1 de September de 1798 - Bastante completa impresión de la ciudad (3539)

[Date in September not given]

A fine avenue of poplars leads in a direct line [from the Llobregat, which has «the most magnificent bridge in Spain»] to Barcelona, and the stony road changes to a fine causeway. It was covered with men and carriages, and embellished on each side by country houses, gardens, and plantations. Every thing had an appearance of affluence, animation, and gaiety. Before us were the towers and fortifications of the city, and at a distance the amphitheatre of mountains we had descended. Here we again breathed the refreshing sea air, and at length passed the Hospitaller gate. Within, the walls are adorned with aloes, but soon this verdure disappears on entering the dark and narrow streets of Barcelona.

[…]

BARCELONA is situated on a plain, which is bounded on three sides by mountains, but the view is open toward the sea. Here the traveller readily perceives he is approaching the frontiers of Spain and of the Pyrenees, yet the climate of this city is of the most agreeable temperature, to which the vicinity of the sea and its general situation probably much contribute.

The interior resembles a labyrinth; and this great city, which contains above 100,000 inhabitants, is full of dark narrow streets continually interfering each other: they are kept however tolerably clean, and lighted at night throughout the year. The houses are lofty, heavy, and painted in various colours. In the smaller streets the roofs seem almost to touch, and in some places the inhabitants may shake hands from the balconies; so that lovers only require the aid of a plank to meet. Whatever cordiality this proximity may produce among the inhabitants, and between the sexes, the want of air and of sun are great inconveniences. Add to this the crowd of professions and of trades, the journeymen of which work in open shops as at Marseilles. The various appearance of all these occupations, the noise of hammers and various other processes confounded together, the show of innumerable kinds of goods exposed to sale, with the charming catalonian women in the foreground, and the confused crowd of so many men collected together, all contribute to give interest to the scene. Scarcely is there a single art or trade but is practised at Barcelona, and many of them, as for instance the shoemakers, supply all Spain, sending whole cargoes to Seville, Cadiz, Madrid, &c.; for Barcelona and Valencia are in point of industry the two first towns in Spain.

However confined are the walls of Barcelona, there is no want of promenades. On quitting its narrow streets you are at once transported to the spacious Plaza de la Mar, round which are the exchange built in the Italian style, the old governor’s palace (capitan general), and the modern though somewhat heavy edifice of the custom-house. In front on two sides is the sea. On the right you enter upon the mole called Muelle de San Luis, on the left is the way to the Passeo Nuevo.

The first view of the Muelle de San Luis has something striking and solemn. The immense expanse of the ocean, the lofty rock and castle of Montjuich (as the Catalonians write it, though the Castilians write it as it is pronounced Montjui), the port with a forest of masts, the light-house and its batteries, the flat more lined with taverns, the little terraces of which adjoin the ramparts, and the fine rows of houses on the left, produce a grand and lively effect not to be equalled even at Cadiz: for at the latter the sea is only seen on one side of the ramparts. Hence the view at Barcelona is more free and magnificent.

Here the finest part of the day is the evening, when the sun sets behind Montjuich. Ships of all kinds are seen entering the port, and the more is all alive: the fishermen drag their boats on to the sands with a loud cry, and at night innumerable lights are seen: the moon rises majestically above the sea, the roar of the mining waves is more distinctly heard, the number of people walking increases, and from the houses, which are lighted and open on all sides, the sound of music and of songs with all the noise and bustle of the dance are heard. This tumult contrasted with the calmness of the sea with her waves tranquilly sinking to rest gives the mind a sensation of sublimity that I should in vain attempt to describe.

From the Muelle de San Luis the road turns to the left toward the Passeo Nuevo, which was formerly a waste plot of ground between the town and the fort. But since the war broke out, and to employ a great number of poor people who were out of work, the present governor-general, Don Agostin de Lancaster determined to make some embellishments there, and has been assisted by numerous voluntary subscriptions. Five avenues of elms and poplars have been planted, extending in a straight line to the Puerta de Francia, and two more are to be added. The Passeo Nuevo is much more lonely than the Muelle, but this only renders it the more rural.

