Ten Things I Bet You Didn't Know About Barcelona's Famous Avenue
Along with the Sagrada Familia, La Rambla is undoubtedly one of Barcelona's main attractions, but sometimes it's easy to get carried away by all the Barcelona City Council's tourist marketing.
So here I take a wry look at the past and present of Barcelona's most famous street, and let you in on ten things that perhaps you didn't know.
- Poet Federico García Lorca once described Las Ramblas as the street he wished would never end - in summer when it's full of tourists and I'm trying to get from Plaça de Catalunya down to the Port, I sometimes think his wish has come true.
- La Rambla is actually five streets joined together - La Rambla de Canaletes, La Rambla dels Estudis, La Rambla de Sant Josep, La Rambla de Caputxins and La Rambla de Santa Mònica. That's why it's often referred to as the plural Ramblas.
- Although pronounced more or less the same as Ramblas, the plural of Rambla in Catalan is Les Rambles and the verb 'ramblejar' means to stroll - it makes you wonder where the English verb 'to ramble' comes from, doesn't it?
- The name Rambla derives from the arabic 'ramla' meaning 'torrent' and is a reminder that the Ramblas marked the course of a seasonal river.
- In medieval times the Ramblas was a stream that ran along the outside of Barcelona city walls and was used as a sewer. It was so smelly and disgusting that it was popularly known as the 'Cagallel' - the Shit stream!
- The Cagalel got so clogged up that by the 14th century, the people of Barcelona started using it as a road when it dried up during the summer.
- The Catalans' most emblematic street was actually built by Spanish military engineer Juan Martín Cermeño at the height of Spain's military occupation of Barcelona. He first built the Ciutadella to house 50,000 Spanish troops, then La Barceloneta and finally, following the demolition of Jaume I's medieval city walls started work on the Ramblas in 1776.
- The strange location of Barcelona's main market - La Boquería - is due to the fact that El Raval was open fields until the urbanisation of the Ramblas. La Boqueria was built in 1836 on the site of the ancient market outside the city walls, where local farmers had come to sell their produce for centuries.
- The Columbus monument, at the bottom of the Ramblas, was built in 1888 to celebrate the fact that the discoverer of America was Catalan - he was actually Genoese. He points out to see with his back towards Castile. Unfortunately, given the inconvenient configuration of the coastline he is pointing towards Libya rather than America.
- The Rambla de Canaletes that gives on to Plaça de Catalunya is the most patriotic section of La Rambla and is where Barça fans celbrate all FC Barcelona's victories. Legend has it that if you drink water from the drinking fountain at Canaletes, you will always return to Catalunya. That's what I did on my first holiday in Barcelona in 1986, so be careful!
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