School of Architecture in Barcelona, with Picasso's drunk expression on the wall.
Surprises that Places Hold
Saad Adnan Khan
Snow in Sweden is pretty, dust like, vanilla sugar like, marshmallow cream like. But coming from a very sunny part of the world (as one of my friends stated on her Facebook status), it could be devastatingly depressing to not see the sun for days. I take a lot of pride for being brown skinned. So when I complained to my friends here that I'm going pale and turning into a ghost (in the absence of the sun), my friends reassured me that I am not—talk about spoiling the drama. It got quite annoying on few days when it felt that I was waking up during the evening, only for the night to fall in few hours. So when my Russian friend Nina and I planned to take a trip to Italy and Barcelona last year in December, we were pretty excited—partly because we were going to see the sun again! We got a little tired of not being able to feel our noses while walking or biking back to our dorm from class in a minus sixteen.
As we walked through the narrow-narrow streets in Venice, ancient buildings from the Byzantine era stooping over, the streets so narrow that the city seemed like an ever expanding, breathing, magical maze. It felt like we were walking inside a painting. My Italian friend Alberto who accompanied us wondered how people manage to live here. Far off from the ferry that we were on, we saw people queuing up for a gondola to go to work. The sun was out. Us three students walked around, awed by the old grandeur of the place. The narrow alleys looked like the ones in Shakhari Bazar and also reminded me of Barisal, my hometown with its small lakes and canals (most of which are no longer there, thanks to urbanisation). I think I read somewhere that Barisal was once called the Venice of Bangladesh.
What I love about new places are the surprise tales that they have to tell. As we stood in front of the School of Architecture in Barcelona, our tour guide dramatically informed us that the building is considered to be the ugliest building in whole of Barcelona, given its plain square structure (to be fair, the building did look a little boring compared to the other beautiful architecture all around). Weird, childish drawings sketched over the wall—an attempt to 'tone down' the ugliness of the building. Our guide informed us that the drawings were done by a very drunk Picasso. I smirked at this point, satisfied at this rare piece of information. Picasso apparently loved drinking absinthe, and the drawings were done on a napkin. Dali's face appeared on graffiti on the walls of Barcelona that it seemed Dali was playing hide and seek on the streets. Locks that newly-wed couples put up on the Park Güell hill as symbols of their new bond; Gaudi's bizarre Gothic architecture that hypnotised us—the colours, the random (or carefully careless?) geometric shapes and designs. Nina was sure that he was high on something. Surprises like bargaining in Bengali with a fellow Bangladeshi in Milan to buy gloves for Nina, him telling us how he has to scoop up his shop (socks displayed on a cloth on the floor) and run off before the Police comes to chase him off. Surprises or strands or pieces of puzzle—inspiring us young travelers to learn and to be awed.
(The writer is a Reporter, Star Campus, currently doing Master's in Gender Studies: Intersectionality and Change at Linköping University, Sweden.)