In this mini-series of blog posts, I revisit my translated travel notes from 15 years ago, when I quit my job in Munich to start a new life. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.
¿Hola, que tal?January 8th, 2008 – 7.20pm It’s the second day that I’m in Barcelona and I’m just trying to get used to the Spanish keyboard on which I am writing here. After the overnight train ride from Zurich to Barcelona, I arrived around 9:30 at the Estació de França, the smaller train station in Barcelona. After taking the decision to greet the sea, I directly and full of determination walked in the wrong direction. After a short look at the map and asking various passers-by, I actually ended up at the port of Barcelona. It is still quite fresh at this time and the daily hustle and bustle only slowly gets going. After a kiosk salesman had kindly handed me a map of Barcelona, I made my way to the “beach of Barcelonetta”, a newly built sandy beach that is being cleaned every night – supported by a sign that says that camping at night is not allowed… So I stroll along the beach with all my gear and think about where I could sleep tonight… I venture into the city center, according to the indications on the map with a big tourist info sign. And so I pass by old monuments, historic buildings, Spanish traffic and many tourists. On the way I notice a branch of the German bank, which allows me to get some cash for a couple days. Soon after I am handed a list of all official youth hostels in the city at the tourist information point. So off to the next Internet point for 1 € / half hour to google which one is the cheapest. No sooner said than done, found the place on the map, checked in, paid, set up my bed, showered, and off I went into the city. That’s as fast as it gets. Now without luggage, I admire the buildings and structures of Gaudi, newer buildings of the last Olympics, and history which is to be found everywhere. In the evening before we go to sleep, I meet Brian, an Argentinean, and a Turk whose name rhymes with Yahoo (unfortunately I forgot it). We decide to go out together and stroll along the sea through Barcelonetta. After a somewhat restless night, we let our Turkish colleague sleep in, as he had complained about stomach problems the evening before, and get up early to see the Park Guell, the Poble Espanyol, the Olympic Arena, and the surrounding parks and buildings. In the afternoon we say goodbye because Brian is leaving for Naples… Photos will be posted as soon as possible… saluti, see you soon…
Looking back at this experience from 2023, I can’t help but notice how much has changed since then. At the time, smartphones were not as prevalent as they are today, and even if I had one, it would have been running on 3G speed. Now, many of the interactions I had during this trip would be lost due to the convenience of turn-by-turn navigation on our phones.
While the extra steps I had to take in the past – such as getting a printed list of youth hostels, going to an internet point, paying for a poor internet connection, and finding directions – may seem like a waste of time compared to the ease of research on a modern smartphone, they also contributed to the adventure and surprise of the trip. I made new friends easily and spent time exploring uncharted territory together.
I regret not having the contact information for the two young men I met on this trip, but I am grateful for the memories and the sense of adventure that filled the air during that time. Although the world has changed a lot since then, I am happy to report that the curious and social nature of my younger self is still alive and well.