On my last day in Barthelona (okay, ending the Catalan lisp spelling), we luckily made it to the Poble Nou Cemetery. I think there were maybe two sentences about it in the Lonely Planet book I used to make my grand master list of things to see, but the description was enough for me. I really appreciate the artistry found in cemeteries. It’s not a leftover goth thing; I just think that they are beautiful places. Maybe because they are so sad and lovely all at once.
One of the sentences in the book talked about a statue that showed Death giving his kiss to a young man. We wanted to see it, but never did find it in the ridiculously large maze of crypts and graves. The cemetery is enormous, with all these high crypt walls making different sections. We walked and walked and probably only saw an eighth (yes, I picked that number for the lisp, I have no idea how much we really saw of it) of the place. Here are links to a couple of pages that show the statue (the last couple photos in the slide show), and I have to say that sitting down to write this just now I googled the cemetery and those are the first images I’ve seen of the statue. I wish we’d seen it; the photos of the cemetery don’t really do it justice.
So, the day we (I went with Matt and Greg, friend and brother-in-law, respectively) went, it was overcast. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to take a bazillion photos there with my shiny new camera. I also had my shiny slightly-less-new camera in the backpack, in case I ran out of memory. I was so overwhelmed by the cemetery. It’s hard to explain if cemeteries don’t make you feel that way, but if they do, then you know what I mean. It was a passionate place; it wasn’t quiet and reserved like the manicured lawn type cemeteries here in the states can be. There were bright fake flowers, old decayed wreaths, old photographs in broken and weathered frames. Dozens of wild cats darted all around the place, climbing on markers and sleeping at the feet of eroding statues. Here are some of the pictures I took with the shiny new camera.
Those were taken when we first got there, before we realized how big of a place it was. We split up,loosely so we wouldn’t get completely lost, and wandered about. After some time spent reading markers and looking at offerings left by loved ones, we stumbled onto a different part of the cemetery. Here instead of the walls of crypts, which housed families, by the way, there were underground crypts that were topped by small, detailed cathedral replicas. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was achingly beautiful, this small city of churches over the dead.
Those will NOT turn for me, but more on that in a moment.
I was uneasy taking pictures when we first got to the cemetery. We didn’t see anyone else around, except the woman in the photo with the cat above. I tried to see if she reacted to me having a camera, and far as I could tell, she didn’t mind. I got comfortable pretty quickly, which was easy given the subject matter and my habit of having the camera in front of my face during all my waking hours in Spain. (I took a thousand pictures in four days.)
Shortly after we found the cathedral city, several things happened all at once: the sun came out, illuminating the rows of little churches with light so beautiful I started crying; my memory card filled up and I switched to the little camera and took some of the best photos of my whole life; and a guard came over to talk to me. My Spanish was about as good as his English. We went round and round, until I finally admitted what I knew all along: he wanted me to erase the pictures. I showed him the screen, and he watched as I erased the pictures one by one, making it "memory ZERO," like he demanded. He was visibly pissed, but still polite. As it was time for the cemetery to close up, we left without taking any more photos and without seeing the statue I’d wanted to see. But, I was still really happy with the visit there: it was incredible to walk through as much as we did, and my big camera was stashed in the backpack with over two hundred pictures I’d already taken. Here are a couple more shots — one of a dilapidated grave and the other I took through the window of one of the tiny churches (yes, it’s sideways):
While I was still in Barcelona, I made the second picture in that last batch (the one with the three angels) my screen saver. I looked at all the photos full-screen size, and was super happy with them. When I was flying home, I decided to make my screen saver one of the photos I’d taken at the market. It wouldn’t work. I went into the photo software and discovered that NONE of the horizontal pictures would enlarge. The vertical ones would, for some reason. And, still, none of my horizontal pictures from the whole trip will enlarge. No other photos on my computer are affected. When I wrote this post, it took all these pictures about three times as long as usual to upload. I will someday take my laptop to the Apple store and see if they can help me. Maybe the file is corrupted, and maybe there are ghosts in there, mad at me for taking pictures I shouldn’t have. Maybe the guard was a ghost. Here is a link to the set on flickr, if you want to see some of the statues from the cemetery. If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, make sure to get to the cemetery, and don’t forget to bring your spy camera. Also, bring treats for the cats: maybe they’ll put in a good word with the ghosts and your pictures will all come out.
I am so glad you got the chance to share this story with us. I felt like I was there in the cemetary with you.
what a fabulous experience. Thanks so much for writing it down – it sounds amazing.