Barcelona Spain

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The heart of Barcelona beats in the Ramblas. Between morning and midnight almost everyone in the city will find themselves at some time in the avenue lined with plane trees that links the massive Plaza de Cataluna with the harbor. Bird sellers, flower women, and newspaper vendors have their pitches on the 1 'I, mile (2 km) long and almost 150 foot (46 m) wide promenade. There are also sidewalk cafes, ice- cream kiosks, and bars for a beer. The Boqueria with its enormous fish market opens at five in the morning, in the evening the middle classes throng the magnificent opera house that is always sold out in spite of five thousand seats and high prices.

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The visitor to Barcelona finds a cosmopolitan atmosphere, a blend of zest for life, an urge for freedom, and joy of art. The Catalan capital still feels itself tied to Europe north of the Alps. Within its walls lived Visigoth and Frankish kings such as Charles the Bald, credited with creation of the Catalan coat of arms. During the defense of Barcelona against the Moors he is said to have dipped four fingers in the blood of the wounded hero Guifre el Pilos and marked four red stripes on the dying man's shield: four red stripes  on a golden ground.
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The king eavesdrops The city with its harbor was founded by the Romans and achieved prosperity and power as royal residence of the Franco-Catalan kingdom of Aragon in the Middle Ages.
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The Barrio Gotico or Gothic Quarter retains the stern lines of Catalan Gothic in its fine residences and imposing cathedral. In the simple beauty of the Generalitat ("chamber of the one hundred") the city's first autonomous city government gathered in the fourteenth century, suspiciously spied upon by the Catalan king through a hole in a drape who gave away his hiding place when he gasped at a disagreeable speaker.

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Columbus - known in Spanish as Colon and in Catalan as Colom - is revered in Barcelona as if he was a protecting saint. Prominent people .escorted the discoverer of America from the harbor to the palace of the lords of Barcelona in 1482 where he was awaited by the two enthroned monarchs: Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon.  Later an almost two hundred foot high memorial column was erected next to the harbor. Nearby is moored a faithful re- production of the Santa Maria in which Spain's most famous seafarer discovered the New World. 
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Tourists flock along the Colum- bus route from the harbor, up some 750 yards (640 m) to the Ramblas and then a right turn to the Plaza del Rei at the front of which steps lead up to the Palau Reial Major. Here in the Salon del Tinell the voyager paid his respects to the monarchs accompanied by a group of native Americans. 

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Picasso in 'ancient palaces Many medieval buildings now play valuable new roles in the cultural life of the city, such as museums. Three palaces alone are dedicated to the exhibition of the work of Picasso. From time to time the solid Catalan cooking can also be tasted within ancient vaults such as Can Culleretes or Los Caracoles. 
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More modern times have also left their impression on Barcelona. Amid the housing of the ordinary people one can admire the Golden Square with its array of some 150 Modernist buildings. Architects of distinction such as Antoni Gaudi created five-storey homes here with cave-like entrance halls, wavy roofs, and sculptural chimneys that con- jure up fairy-tale images. This is also true of Gaudi's sacred work, the Sagrada Familia church, under construction since 1882. When Gaudi died in 1926 only one of the present eighteen towers had been completed. 
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After the explosion of Art Nouveau and Modernism at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries fresh architectural impetus was given to the city through the World Exhibition of 1929 and the Olympic Games of 1992. A collection of modern galleries and futuristic sporting facilities arose on the 700 foot (213 m) high Montjuic hill. Here too the architect Iosep Lluis Sert built a museum to display the work of the outstanding surrealist Joan Mira (1893-1983). The master immortalized himself with the sculpture Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird) that is as high as a lighthouse and with his colorful sculpture on the Ramblas.

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