Thursday, 3 May 2012

From Barcelona to Tehran; Day Two

Day Two: Breathtaking Coastal Scenery

May 1, 2012; Distance covered today: 107 Km; Total: 107 Km

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia county. According to my Catalan friends, Dario and Cristina, Catalonians do not consider themselves “Spanish”. They think Spain has concurred their country and imposed many discriminatory rules and laws on them. People in Catalonia speak Catalan which is distinctly different from Spanish. They feel so strongly about being considered separate from Spain. Now I understand why the soccer mach between Real Madrid and Barcelona is important beyond what is normal between old rivals, such as Esteghlal and Persepolis or any other famous teams in a country. I cannot show how serious the hard feelings between Catalan and west of Spain are. During the two days that I stayed with my CouchSrfing friends, this topic came up many times. For example, I asked them how they had felt when “Spanish” national soccer team won the World Cup. They said they were happy because some of the players were Catalan, not because Spain got the  Cup. Wow! This divide is serious. Regardless of this issue, I was happy to be able to do CouchSurfing because I wouldn’t have known the stuff I learned about Spain had I been in a hostel or a hotel. Too bad that I cannot arrange any CouchSurfing anymore since I have no idea where I end up my ride each day and since I don’t have access to the Internet. It is too expensive to get Wifi here at the campgrounds: 4 Euros an hour!

On May the first, Cristina and Dario had already planned to go out of town at 5 am! But they gracefully allowed me to stay at home as long as I wanted; however, I wanted to say goodbye to them in the morning so I got up at 4:30 and got ready to leave. I left at 6:30. 

I decided to take Dario’s advice on taking the train for 40 km to pass the ugly industrial part of Barcelona. The challenge was carrying my 100 pound bicycle down the steps on the subway platform. Why not using the elevator? The elevator was tiny. My bike would not fit. Also, I wouldn’t unload the bike to carry it down the steps—it was too risky to leave my stuff on the street. Anyways…I faced the music and carried the bike and the load down step by step. It was much more difficult to carry it on the escalator. I was about to get hurt seriously, but I managed. Apart from the elevator drama, the taking the train with a loaded bike was easy. Unlike Viva trains in Toronto, where you have to use certain cars to put the bike in, in Barcelona you can take your bike onto any car you want.
Train station in Barcelona

I got off the train in Mataro and started the trip. There were so many bikers on the road. They would pass by me and say “Aler Aler” or “Holar”. I would repeat whatever they would say to me, much friendlier bikers than the bikers in Toronto.

Very soon the road started to be hilly and beautiful. I would ride up and down the hills. The more I kept going, the more beautiful the scenery got. There also were many racing motorbikes. They looked really cool on sharp bends on the road. Their knees were almost touching the ground. 

Since it was my first day and the road was really hilly, I decided to call it a day rather early—at about 5 pm. I checked in a campground for 17 Euros and 6 Euros for the internet, which did not work well so I got my 6 Euros back. The facilities in this campground are massive. Lots of showers, a huge swimming pool, playground, a huge supermarket, you name it. This is what tourism industry means. Campgrounds in Canada?

Today is the national Labor day in Spain. It’s a national holiday. If you have heard about siesta in Spain, and how people close shops from 1 to 4 everyday, add a national holiday to it in a small town, you will understand in what kind of atmosphere I was riding my bike from one town to another in the afternoon. They were like ghost towns. Nothing, nada as they say. And…I needed food and gasoline. I found the gasoline, but no food, so I mixed all I had and boiled them: Quinoa, dates, almonds, raisins, walnut. It was actually good. 
An old monastery

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