miércoles, 27 de marzo de 2013

Barcelona Taxis

When I was a little boy I thought that taxis could only be yellow and black. Later I discovered that in most cities they are white, and many of them have a colored stripe so you can detect them. Even later I learned that there are other cities where taxis share colors with ours, as Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Mumbai, but they are an rare.

In 1906 the first motorized taxis appeared in Barcelona, with one single station in La Rambla, and they coexisted with the old horse carriages. Motorized vehicles finally prevailes and at one point it was decided that they should show a yellow, blue or red strip in the back, depending on the rate they charged. In 1934, though, it was necessary to organize the sector, and rates and colors were unified, so yellow was adopted as a common hallmark. this is the origin of the color of our taxis, with yellow doors while the rest is basically black.

As a curiosity, let me tell you that the person who took all this measures was Jaume Vachier, a municipal councilor, who tried to arrange the chaotic traffic of Barcelona in the 1920's, and planned underground car parks, promoted the first crosswalk of the city (at Balmes-Provença) and also the first traffic light at the same intersection.

Currently there is an EU directive that suggests that taxis should be painted in ecru color, as they are in Germany. For the time being noone is paying attention to it. Can you imagine the disappearance of the yellow and black taxis of Barcelona?

martes, 19 de marzo de 2013


I used to live in a large apartment in the neighborhood of Sant Gervasi, with a beautiful sunny terrace. In the center of the terrace there wa a bench which had, in its back, a sink with a faucet. The point is that this bench/fountain had been covered using the Trencadís ceramic technique.
You can still find Trencadís in Barcelona in many existing buildings, although it is really a typical technique of modernist architecture. It was first used in the latch of Güell farm in Pedralbes Avenue, almost out of necessity, since the sinuosity of this latch forced to break the tiles into small pieces to make them fit. I must say that even though Gaudí is considered the inventor of the technique, it was actually developed and improved by Josep Maria Jujol, who collaborated with Gaudí himself in the design and construction of the benchs of Parc Güell, for example.
If you look carefully, you will find many examples of Trencadís in Barcelona, in public and private elements. It is just another of the marks that Modernism has left us and we have incorporated almost as a sign of identity.

lunes, 11 de marzo de 2013

Winter storms

One of the good things people often mention about Barcelona is its nice weather, especially its soft winters. This is basically true, but sometimes we are visited by a phenomenon that makes the beaches empty of bathers and surfers. I am talking about storms coming from the East.
The northern wind known as Tramuntana is renowned for its vigour and intensity, but the east wind, which is more constant, sometimes gets mad and destroys beaches and boardwalks of our coast with heavy its rains, low temperatures and strong waves. Sometimes this combination even makes snow pop up near the coast of Barcelona.
There are storms like this throughout the year, but the most common time is for them are spring and fall. One of the most famous is the one that happened during Boxing Day 2008, but in 1911 there was one that affected the entire Catalan coast and Barcelona and caused 28 deaths only in Barcelona. As the singer Raimon says, rain doesn't know how to rain in our country...
To protect the beaches and prevent regression caused by eastern storms during winter, the municipality built between 2006 and 2010 three dams that stabilize the shoreline.
The storms, however, continue visiting us.

lunes, 4 de marzo de 2013

Tricky floors in Barcelona buildings

High steps Eixample

When I pay a visit to someone who tells me he lives on the first floor, I usually walk up the stairs. Sometimes there is no choice, since the building has no lift. But then, often, especially on the floors of the Eixample and Ciutat Vella, this first floor easily ends up turning into a third!
The stairs of the buildings in Barcelona are full of semi-floors, mezzanines and main floors (principals). Moreover, in the past the heights of these floors were greater, so it is not strange that you have to climb considerably to get to that "first floor".
Previously, the most wanted floor was the first one, in order both to avoid the discomfort of the street and to not having to climb too many stairs. Up from this floor you could progressively find the families with more limited purchasing power.
This way, it was most prestigious to live on a first or a second floor than on the fourth floor. Naming the first floors as "mezzanine" and "principal", the third floor suddenly happened to be the first, and so gradually. Thus, all social classes could be at the same time in the same building, the city's social hierarchy was translated to the distribution of families in the buildings.