Barcelona is a city that boasts of being seen in many different ways – in as many different forms as there are pairs of eyes that wander and devour its streets. One way to see Barcelona in a unique light is by taking a literary tour of the city. Many books have been based on or inspired by parts of the city and one of the best known, both nationally and internationally, is The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, written by Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, Coincidentally, this year, we celebrate the 400th year anniversary of the author’s death.
In the second part of Cervantes’ literary work, Don Quixote goes to Barcelona, and the author uses the character’s experiences to show all that he knew about the Catalan capital. He also showcases what he liked about it, describing the city through the words of his main character: “Barcelona, archives of courtesy, shelter of foreigners, hospital of the poor, father-land of the brave, vengeance of the offended and pleasant correspondence of firm friendship, and in site, and in beauty, unique.” Walking through the downtown streets and proceeding towards the shoreline, we find many sites that show, as explained by our guide and professor David Revelles (http://rutesbarcelonasingular.com/), that Cervantes also once walked them. Not only this, but we note that they appear in various works in one form or another.
The journey begins in the square that greets the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, located in the Gothic Quarter, which is composed of labyrinthine-like streets that promise surprises around each corner. Taking one of the side streets that border the cathedral and turning onto Carrer dels Comtes, we find the headquarters of the historic Inquisition. Interestingly enough, its coat of arms is still on the wall of what is now the Frederic Marès Museum. Continuing and weaving around various corners, we reach the old Jewish Quarter, “El Call,” where we stop to note the many inscriptions that decorate its walls. In Carrer del Call, we also pause to admire the building once occupied by Sebastian Cormellas’ print shop. It appears in the novel when Quixote learns how the second part of the literary work, known as the apocryphal Quixote and written under the pseudonym Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, is printed. The current business’ name hints at this scene in Quixote, as its outdoor sign reads Dulcinea.
At the end of this street, we find Plaça de Sant Jaume, which contains the city hall of Barcelona and the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia. From here, we proceed onto Carrer Montcada, where we pause in the alley just before the Picasso Museum to observe a mosaic with a drawing of Don Quixote. This mosaic depicts the image of the character running through the streets of Barcelona to leave the city.
The penultimate enclave consists of the area surrounding Santa Maria del Mar, where we stop various times to soak up varying anecdotes about Cervantes and Quijote. Leaving this behind, we arrive at the edge of the maritime zone, where we approach the building in which Cervantes once lived, officially recognized by a plaque on its façade.
This beach, the “Barceloneta,” is where the quixotic tour of Barcelona ends, as it commemorates the spot in which the battle between Don Quixote and the Knight of the Crescent Moon occurred. It was here that Don Quixote lost and as a result, had to leave the city. It is interesting to note, however, that this is also the way through which they entered, as cited in the text: “They saw the sea, which up until that point they had not seen; appearing to them incredibly spacious and extensive, filled with much more than even the lagoons of Ruidera, which they had seen en la Mancha.”
This itinerary is a route that shows the city of Barcelona in a different way, and its many significant stops connect us to a novel well known and enjoyed by many throughout the world. Do you dare embark on it?
Here, we leave you with a video that summarizes the tour:
Translated by: Kirstin Meyerhoeffer