Thursday, July 05, 2007


So, Kriszti and me have been to Barcelona last week. Nominally, I went to speak at the TSSJS Europe, realistically I attended the conference just long enough to deliver my talk. That's what you get for taking your wife with you, who insists you spend the time going around the city and seeing places, instead of attending, say, Gregor Hohpe's talk about event driven programming (that one I really would've wanted to hear, but alas, I was stuck sightseeing Sagrada Familia instead; woe is me).

Barcelona must be one of the most joyful places I've ever been. The atmosphere of the whole city is amazing, the buildings, the people, everything is vibrant and alive. Architecturally, they have wide main streets with a very wide pedestrian area (usually with greens, benches, and fountains) in the middle, and lanes for cars surrounding it. Drivers are very mindful of the pedestrians and will wait for them to cross the street even when they (the cars) have the green light. Patiently.

Then there's Sagrada Familia. I don't think I've ever been as impressed by a cathedral as I was by it, especially since this is the first one that I can't view purely as a historical monument, main reason being it's still being built. You step into it, and it's full of construction workers. Cathedrals are always monuments to ages in which they were built, and this one is a monument to our age instead of some long gone one, making it even more easier to feel like it you have a personal connection to it. Y'know, like when you visit a cathedral and they tell you "... the XY cathedral has been built for 300 years..."; well, this one is still in its first 100 or so years :-)

Architecturally, it is also quite amazing, and departs from "traditional" cathedrals in quite a lot of places. Pillar structure is such that pillars branch at the top, giving the illusion of trees, further emphasized by the ceiling that also tries (quite successfully) to look like foliage.

Then there are various other Gaudi projects in the city: Casa_Milà, Parc Güell, and so on, all definitely worth several hours of one's time.

We also went to see an evening flamenco show with a dinner (courtesy Klaasjan) which turned out really great, both the flamenco performers and the dinner were terrific. And on the previous evening, we hung out at the hotel's "bierstube" (which is to say, a spanish attempt at emulating a german beer place). A funny moment was when the staff kicked out Kirk and Cliff because they attempted to come in with two boxes of externally acquired pizza. The attitude of the staff was especially rude considering we were otherwise on a table with few hundreds of euros on the tab anyway, so what does it matter if two pizzas are eaten without generating a profit for the venue? Anyway, the guys ended up eating their pizzas from their boxes on the street. Kriszti and myself joined in for a bite (no photos of this overly casual event, regretfully :-) ).

On saturday, wife and me also had the pleasure of meeting with Jon Revusky and his wife Nuria (they're long time Barcelona residents) for lunch. (We were treated to really copious amounts of really great tapas in Cervezeria Catalana.) Jon and me are collaborating on FreeMarker for about five, six, or even more years now, and this was the first time we actually met personally.

The only dark side of the trip was airline luggage handling. Needless to say, they (Lufthansa + Newco, their ground services provider in Barcelona) lost our luggage between our connecting flights. That in itself isn't that bad, but they didn't deliver it until the day of our flight back! So we went out to the airport on sunday, got our boarding passes (from a really helpful lady at the Lufthansa ticketing desk), then went through security into the transit area, found the baggage room, stood in the line at the Lost+Found office, finally got to the front of the queue, been taken to a back room with hundreds of suitcases, found our own, went out from baggage room, back to departures to drop off the suitcase for the trip home, then again through security into the transit area. Simple, huh?

When we arrived home to Budapest, we went to the Lufthansa office at the airport to file a claim for luggage delay. The ladies working there said they don't deal with it as they don't have sufficient capacity to handle all such claims (I can believe that. They certainly gave the impression they have no capacity for anything whatsoever) and they told us to contact their office in the city, for which they can only give us e-mail address and fax number. The lady at the desk then proceeded to jot down the e-mail address on a piece of paper: I respectfully noted that it seems unlikely that this'd be the e-mail address of the city office in Budapest, but she was insistent that it indeed is. I was too tired to argue. I spoke to Kirk on the phone today, and he said Lufthansa office at the Budapest airport is the "most useless place on the planet". I tend to agree.

All in all, the Barcelona trip was great. Got to see a marvelous city, met some new folks and met again some already known ones, eaten lots of good local food, drank some sangria and local wine, did one talk, watched flamenco dancers, seen a great sunset by the sea. What more to expect? (Well, on-time baggage delivery, maybe.)

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