martes, 31 de enero de 2012


Tarragona is a lovely small Catalan town just over an hour away from Barcelona.
It’s famous for being one of the cities with the best conserved and most beautiful remains of Roman architecture in Spain. The ruins have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 

There’s also a beautiful Cathedral

And of course fantastic beach

The town visited on a Sunday afternoon is very quiet which is refreshing after buzzy Barcelona. There are many narrow streets, little shops, bars.

Also, just before entering Tarragona it’s worth it to deviate from the course a little to see El Puente del Diablo - The Devil's Bridge. It’s an ancient aqueduct built in the 1st century to provide the developing Tarragona with water. The legend says that after it was built some natural disaster (probably earthquake) razed it to the ground. And then then devil came up to the architect of the aqueduct and offered him to rebuild the construction in one day and one night in exchange for the first soul that will drink the water coming through. The deal was made. The aqueduct was reconstructed and the first soul to drink the water belonged to… a donkey. 

lunes, 30 de enero de 2012

Calçotada in Valls

Yesterday I had an opportunity to participate in a highly interesting gastronomic event. In Valls, a tiny Catalan village, it is an annual tradition that people celebrate… onion. But not just any onion. Calçot is a kind of long green onion that looks like leak. They roast it in charcoal and eat with special sauce (deliiicious), bread, pieces of meat and wine. The right way to eat your calçot is to pull the ‘black’ part down, dip the onion in the sauce and place it in your mouth trying not to spread charcoal and the sauce all over your face. It’s a dirty business so they give you a cute bib. Fun tradition and the onions are tasty, I cannot imagine eating more than a couple of them at a time though and from what I understood (my Catalan needs much to be desired, to put it mildly) in competitions one can even eat over 250 calçots in 45 minutes. Insane and impressive.
Calçotada is accompanied by a parade (obviously)

Valls is quite a nice village, with tiny streets and bright-painted buildings

domingo, 22 de enero de 2012

Museum of Chocolate

Museu de la Xocolata (Plaça Pons I Clerch) is a small private museum. Entry fee: 4,30€ (a small bar of dark chocolate serves as your ticket). The museum offers chocolate sculptures, some history of chocolate and workshop (need to arrange it beforehand).
There are sculptures of cartoon characters…

landmarks of Barcelona

stories (here: the Sant Jordi legend)

and other things

Also, you can read some interesting facts about chocolate…

And see the machines needed to make it

And then after all the tiring visit treat yourself with some chocolate in the museum's shop :)

viernes, 20 de enero de 2012

Pompeu Fabra for foreigners, i.e. how to survive at Spanish uni

One of the best universities in Spain, considered posh in Barcelona, the breeding ground for the future Spanish elite… and us, Erasmus guys. You can easily spot us in the crowd. We wear t-shirts in November and have confused looks on our faces. We all had something stolen during our stay. We go out on weeknights and never speak out loud in the class because we are busy trying to look invisible in the back of classroom so that no one asks us anything.
My stay at UPF has been a series of ups, downs, surprised and faux-pas, some of them funny some of them not. I’ve survived the first term though and chances are I will go through the second one too!

