Three hour train journey from Valencia to Barcelona – all was normal. We noticed a few stops out of Barcelona that there were police at one of the stops and a crowd of what looked like students, but didn’t think anything of it. When we got to the the Barcelona train station, we hopped off the train – everything still normal, then we got to the door to find a taxi and were met with a crowd of people and about 200 armed police surrounding the entrances to the building. First we thought maybe it was climate change activists. There didn’t seem like a lot going on, but with that many police we thought it best to move away from the area quick smart.
So we got to the taxi line along with approx 2000 other people all lining up patiently for a taxi – of which there were none! We stood and watched for about 10 minutes and 2 cabs pulled up so we made the decision to start walking in the direction of our hotel and away from the station thinking we’d hail a cab on the street.
We walked for a bit and then found another taxi stop. We stood and waved at quite a few, but they were either occupied already, or they drove straight past. We were a bit far from walking distance from our hotel and so with two suitcases and Me Jenny, walking the whole way there was out of the question. We gave a final wave and were again ignored, we turned to start walking down the street a little more and a taxi pulled up, calling out to us – he’d essentially flagged us down! We jumped in and in our best Spanglish, tried to ask what the hell was going on a the station and that’s when we learned that today, of all days, was the day that the sentencing had been given for the 9 politicians of the Catalan Independence Party and the followers of that party were not happy Jan!
Here’s a bit of brief history from what I can understand:
In 2017 Catalonya’s Independent party – who wanted to become a republic away from Spain bungled a vote to do with becoming independent… they didn’t do things lawfully and were initially charged with ‘rebellion’, ‘sedition’ and ‘misappropriating funds’ – the bigger charge of ‘rebellion’ was dropped, but they were all found guilty of the other two charges. Their fate has been discussed for the past 2 years, but today all 9 of members who were involved were sentenced to prison terms ranging between 9 & 13 years – pretty harsh in the eyes of most people, but especially their loyal supporters – 100s of 1000s of them, and they all took to the streets and more seriously – to the airport to share their disapproval.
It was chaos! The police blocked the roads to the airport, so the protesters walked the 16km distance – it took them 3 hours, so the police were well prepared by the time they got there. Riot Police.
When we first arrived and finally go the cab our driver explained in arm flailing Catalonian (which is easier to understand) what was going on and that he would try to get us as close to our hotel as he could as all the roads were blocked, so he dropped us on Las Ramblas and then just gave arm waving directions. I had been to the square before, so was ok with where we were going…. then as the afternoon progressed, we wandered around for a bit and there didn’t seem to be anything else going on.
The feeling in the street for us was like they had a protest earlier on in the day, but that it had finished and everybody had gone home. We had a bit of tapas, looked around, but then when we got back to or hotel to sit and look at the cathedral, we heard the chanting and the cheering and the singing of what we learned was the Catalonian national anthem.
We could’ve been listening to a footy game from outside the stadium. There were police everywhere and helicopters flying overhead.
We weren’t sure if these were extra protests that had happened on the fly after the announcement of the sentences or if they were preplanned on top of the earlier marches – just in case the sentencing went south. We didn’t know how long they would go on for or how long they were going to occupy the airport for – we’re flying out in 3 days. There was utter chaos at the airport with quite a lot of people injured by the police brutality – many of the instances were filmed and uploaded straight to Twitter. It was horrifying!
We considered our options – would we try to get a train to Madrid and fly out of there? Would we just stay in our hotel until Thursday? We emailed our lovely travel agent – Lyn Tyson (seriously, book her for all your travel needs – she’s awesome…. and how much of a relief it is to know she is a phone call away if things like this happen)
The noise we could hear from our hotel went on until about midnight and then when I got up to check at about 12.30am, the street was empty and the city was in silence.
Then today we woke up it was like nothing had happened! People were getting about their business, going on tours, eating tapas, sipping sangria, shopping, and going to work…. Nobody that we spoke to mentioned it at all.
After yesterday I can’t imagine that that is the end of it and that there will probably be more protesting to come, but hopefully by then, we’ll be well and truely back in sunny Mandurah eating something other than tapas!
Fear not dear friends and family – I’m looking after Me Jenny and we are keeping ourselves extremely safe, avoiding major squares where people might gather and staying relatively close to our hotel area. Also the amount of police that are in the city should be making us feel safer. We have one more day, then we’re on our way home.