Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Visit to the Roman Empire, Part II

I was commenting on a visit to Prague in yesterday's post, and before I write of my next stop am inclined to address graffiti, which is sadly ubiquitous in that fair city.

As one might guess, I'm no fan of graffiti, which some apparently consider an art form, albeit one in which the art is made to appear on the property of another regardless of his/her consent, or perhaps the property of the local government.  I've seen some examples of graffiti which are, arguably, art, but find these to be exceedingly rare; most of what I've seen strike me as, at best, cartoonish and garish displays of little interest if any interest at all.  Much of it seems merely ugly.

Setting aside the question whether there are rights of private property owners which are violated, I think that especially in cases of structures which are of historical or artistic interest themselves, it is contemptible to mar them by imposing on them other art or in most cases purported art, or to deface them.  That seems to have happened throughout Prague, and I think this is to be regretted.

My next stop was the province of Tarroconensis, specifically the city of Barcelona in what is now called the region of Catalonia in the country of Spain.  Possibly founded by the Carthaginian Barca family (or by Hercules, which seems less likely), which caused Rome so much trouble, it has in its Gothic Quarter various Roman ruins of the kind which I delight in, as well as those left by Visigoths and those lords or kings of the medieval period, who were so plentiful as to defy itemization, by me at least.  There is a wonderful old cathedral or basilica in that district as well.  Not, of course, the perpetually unfinished Sagrada Familia which seems to be a kind of symbol of the city, but impressive nonetheless.

Speaking of the Sagrada Familia, one can't visit Barcelona without encountering the works of Antoni Gaudi, which are as ubiquitous in that city as graffiti is in Prague.  They are interesting, certainly, though just how practical they are I don't know.  The works of Frank Lloyd Wright are interesting as well, and some of them are notably impractical in the sense that they leak, and otherwise present similar mundane problems which render living or working in them inconvenient or unpleasant.  Perhaps homes and offices should not be works of art; but who am I to say?  They're draws, in any case, and in that sense benefit the cities in which they are situated if not the citizens who are fated to live or work in them.

It's a beautiful city of great, wide boulevards and fountains, and an impressive seafront graced by a statue of Columbus majestically pointing to the India he thought he would encounter in 1492.  I would think a statue of that great man shrugging his shoulders or scratching his head would be more appropriate.

I found myself fonder of Barcelona than I was of Prague.  This may be due to the fact that the weather in Barcelona was much milder, but I think also and primarily to the fact that I am more comfortable in places of Latin culture than I am elsewhere.  The wine of Catalonia was particularly satisfying.

Barcelona is famous for its pickpockets, but I managed to avoid them.  It was amusing to turn on the TV and find myself watching an episode of Fawlty Towers.  Fans of that show will recall that the waiter, Manuel, was supposed to be from Barcelona.  John Cleese looked very young; I suppose I did as well, back then.  Manuel doesn't strike me as Catalan, though.

I spent much too little time in these cities to know them well or to any real extent.  I'm sadly reminded that we have very little history here in God's favorite country--those of us of European descent, I mean.  That of the natives of this land has been largely eradicated, unfortunately, and I suppose the result is they have very little history as well; at least of the kind that can be seen and felt.  This detracts from having a sense of history, which may be necessary to culture and empathy and other things.  But this kind of speculation has been indulged in by many already, and anything I have to say in that regard would likely be specious or would have been said better before by others.

Travel broadens the mind, they say.  It at least does so in the sense that it gives one much to think of, if one is inclined to think.

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