First of all you need to know UPF is a very Catalan place. I am lucky to be a languages student hence I attend Erasmus-oriented modules in Spanish, otherwise everything is in Catalan. Erasmus modules are a safe harbour; we are all on the same boat. If you are a bit masochistic like me and voluntarily choose to dive in and do a non-Erasmus module you have to keep in mind you’ll always feel like a spare prick at a wedding (especially when your German teacher changes the language in which he teaches just because you’re present in class. Which is absolutely lovely by the way!!). Also, it’s difficult to make Spanish friends and you might end up not practising much Spanish at all. And the ‘normal’ classes tend to be more difficult. Local students seem to study a lot (or at least they spend plenty of time in the library), they party (usually) only on weekends and only every third student in the library has their Facebook open. Impressive.
So once you got over the fact you did not come to Spain but Catalonia, you have to face other obstacles. Like Spanish ways. Let’s take printing. I might not be an IT specialist but even I am able to print stuff out. At UPF, however, it took me over an hour and help of varied people to sort it out. You need a special card, you need to remember to send your file to a ‘factoria’, and then (when you manage to find a printing machine corresponding to the factoria you have chosen) don’t helplessly push all the buttons at once… Better ask some local to help you out, saves time and nerves.
And then… Paperwork. Be ready to run between buildings, come back a couple of times per week (manana o’clock) and take three deep breaths first. Remember: no one replies to e-mails (not as soon as you’d wish) and the ‘big-blue-eyes-I’m-a-lost-silly-foreigner’ strategy does NOT always work.
It might sounds a tiny little bit discouraging (not? intended) but in reality there are quite a few cool things about UPF too. Like… sitting in the sun between classes sipping beer. Cheap coffee. Free newspapers (always take one because you will definitely read it, umm - later!). People treat you a bit like a retard and tolerate your strange excesses like drinking tea with milk or using the staff’s elevator…   
To conclude… However stressful and overwhelming at first, you get used to everything. Erasmus in Barcelona is definitely one of a kind experience.  

miércoles, 18 de enero de 2012

El Pilar in Zaragoza

El Pilar is an annual celebration for la Virgen del Pilar – the patron of this town. It takes place on the 12th of October (in reality though – like most of Spanish fiestas – it starts before and finishes after the actual holiday) and it’s quite an event.

 It is organized by the local government and citizens participate eagerly, there are also loads of tourists from other parts of Spain.
Other than that, Zaragoza is a lovely town, however, after half a year in Barcelona it just cannot knock you off your feet.

 Expo 2008

Palacio de la Aljaferia

I do recommend spending one or two days in Zaragoza, for the historic monumets, for the nightlife and for the atmosphere which is totally different to that of Barcelona.

sábado, 14 de enero de 2012


Nice little town in the north of Catalonia famous for Dali Museum. There isn’t much to say about the town itself but the museum is by all means very impressive.
First of all it's massive. Lots of open spaces, long corridors, upstairs, downstairs. Huge expositions.
 Crazy ideas...

Sometimes makes you think where his inspiration came from: mental illness, drugs, aliens?

Absolutely unique pieces.
The ticket (12 euros with students discount, otherwise 18 - if I remember right) includes entry to the Museu Dali Joyas where you can find fantastic jewellery and other masterpieces made with precious stones.
A trip from Barcelona is about two and a half hour long (train) but it's definitely worth visiting!

viernes, 13 de enero de 2012

Hello, I'm from Europe

The other day me and my friend Alicja ( had to present ourselves to other students in a class and we felt quite puzzled by trying to find the best answer for a simple yet - at least for us – doubts-raising question: where are you from?
I never considered nationality problematic until I began my Erasmus year and heard this question a couple of times a day. So if you live all your life in one place there’s no room for dilemma but what if you’re spread out in two or – bloody hell! – three countries? Which one do you choose? Does ‘where from’ mean your nationality? Or where you’ve spent most of your life? Or where you live now? Or maybe where you feel most at home?
I lived in Poland for 18 years, in England – 3 years and in Germany – only every now and then for short periods of time, mainly just visiting. So technically I’m from Poland. Neverthelesss…. now (when I’m not on Erasmus – from England - in Spain) I live in the UK and chances are I will stay there after I’m done with the uni. I consider it my home more than any other place. Germany is funny – I never lived there permanently and my German leaves MUCH to be desired but - because my closest family moved there (and because I love Haribo) it became a part of my identity too.
So in the mentioned class we eventually decided to be from Poland and the moment I said it out loud a classmate turned round and gave me a very surprised look. He knew me as a student from British university - without the rest of the story.
I wish I could say we came to some satisfactory conclusion but no. We are Polish-born but we feel strong connection with Britain and we are Erasmus students from the UK. I guess what me, Alicja and people in similar doubt have left is to tick ‘citizen of the world’ box and fly around happily making the most of such complicated yet advantageous situation J

I know this post doesn’t have much to do with Barcelona but… it’s my blog so like it or piss off ;)