Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Roman Wall in Your Car Park, Sir?"

It's common for any kind of building work in the old town of Barcelona to begin with an approximate time scale, and then go way over on the completion time. OK, I know you're thinking that it happens with any building project, but in the old town, it takes a lot longer. Why? Well, because you have to go underground, and that's when you start to uncover the remnants of the ancestors.
Barcelona Sights - Scanning the ground
Public Parking in Barcelona is a bit of a nightmare. There are not enough street parking spaces for the number of cars in Barcelona, and despite the council introducing the "Zona Verde" or "green zone" 3 years ago, it's still a major problem. The green zone parking is an initiative where only residents of the postal code can park in their own streets - thus eliminating the workers from outside of Barcelona from taking up the parking spaces, and also encouraging the use of public transport - it's well documented that Barcelona wants to be more "green" after worrying levels of pollution were publicised. Perhaps the name for the "Green" zone was not chosen by chance...

So the reason for the title of the post is that when new buildings are constructed in the old town - like the new buildings out of town - almost all have underground parking lots. And here lies the problem.
Archeaologists in the old town - Barcelona sights
Barcelona was founded as a Roman Citadel caled Barcino. It's amazing to see such history, in the City's History Museum, for example (an upcoming post, guys, be sure to subscribe) and this is also evident in other parts of the old town. My own car park in Carrer de Les Flors, for example, has the remains of the Roman Wall within it. I remember also around 5 years ago, in the Gothic quarter, plans were made for a new underground car park, only to be scuppered, upon discovering Roman Ruins, which is now the rather unimpressive Plaça Vila de Madrid (not for me, but the residents would have much preferred another car park, rather than some roman ruins frequented by stray cats).

The above photos were taken at the site of the old public swimming pools in the Raval, which were demolished to make way for new apartment blocks for elderly residents (many of which were turfed out of their homes when the new Barceló Raval Hotel was built). As usual, the demolished site sat completely untouched, collecting rubbish for around a year before the current work started. It's also the scene of old addidas ad filmed just before the World Cup 2006 in Germany.

So now, it's a painstaking wait to see if there's anything of value/historical significance with small paintbrushes dusting over old stones. Don't misinterpret this post - I think I've got one of the coolest car parks in Barcelona - how many can say they have a roman wall as part of their car park? I just wonder why this couldn't have started immediately after demolition, lasted a year or whatever (which was as long as it sat untouched) and then started the building work?
Mercado San Antonio - Barcelona Sights

It doesn't surprise me that the market traders at the nearby Sant Antoni market are bracing themselves for a very long "temporary" move. The 150-odd year old market is actually Barcelona's biggest and is also to undergo a severe makeover - also involving underground car parks. Fishmongers, butchers and grocers are to be turfed out to the neighbouring streets in the meantime (work has already begun) and are worried at hom much excavation might delay the works, leaving them in temporary conditions for perhaps 2 or 3 years!

Comments welcome guys, and for more information on Barcelona, see this great Barcelona Guide. Also, for your accomodation needs, I reccomend trying apartments for groups in Barcelona as a great alternative to hostal bunk beds.


Anonymous said...

I am visiting Barcelona by Google and tried to figure out what the green lines on the streets mean and your blog provided the answer. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Glad to have helped! Thanks for commenting!

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