To the right is the road to the citadel, where the first object that strikes the eye is the great broad tower in front of the armory (plaza de armas). It is used at present as a prison for some generals and officers detained there to be tried by a court martial for surrendering the fort of Figueras. Hating the French as they do, the Catalonians consider the surrender of this fort as a double crime, and endeavour by all possible means to aggravate the confinement of the prisoners. Hence to deprive them of the prospect they would enjoy from their dungeon, they have stopped up all the windows, and except their prayers these unfortunate people are deprived of all books and even of the public papers.

It is very probable, that some misunderstanding and the influence of their wives may have been the sole causes of their surrendering the fort, and the reports of treachery or of secret orders from the court seem wholly destitute of foundation. These trials may perhaps yet be delayed for a time by the fluctuation of different parties, but the military law is too clear for the prisoners to escape death, unless they are saved by an act of authority from the king.

Near the Muelle de San Luis, under which are warehouses, is a small lateral street, from which you enter them, and commanding the Passeo de la Rambla, a promenade, which I cannot better describe than by comparing it to the linden walk at Berlin, This is undeniably the best street in Barcelona, and extends as far as the square of the Jesuits, being nearly half a league long in a straight line. The Rambla is used as a promenade in winter, because it is entirely sheltered and admits the sun. At night it is used as a place of intrigue by the lower orders.

Going out of the gate toward the sea the shore en the right is full of wine-shops, and lined with large ships, which in consequence of the cessation of commerce are lying ashore. Farther on are tents and measurers of goods, where at all tunes are large heaps of cheese, beans, salt-cod, &c. Here every thing is in motion, especially at night, when the fishing smacks return into port. For then a vast number of soldiers and journeymen come down to haul them on shore for a few quartos, a multitude of men and women crowd round them to buy their fish the mariners extend their nets to dry, their children light fires, and the poor fisherman who has no other flock than his boat sleeps betide the element that yields him a subsistence.

To the left is a vast inclosure, at the end of which are tiers of vessels, and here is seen that activity with its attendants, which prevail at all sea ports of any magnitude. The quay is about 1000 paces wide and terminates at the foot of the light-house, where is a guard-house with some other buildings for the purpose of performing quarantine. Upon the ramparts properly so called, or the Muelle Nuevo, you may enjoy at your ease the view of the ocean and the port, the entrance being defended by a battery, the guns of which cross with those of the Muelle de San Luis. Hence you perceive these two moles together with the beach, which is very broad, form a semicircular harbour.

Returning toward the town you will perceive a row of houses painted greenand red, which lie beyond the great road. They form the hither side of Barceloneta or little Barcelona. On beholding this it is difficult to conceive, that this little town, which has not been founded above twenty years, should contain 13,000 inhabitants; but it is very extensive in depth, and covers a considerable space along shore. It may be considered as a suburb to Barcelona; for a vast many seamen find there the means of supplying all their wants, and smuggling being so much in fashion there, many kinds of goods are bought much cheaper than at Barcelona. All that part which is without the sea gate as far as the light-house point forms a strip of land of an oval form, which extends along the coast.

The rest of the environs have a very rural appearance, and you may ride round them from Puerta de Francia to Puerta de Santa Madrona, in a semicircle. The space along the coast from the last mentioned gate to the former is occupied by the Muelle de San Luis, the citadel, and the Passeo Nuevo.

The promenade that surrounds the city runs along the glacis and has some very grand avenues. It commands a charming view of the mountains, which are cultivated almost to their tops, and which insensibly change to a smiling plain. Many of them brought strongly to my mind the country about Geneva near Seligny. Farther on between the intermediate gate called Puerta del Angel and the gate of Santa Madrona are nothing but kitchen gardens, beds of flowers, and little cottages, that have have a very pleasing appearance. At length we approach Montjuich, which we have already seen on various sides and in various points of view, and we ascend it by a steep road washed by the sea. As we mount we find a vast number of country houses and wine shops adorned with artificial gardens upon ridges of rocks. The road is planted with various shrubs, with oleander, and with aloes, and passes under the guns of the citadel. Meanwhile the horizon seems to increase wonderfully, and the eye looks down upon the sea, the town, and the port. This is an excellent spot from which to take a view of Barcelona.

