Museum Visits 

During my last two weeks in Spain, I visited the museums exhibiting the work of three major Spanish modern painters: Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí. In this post, I will share my brief impression of their museums.

Pablo Picasso’s Museum is in the center of Barcelona, on Carrer Montcada, right by the Gothic Quarter. Picasso’s private secretary, Jaume Sabartes, opened the Museum in 1963 when Picasso was still alive. The Museum occupies five medieval mansions that are restored and turned into a gallery with numerous exhibition halls. The Museum presents the work of Picasso in chronological order. The highlight of the Museum, for me, was the “Las Meninas” collection. Picasso’s analysis and interpretation of Diego Velasquez’s famous painting from 1656. 

Joan Miro’s Museum is also in the city of Barcelona. Miro’s Museum is in Montjuic, on the upper part of the mountain, where the 1992 Olympic Games took place. The Miro Museum is slightly further away from the city’s touristic center. The Miro Museum has a stunning view of the city. The most remarkable feature of the Museum is that Joan Miro himself was the architect of the building. Miro designed large rooms with high ceilings to display his giant paintings and sculptures. The space and artwork interact with each other in a different way than all other museums I have ever visited.  

Salvador Dali’s Museum is an hour away from the city of Barcelona. Dali’s Museum is in his hometown, Figueres. The Dali Museum was formerly a theater. Dali himself led the restoration work to turn the public theater into Museum. The Museum’s exterior and interior mirror Dali’s character, humor, and artistic vision. The exterior of the Museum is decorated with egg-shaped sculptures. Each room in the interior offers a different atmosphere for each visitors’ own unique interpretation. 

Visiting the Museum of these three major artists was a unique opportunity for me to understand the culture and political history of Spain and Europe. It was fascinating to see how World Wars and dictatorship impacted painters differently. 


In this post, I will share a little about my culinary adventures in Barcelona. I tried many different types of Spanish dishes. I enjoyed eating most things, tortilla patatas, gazpacho, salmorejo, boquorones, croquetas, pimientos padron, cecine, chorizo, jamon iberico, cecina and many more. I also enjoyed eating delicious paellas. But fideuà has been the most delicious food I tried during my stay in Barcelona.

I did not know or heard about fideuà before coming to Barcelona. I learned about fideuà when I accidentally found a traditional Catalan food festival while walking randomly on the streets of the city. What a great coincidence!

Fideuà is a dish similar to the most famous Spanish dish, Paella. The main difference is that Paella is made with rice; fideuà is with noodles. Unlike some paellas with chorizos and seafood, I was told that fideuà is only made with seafood. The cooking process is also almost identical to paella. Large shallow pans are used for cooking the noodles, and various spices, including saffron, are added in the cooking process. Some restaurants also add extra sauces (alioli) at the top of the noodles after cooking. Adding extra sauce is not necessary, but it makes the noodles creamy and tastier. 

According to some legends I was told and read, the dish was invented in the early 20th century on the coast of Valencia. Some claims that the cook on a fishing boat did not have sufficient rice to cook paella for the crew, so he used noodles instead of rice. Others claim that the captain of the ship was overeating the rice and finished the stocks, so the cook started using noodles as an alternative. The cook’s trial was successful because the dish became popular in the entire Catalan region afterward. 

It is harder to find fideuà than Paella because most restaurants do not serve the dish. If you find fideuà on the menu, I recommend ordering Fideuà because it is tastier than paella, in my view. 

Castells – Human Towers

I took a day trip to Tarragona to watch the Sant Joan (St. John) festival. During this festival, I had the opportunity to observe various interesting cultural activities. A Group of folkloric danced with firecrackers, locals made a big fire camp in the middle of the city, and music shows and many other interesting activities were integrated into this festival. But there was one cultural practice I watched that impressed me differently: the castells. 

The word “castells” is translated in English as castles. In the context of Catalonia however, castells refer to human towers. The practice of building human towers goes back to the 18th century, and the city of Tarragona is the major center for this practice. The castells are built during festivals, in the main square of the cities. The height of these human towers is also quite impressive. Usually, the height of these towers varies between 6-10 floors. The castells might be considered as a cultural activity, but also a form of a team sport because requires a lot of training to build such structures. 

