Sunday, October 22, 2006


Hola! I've just returned from a nice weekend trip to sunny Barcelona. And what a lovely couple of days it has been. I was there to attend the wedding of DB, a good friend whom I've known for many years, and I took some time out as well to check out what the city had to offer. This meant, naturally, that little studying was accomplished, but the weekend was certainly worth it.

I left London early on Friday for an easyJet flight departing from Stansted airport. This is one of those budget airlines that now dominates short-haul flights to Europe. It's pretty okay, the long lines at the check-in counters notwithstanding. But the passenger screening process at Stansted was extremely tedious, with all the new security arrangements in place. I was glad when the plane finally touched down in Barcelona. Fortunately for me, this wasn't my first visit to the city, and it was quite easy getting around. Barcelona's a really modern, well-developed and tourist-friendly destination, and one hardly feels any sense of culture shock getting around.
But first, who's DB?
Well, I met him when I went to Saarland in Germany in the 1990s for a brief exchange stint with the local university to study the German language. We were also paired up with local host families. By the luck of the draw, I stayed with DB and his folks in the tiny hamlet of Kirkel. The home stay was meant to allow us to learn the language in a natural setting.
Of course that was the theory. Unfortunately for me, however, although DB's family had been in Germany for many years, they had actually emigrated from Czechoslovakia, and the language they spoke at home was, in fact, Czech. DB himself was born east of the Iron Curtain. So there I was, a student of German, heading for an immersion course in Germany, being hosted by a family whose members spoke Czech with each other. Looking back, I've always found that rather hilarious.
DB later moved to London to pursue his tertiary studies, and has remained in the UK since, acquiring for himself a PhD in Derivatives, which is mightily impressive. Why did he leave? I guess he found life in Saarland - one of Germany's smallest states - just too provincial and parochial for him. We've kept in touch pretty regularly. He's been to Singapore once, and I've also made it a point to call on him whenever I'm in London. However, given that it's been three years since I was previously in the UK, it's thus also been three years since we met. It's been a long time. When we last got together, I recall he took me for some good Bengali food in Brick Lane, followed by beer at a pub in the Whitechapel area.
And I understand it was during his time in London that he met his other half at the London School of Economics, where she was pursuing studies in history. She's originally from Spain, however. Hence the Barcelona wedding. And when it transpired that it was to be held in October, when I'd be in Europe, I happily agreed to attend.
We began with a pre-wedding cocktail reception, which was held on Friday evening at the Parc Güell, located just to the north of Barcelona's downtown core. How do I even begin to describe this place? For those from Singapore, think of it as a sort of a Spanish-styled Haw Par Villa, but eminently more classy - a private retreat created by noted Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi for a rich local dignitary.
It's a delightful and whimsical place, with attractions at every corner, and a wonderful upper level promenade which offers visitors a good view of the city and harbour beyond. But my favourite is what greets visitors as they enter the park grounds - this large, multi-coloured dragon, covered in mosaic, which has come to serve as some sort of icon for Barcelona.

I met the Missus for the first time at the reception. A very lovely and charming lady. And although I'm still getting used to it, I can say that I'm now getting pretty good at exchanging continental greetings. Heh. That's something for which you really don't get much practice in Asia.

The actual wedding ceremony was held the following morning at the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, an amazing Catalan Gothic structure located in the middle of Barcelona's Old Town. The interior was rather sparse and austere, except for panels of resplendent stained glass works, but that added to the rather hallowed atmosphere.

The wedding mass was pretty novel. Because the bride was Spanish, the groom German, and with quite a few of the guests from the UK, the ceremony was conducted - amazingly - in three languages. I believe the priest spoke mostly in Catalan. At least, I think it was Catalan, and not Castilian Spanish; I can't tell between the two. At times, the priest branched out into the other languages. The groom's sister delivered a reading from the Bible in German. Other readings were done in Catalan. Most interestingly of all, when it came to the actual wedding vows, the groom said his in German, while the bride did hers in Catalan.

It was very inclusive, and I'm sure all went well, and this was the sight we all beheld as they walked out of the church at the conclusion to the event.

Thus ended my first experience of a European wedding - posh, elegant and genteel. I was certainly glad to have made the trip to Barcelona, not just to celebrate with DB and his new Missus - we've promised to meet up for a beer back in London later this year - but also to take some time out exploring the city. So watch this space. I've only quickly described the wedding related proceedings. I'll write again with more on my impressions of Barcelona.


Post a Comment

<< Home