Barcelona Letter: Many Catalans are less than enthusiastic for a divorce from Madrid
Barcelona was the first city in Spain I ever visited, back in 1973.
The great Catalan capital was then resisting the dying clutches of the Franco dictatorship. I remember the menace of soldiers in coal-scuttle helmets, goose-stepping at the bottom of the Ramblas, rain pelting down, the streets barely lit.
But I also remember, much more vividly, the rich odour of history and culture that oozed from every worn stone of the adjacent medieval Gòtic Barri. I would, of course, have had to call it the Barrio Gótico in those days – had I been rash enough to ask a policeman for directions.
The Catalan language was no longer illegal, but its public use, especially by a foreigner, was still regarded with intense hostility by the regime.
Coming back four decades later, after a complete absence of nearly 20 years, it is good to find that the Gòtic Barri can still exercise its old magic.
A black-winged stilt feeds with a hundred metres of Barcelona airport. Photo: Paddy Woodworth
Only fragments of Barcelona’s Llobregat Delta remain. Can it be saved?
A black-winged stilt is high-stepping daintily through shallow water. Its almost absurdly long legs flash vivid red, scattering silver droplets in the sunlight with each movement. The bird is so close to the hide you could almost reach out and touch it.
A pair of little terns and a pair of ringed plovers share a small, gravelly sandbar nearby, their chicks skulking almost invisibly in patches of marram grass behind them. A great egret seizes a fish in a deeper channel, while a marsh harrier quarters the surrounding reed beds, hunting prey to feed its young.
This is a typical enough summer view from a hide in any Mediterranean wetland. Typical, that is, until the structure begins to shake as a Boeing 747 thunders overhead, so low you can see every detail of its wheels retracting after take-off. Look out the right-hand window of the same hide, and you don’t see birds: you see the end of a runway at the Barcelona-El Prat airport, the seventh busiest in Europe, barely a hundred metres away.
Read the full article in The Irish Times, 22 July 2017
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Articles on the environment; Spanish, Catalan and Basque politics; travel; culture; and other subjects; interspersed with personal reflections and images