Eduardo Mendoza's La ciudad de la prodigios tells the story of how Onofre Bouvila arrives in Barcelona as a child, shortly before the 1888 Universal Exhibition and makes his way upwards to the top, at least partly through a life of crime and, eventually, dies at Barcelona's second, 1929 Exhibition.
It's based partly at least on historical facts, some of which have been deliciously exaggerated, hilariously so at times, and wondering which bits are which is one of the delights of the book. It's not quite the "official", much-hyped version of Barcelona and its past and the idea that behind the glittering façades there might be something a whole lot more sordid makes the story are more credible one.
You want to learn Spanish (or any other language), you need to read a lot; you want to understand Barcelona, you need to read this novel…
The Ramblas in the 1920s | Photo: Tom Walton
This amazing diorama, showing the section of the Ramblas outside the Liceu opera house, was on display at the Salón del Hobby [website] this past weekend.
Only one car (centre), a tram and a steam-roller (left foreground), the rest of the transport is horse-drawn or pedal-powered.
Life below deck: diorama Barcelona Maritime Museum | Photo: Tom Walton
One of the visits on this week's social program is to the Maritime Museum [website]. Even if you're not particularly interested in ships, it's well worth visiting. If you come to Barcelona for a short stay, you can be forgiven for thinking the sea is only important because it gives us great beaches a short Metro ride away but, in the Middle Ages, the sea gave the city access to a large Mediterranean empire.
The other museum you want to visit if you are interested in Barcelona's history is the History of Catalonia museum [website], also down in the port area, and also in a magnificent building.
El impresionante edificio del museo | Photo: Irene Ucha
El Museo Marítimo es uno de los lugares más interesantes de Barcelona. Los barcos a escala real son preciosos, las exposiciones temporales invitan a repetir la visita, y es un punto fundamental para quien esté interesado en descubrir la historia naval de la ciudad.
Solamente por ver el edificio, de más de 700 años, ya vale la pena ir.
>> Fuimos al museo en el programa social
>> Web del museo
>> Visitas virtuales
>> 30 days, 30 photos of Barcelona #12