It is the custom to go to Montjuich chiefly on Sundays. The narrow road that runs along the shore is as full of venders of vegetables as if it were a fruit market, and the whole heights are covered with people. Some sit quietly at the foot of the rock and amuse themselves with angling, while others sit in groups round great leathern bottles of wine. Some play at pelota or ballon, and others at bowls. Here sturdy artisans exercise themselves in wrestling, there an amorous couple steal from the importunity of the crowd to some retired corner of the rock. Wherever we turn our eyes, we behold affluence, chearfulness, and the just reward of industry.

The same may be said in regard to dress: for the inhabitants are every where adorned with the manufactures of the country. The costume of Barcelona has something peculiar which characterizes it. The women wear cotton petticoats of various colours, silk jackets, fine striped aprons, lockings of clouded silk or worsted, green or yellow shoes, long silk hair-nets of various colours adorned with fringe and stone ear-rings. The men wear culottes and short jackets of manchester stuffs, or of satin, and of all colours, large black hairnets, or when more undressed red woollen caps; blue and red scarfs, enormous cocked hats, and the lower classes wear alpargatas or shoes made of packthread.

Both the men and the women have a robust make, and their muscles, their features, and their whole appearance mow a vigorous constitution. The women without possessing the graces of the Valencians have their clear complexions, are graver and prouder, but equally good housewives. The men have an uprightness equal to that of the Svviss, and the same love of liberty. They have inherited the noble spirit and bravery of their ancestors, whose arms they retain. In general Catalonia seems to be the great scene of spanish generosity. The Catalonian piques himself on a mortal hatred to the French, has a marked predilection for the English and Germans, and the conjectures of historians on this subject are realized in a manner highly flattering to the travellers of these two nations. A secret attachment to the ancient german house that once reigned in Spain seems still to prevail among the Catalonians, and had the French reckoned upon a party in this province, it is certain they would have found insurmountable obstacles in the majority of the inhabitants.

It is true the present state of affairs does not contribute to make the French beloved. To them the Catalonians attribute the present war with England and consequently the loss of their trade. Their goods accumulate, their manufactures are at a stand or dwindling away, they have either no importations at all in the present state of affairs, or they arrive very rarely and at exorbitant prices, and the blessed english flag, that formerly gave life to their ports is no longer seen, but on board the privateers that infest their shores and totally ruin their coasting trade.

The English however seem still to treat the Catalonians with a certain degree of lenity and regard. Frequently they have restored their vessels at open sea for nothing or for an inconsiderable ransom, and many sailors of that province who were taken on board french ships have been sent horne well clothed, and even with money for their journey. In general the catalonian merchants can only make use of neutral colours, and especially those of Greece and Turkey; and the fatal changes their new connections with the Porte have made in the trade of Spain, Spain are already perceived with regret. Under the latter of these flags the eorn of the north has given place to that of Syria and Tauris, and they even send cargoes of it to America. I have been told that more than one ship loaded with this article have derived from a voyage from Buenos Ayres to Barcelona and back a profit of above 80,000 piastres. Hence the Greeks have an agent here, who at the same time fills the office of drogman or interpreter. He is a young man, who some years ago resided at Leipzig, and who speaks German tolerably well.

At Barcelona may be seen all the colours of the levant, and all the forms of vessels peculiar to the Mediterranean. I also saw maltese ships, which much frequent this port. Not long ago two of these vessels from the archipelago loaded with cotton had completed their quarantine at the time when the french consul and some captains of ships appointed a fete to celebrate the union of Malta to the republic. This took place at the entrance of the port, and no expense was spared; neither wine, nor flags, nor discharges of artillery ; but the inhabitants of Barcelona were enraged both at the fete itself and the occasion of it.

