Art Prison

I did not sleep last night.  Hostels are great in theory; young people on a small budget can find shelter, cook and meet interesting people from all over the world for a small price.  They tend to be very clean, the workers have generally friendly and helpful advice for young travelers and there is almost always wifi.  (Plus I feel like I’m finally getting that “college dorm” experience that I never had.)

However, usually you can expect to be sleeping on a small, thin mattress in a room with 2-7 other people.  Which, again, is usually not a problem.  New friends!  Interesting people and conversation!  And snoring!  Which, if I haven’t already written about my anxiety about sounds, has the potential to be devastating.  So far on this trip it’s been fine; a little snoring never hurt anyone.  But last night….oh, last night.

Five of us were in a dorm last night and by midnight were close to if not already asleep.  Around 00:20, our remaining three roommates came in and loudly packed before finally climbing into their bunks.  Almost no time later the one whose feet were shaking by my head started snoring.  Loudly.  Absurdly so.  It got to be so bad that the girl on the bunk above him leaned down, tried to wake him up and get him to move to his side.  That didn’t work and after staring at the ceiling helplessly for who knows how long, I stood up and found, much to my surprise and slight irritation, that Henry was fast asleep on the top bunk.  I went down to the front desk to ask for ear plugs; there were none.  I went back to the dorm and after another thirty minutes of bunk shaking snores I had to leave.  I grabbed my sheets and wandered down to the rec room and curled up in a corner of a couch, hoping nobody would come in and tell me to leave.

An hour or so later, the door opened and Henry walked in, woken up and also unable to sleep.  I fell back asleep on the couch and he made a bed out of beanbags and fell asleep himself.  We were both woken up some time later by two of our other roommates who also couldn’t handle the snoring anymore.  Four of us left that night.  FOUR.  And the fifth just didn’t know there was somewhere else to sleep or she would have too.

Anyway, long story to say that this morning and most of the day I felt like I was moving through water.  Henry had somehow managed a lot more sleep than I and was able to direct us towards the Gaudí buildings that we had planned on seeing today.  Just as unusual and stunning as the first time I saw them so many years ago, the buildings speak better for themselves:

Casa Batllo
Casa Mila

After a delicious lunch, we went to go explore the inside of the Catedral de Barcelona, which we had only seen the outside of before.  It was stunning, of course, beautifully designed and clearly full of history and the energy of countless people who have passed through it since it was erected over six hundred years ago.


But I have to say that the entire thing just made me sad.  The place is full of art that is closed up behind bars; fake candles can be lit by putting change into a box; the alter is sterile and gold, surrounded by cold rock.  It’s so far removed from the cozy communion that Jesus shared with his followers.  The cathedral feels not at all like a home for wounded and searching people and more like a prison for art—a very specific kind of art that the Catholic church killed people over (thinking specifically of a gorgeous painting I saw in South America of a pregnant Mary holding the hand of a young Jesus, a piece that was commissioned by Conquistadors to non-believers whose artist was murdered for the ‘blasphemous’ painting).

art behind bars, poorly lit and gathering dust

That got me started on a whole downward spiral of how and for whom art is made.  Very much brought into myself, Henry took us to the roof where most of the feelings could be let go of.  We had a breathtaking view of Barcelona and spent a good amount of time taking it all in.


We returned to the hostel later that night to cook and be old people again with spoils from a bookstore with English books and thrift store that provided Henry with an old man sweater and myself with a denim jacket.  Our snoring friend checked out this morning, so hopefully sleep comes more easily tonight.


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