Watching how tens of people get together and organize themselves to build these structures made me think about multiple issues. I think I have never seen any collective physical activity that is more inclusive. People of all ages and sizes get together to build human towers. Children as young as 4-5 years old actively participate in this event. In fact, they climb all the way top of the tower. Older people often are at bottom of the tower and stabilizing the core of the tower. People in the middle of the tower are usually the strongest ones, physically speaking. 

It seems to me that building castells resemble an intergenerational trust-building exercise. Young people do not carry much weight, but they are expected to act courageously in climbing the tower’s upper levels. Older they get, they are expected to have more weight and responsibilities, especially in terms of providing a stable route for the young ones. Castells only works when people from different age groups trust each other. 

One day, I will need to return to Catalonia just for watching the castells!

Time and Spain

The city of Barcelona from Montjuic

It has been almost two weeks since I arrived in Barcelona. I am getting used to the tempo of the city and better understand the cultures the city hosts. Until now, being a student in Barcelona has been a fascinating experience. I am taking long walks to observe different neighborhoods in the city. I could observe one common thing in all communities I have seen so far. People in Barcelona value time differently. In this short reflection piece, I will share how locals take their time to do things. 

As I observe, locals of Barcelona rarely rush. They do not feel the need to speed up while preparing or eating their food. They take long coffee breaks. They talk and listen to each other literally for hours. In short, they usually like to take their time and enjoy their everyday activities. 

The way locals approach time management has been quite unusual for me. So, as a student/researcher, I wanted to understand what locals think about my observation. I asked a few locals why they do not rush in their everyday life. I received fascinating answers. But one of the answers I received was strikingly interesting. I was told that “there is no Spanish fast food. Of course, you can find so-called fast food in Spain, but that is not really Spanish food. Spaniards like having enough time for eating and drinking.” As people do not rush in their everyday life, there is often more time for interpersonal dialogues.   

An Example from Traditional Catalan Cusine

Local’s approach to investing sufficient time in doing things can also be observed in the historical architecture. Spain, particularly Barcelona, is known for its beautiful architecture. Yet, I was not expecting to see the exterior walls of many old buildings be so beautifully decorated. Almost in all streets, you can spot at least one or more buildings elaborately decorated. Whenever I look at the impressive buildings of Barcelona, I think about the time and labor invested in constructing them. Even the buildings of the University where I am taking my language courses are nicely decorated. This aesthetic dimension of the environment makes everyday life pleasurable. So, the people of Barcelona have long conversations in beautiful settings.  

University of Barcelona / Garden

The importance of having sufficient time also shapes my class schedules and the pedagogical approach at the language school I am attending. My current Spanish teachers rarely rush from one topic to another. Teachers make sure that students not only understand the grammar structure but also have sufficient time to practice phrases. This approach really helps me to feel more comfortable speaking Spanish with locals. 

At the University of Barcelona / Orange trees in the garden!

Time to Pack!

An unforgettable experience is ahead of me. I will be taking a six-week intensive Spanish language course at the University of Barcelona. I am incredibly excited to learn one of the most widely spoken languages in a beautiful city. I will regularly share some reflection pieces on my blog in the next two months. In my first post, I will highlight a couple of things I look forward to experiencing during my time in Barcelona. 

I will turn language learning into a joyful experience. Integrating social and cultural activities into my language learning process will be the path I will follow. For example, I will watch shows and read about the city’s history and architecture in Spanish. I also anticipate that I will play basketball with locals because playing basketball is my favorite hobby. Luckily, basketball is the second most popular sport in Spain! So maybe I will make new friends by playing basketball with the locals. 

I promise myself not to be shy in making mistakes in Spanish. I know that memorizing vocabulary, learning fundamental grammar rules, and spelling words correctly are central to gaining confidence in speaking with native speakers. But, in my view, the most crucial element of learning a new language is one’s ability to overcome the fear of making mistakes. After learning German and English, I realized that making mistakes in a foreign language is part of the learning process. I will try to speak Spanish correctly but making mistakes won’t discourage me this time. 

As a peace studies student, I hope to meet some professionals working or studying for peace. Barcelona hosts multiple international peace research institutes. I hope to meet with practitioners and experts working on or for peace in Barcelona. Learning about their work will help me improve my vocabulary on the subject matter I am interested in most. 

Now, I need to finish my packing. For now, Adiós! You will hear from me again soon when I am in Barcelona. ¡Hasta luego!