Some days after arrived the news of the battle of Aboukir by an american ship. At this the whole town rejoiced, and vied with each other who who should celebrate it most gaily as a triumph, Immediately the sailors of one of the maltese ships began to rise upon their captain, tore down the french colours, insulted them, and threw them into the sea, suspending them from the bowsprit. The crew of the other ship followed their example, and all cried out «Malta for England.» Of this the french commercial agent complained to the commissary of marine belonging to the port, but under various pretexts he was advised to be patient, and in the interim a thousand outrages were committed against the two french captains.

Meanwhile the intelligence of the defeat of the French daily gained strength, and soon after was confirmed. Upon this the sailors of the two ships began to desert, and the two captains found no other way of keeping the rest, than going immediately out into the road. But as the sailors had hoisted english colours, and would not lower them though commanded to do so, the governor-general gave orders to fire upon the ship. This vigorous measure and the want of provisions brought them to their duty; a compromise was made, and it was agreed, that, till further intelligence should arrive relative to the fate of Malta, the french and maltese colours should be both hoisted together on board. The intelligence that came being favourable to the French, several of the sailors were put in irons, and the commercial agent reported the transaction to the French government. It was not known at my departure, how this affair would end.

You will easily imagine, that on this occasion the Catalonians did not conceal the hatred they bore the French; for their antipathy exceeds all that can be conceived. Their manners and mode of life seem also rather to harmonize with those of Italy than of France. Every thing shows the influence of the climate remarked among oriental nations. The women have a clearer complexion than at Valencia, their hair is lighter, and their veils are more of the Italian form. Their kitchens, their furniture, the arrangement and decorations of their apartments, their food, and their profusion of sedias (chairs), add much to these similarities.

At Barcelona are a vast number of literary and industrious establishments, the principal of which are La real academia de buenas letras, instituted at the commencement of the present (eighteenth) century, and which in 1762 obtained a royal charter: Real academia de ciencias naturales y artes, instituted in 1766; here are professors of algebra, geometry, and statics; hydrossatics and meteorology; electricity, optics, pneumatics, chemistry, and natural history ; botany and agriculture : Real academia de jurisprudencia teorico-pratica: Escuela gratuita de nautica (free school for navigation) : Escuela gratuita de los nobles artes. Add to these three libraries belonging to monasteries and that of the bishop, which are open three hours every day. Barcelona also publishes a gazette, though far inferior to that of Madrid both in paper and printing, and a diario or advertiser, and it is the only town except Madrid where an almanack or guide for foreigners (guida de forasteros) is printed.

As to the means of supporting life, nothing is wanting} the provisions sold at Barcelona are of the best quality, and those which are imported, as bacallao, salt meat smoked, cheese and butter, are here in great abundance. Every where are seen magazines of wine, eating-houses,and itinerant bakers of spice-bread with their ovens, who also dress sausages and periwinkles.

These last are a very common species of food at Barcelona. They are dressed in stew-pans hermetically closed, or they are strewed on the ground and straw laid over them, which is set on fire. While dressing they make a noise like boiling water, and when dressed, that is when they can be taken out of their shells, they are eaten with oil and pepper; but this mode of dressing is horribly cruel.

Wine, in consequence of the high duties it pays, is much dearer than at Madrid.- A double quart costs near sixpence. It is also extremely harsh, deposits a sediment, and chalk is often put into a process which the Catalonians have learnt from the Italians. Most of the wines sold in the north of of Europe as french wines come from Catalonia, and are very prejudicial to the health.

There are at Barcelona a number of coffee houses, but most of them are kept by Italians and especially by Genoese. The principal of these is near the palacio, which is the residence of the governor-general. At this coffee-house or in front of it all the captains and brokers of ships meet every day from ten till one.

Considering the union of so many political, commercial, and social advantages, Barcelona would seem the residence to be recommended to foreigners in preference to all other towns in Spain without exception, if good Spanish were spoken there. It is true it is spoken in the chancery and among the higher orders; but the language spoken by the generality is a jargon a good deal resembling that of Provence, and in which the pronunciation and terminations of spanish and french words are often confused and mutilated in a strange manner. A vast number of short plays or farces called saynetes are written in this dialed:, which adds much to their comic effect.

, Travels in Spain in 1797 and 1798: With an appendix on the method of travelling in that country. Translated from the German (1802).

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