SpainExpatBlog: The sounds of Barcelona
Britt Bohannan described the sounds of summer in her Barcelona neighbourhood. Hint: they are not quiet.
On any given day in the summer, I am treated to a cacophony of street sounds.
I live directly above a narrow passageway (it’s actually a street, and small cars do go down it, but not often. The street was built centuries ago so it’s quite narrow and twisty in places). My building is 6 stories and each floor has two apartments, except the top floor, which is part roof terrace for the whole building.
Sounds from the neighbors echo against the buildings as do noises from the park just around the corner, which is more like a dirt plaza surrounded by apartment buildings hundreds of years old. Some of the more common sounds I enjoy (or not) daily are as follows:
Toothless crazy lady
TCL lives across the street and up a few doors, one floor lower than mine, and stands at her balcony squawking obscenities at the Pakistani owners of the corner shop and all who go in and out. Her rude, grating voice carries as if it were amplified - she yells from her diaphragm yet still is able to project the volume through her nasal passages. This begins at 11am, will break for a few hours around siesta and dinner time, and continues on until 2 or 3am. Nightly.
Firecrackers at all hours of the day and night.
They are enjoyed and set off by tiny children to adults. The number and frequency increase depending on which of the hundreds of festivals are in effect, or how FC Barcelona is doing in a futbol match. If FC Barça are doing particularly well, firecrackers are not only set off en mass in the streets and plazas, they are thrown out of windows at passersby.
Children play heated matches of futbol in the park weekday mornings (which is why it is a dirt plaza. No watering system means no grass.) It’s not as bad as it sounds, I think the kids are a bit older so there isn’t the usual shrieking that accompanies young children getting excited and/or upset. The layered shouts and calls of the match echo off the walls and drift over to my open bedroom doors. This, with the rising heat of the day, makes for a pleasant waking in the summertime.
The guy next door singing loudly in English. Fortunately, his voice isn’t too bad. Unfortunately, the songs are usually horrible 80s pop tunes. This usually happens late at night for my evening entertainment.
Any given parade could be happening at any time, on any day of the week. For example, the other Thursday evening, around 5pm, GP and I were returning from a bike jaunt in the mountains in his van. (He keeps his van across town in a narrow parking garage under an apartment building my friend lives in – but that is another story). The main road to my place was closed because there was a pirate parade (Yes. As in the “Arrrrrr” kind of pirates).
Another ridiculous example: I heard a drum-line heading down the street a random Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago. As I joined the other neighbors looking off their balconies to watch, several Gigantes (giant paper-mache people) appeared in my street. Shortly, two Gigantes were positioned to face each other while people milled around and the drums continued. Then a couple of men popped out from under the robes of the giants and milled around as well. Finally, the men climbed back under their giant’s big skirts, hoisted them onto their shoulders (presumably), and left the street while my neighbors looked confusedly at each other.
And lastly, bands playing in front of the Santa Caterina Mercat, 3 minutes from my place. Outdoor stages are set up in any given plaza, park, or square in Barcelona for free, public music performances. These continue until late into the night, 1 am during the week and until 3 am on weekends.
Let me epilogue this post with this: I love that I can walk down my building’s stairs and instantly be in the middle of everything – the old and new mix together in a wonderful sensory experience that is difficult to capture in words, but I am attempting to capture some of it here, little by little. Where I live sounds like a noisy place, and it is. But it is full of life and excitement and new discoveries every day.
And if it gets too noisy, I can close the hundred-year-old wooden and shuttered glass doors to my brick and mortar flat and the outside world fades away.
Reprinted with permission of SpainExpatBlog.com.
Britt Bohannan is an American currently living in Spain, the fifth foreign country she has called home. She has spent the last four years in Barcelona working as a freelance editorial and technical writer and for local magazines and businesses and runs SpainExpatBlog.com.
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