martes, 27 de noviembre de 2012

Rooftop antennas

The image that any city shows, just like with most things in life, is not unique, and it often depends on the viewer's gaze. Above the asphalt of sidewalks, pedestrians and shops at street level there is another reality that is only noticeable by birds or from high places: the rooftops.
Anyone who has lived on a high floor of Ciutat Vella, Gràcia or Poble Sec will probably know  what I am talking about, a very specific image that fits naturally in the chaotic Mediterranean spirit of Barcelona.
These roofs are used for many things: hanging clothes, holding neighborhood meetings or sunbathing, but what I like to see are the antennas. And I do not mean satellite dishes, but the traditional aerials, which look like small twigs of fragile static trees.
I know that for many people the antennas are "dirty" visual elements, and that they have many drawbacks, including the difficulty of access, the higher maintenance costs and a lower quality of reception of channels, and I know that they will gradually disappear.. that's why I like looking at them thinking they are an endangered landscape.
I leave two images: a Picasso painting titled "Roofs of Barcelona" (1903) and the cover of a very good album: El món en un cafè, by the band 4t 1a.

miércoles, 14 de noviembre de 2012


One of the good things that Barcelona has done in the last years is the recovery, refurbishment and modernization of fresh produce markets in all the districts of the city. Through its history, Barcelona developped a special small-store model, which is getting now hard to maintain. Many of us like this model, compared to having huge, impersonal malls in the suburbs.
Some time ago I posted on this blog about the Born market and its eternal building works, but now I want to write about other elements that accompany us for years: those fresh produce markets that set provisional big tops while the building is refurbished
Among others, the city has refurbished in recent years the market of Barceloneta and Santa Caterina (Ciutat Vella), Clot (Sant Martí) and Llibertat (Gracia), and during the works, the big tops have been placed in nearby open spaces.
Some of these works last so long that the concept of "provisional" seem to become "definitive" but generally we know that the tops will only be there for a certain time. And then they will disappear to leave free way, again, to the original market.
Now Sant Antoni market is being refurbished, and I am looking forward to the ending of the works because a building as spectacular as this one, inaugurated in 1872, will be for sure gorgeous.

miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2012

The knife grinder

Some weeks ago I heard on the radio that some traditional trades that were disappearing are now coming back because of the economical crisis. The main reason is that, in hard times, we prioritize fixing things before replacing them with new ones.
Among those trades that are surviving there is one that is very related to our streets, a mobile profession associated with a repetitive melody of flute: the knife grinder.
If we have to judge me by the number of times I've sharpened my knives, knife grinders would already have disappeared, but luckily there are people who still do it, and some grinders still survive on the streets of Barcelona. The photo of this post, for example, was taken a couple of weeksago in the Rambla del Poble Nou.
In a city subject to all kinds of loud noises, there are some sounds that do not go unnoticed and that currently resist: that of "Butanoooooo" for example, is one of them. The knife grinder's "Tiruriroriroriro" is another very typical one. Hopefully, after the crisis, there will still be knife grinders circulating with their old mopeds on the streets of Barcelona.

An additional curiosity: Dani Cortijo explains in his blog altresbarcelones, that after the defeat of Barcelona in 1714, it was forbidden to have more than one kitchen knife per family at home, to prevent possible uprings or riots against Spanish troops.
Moreover, this single family knife had to be tied with a string to the kitchen table, and people who didn't obey this law could be punished even with the death penalty. Thus, the grinders did their work moving through the houses of Barcelona, and specifically working in their kitchens!