create an open-air market. Finally, the market went out of business. The city decided to build a library on the same spot. A library building is heavy. It needs supports in the ground underneath. So the construction crew started digging. They found a section of the old city that was once assumed to be destroyed. However, the old city ground had been so low and so near Philip's proposed fort that the engineers building the fort had filled in the area with dirt. 

That's how the foundations of the old Barcelona neighborhood escaped. Everywhere else in the demolished fifth of the city, each house owner had been required to take apart their house stone by stone and transport it to the site of the fort to be used in its construction. Here in the low-lying area, the bottom floors had been allowed to remain.
Although the ruins come from the 17th century, many of the underlying stones date back to the 13th century. That's the way it is with old structures. We walked among the houses, along the ancient streets, and put our hands on the masonry. In the narrow avenues lay ballast rocks, former window-frame stones, and even mill stones. Every type of medieval stone that could get thoroughly used and discarded became part of the pavement.

That afternoon, we took our last dinner in Barcelona. By Spanish standards, we were early enough for a late lunch. But we had a plane to catch the next day and the departure time determined our schedule. For our meal, we had mostly vermut and sangria. Well, we also stopped at two different places for tapas. We had lots of calamari, shrimp, tripe, beef, and vegetables. 

Delay in Barcelona

We rose the next morning at four and made it to the airport with plenty of time before our flight. Once we boarded, however, the pilot announced a water valve wasn't working.

Planes aren't allowed to fly without water. So we had to wait until the valve got fixed. But it didn't get fixed. We waited some more until British Airways bought the legal amount of containerized water necessary for the trip to London. The delay meant we would have only forty minutes to get to our connecting flight.

Delay in London

We had plenty of time between flights. It wasn't enough. 

The staff in Heathrow noticed we weren't going to make it. They pushed us through the process of re-demonstrating our security and checking bags through customs. The systems still weren't fast enough. Jenn received a notice on her phone that our flight had closed. 

Heathrow staff kept pushing us through. We got to the flight counter at our gate and they continued to expedite us. The closed flight was still boarding. We could see the line. We hopped on at the end.

Then the airport staff pulled me out of line. My ticket had been flagged.

While I watched everyone else board, I passed through a physical inspection. This used to happen to me a lot because my name is the same as someone who was at the table during the peace talks between the British government and the IRA. It does sort of make sense that my name would get flagged in Britain. The Heathrow staff seemed to understand, too. They watched my wife ease herself out of the boarding line to wait for me. They assured me I was going to make it. 

They wanted to look at me extra and they did but I have to say, they were efficient. They delayed me until I was the last person on board but they got me in my seat. 

Rainbow Connection 

As our flight ascended, I glanced down at the clouds between the plane and the ground. There, I noticed the shadow of the plane surrounded by the perfect circle of a rainbow. The artistic arrangement was all moving together at hundreds of miles an hour, of course, and in unison. I'd never seen anything quite like it. As a spectacle, the shadow in the center of the rainbow was sensible. I'm sure others have witnessed the same phenomenon. The luck of witnessing the natural perfection made me grateful anyway. I watched the rainbow circle wink out as we passed over blanks in the cloud cover, then reappear with the clouds. 

For a minute, the phenomenon kept reappearing every time there were wisps of clouds below us to provide a canvas for the plane shadow and its surrounding rainbow circle.

"Oh," I said, as I leaned back down. "I should have taken a picture."

"What?" Diane asked. 

"Nothing." I'd been so entranced, I hadn't mentioned it. 

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