Saturday, March 13, 2010

Snow! Nieve! Niege! Neu!

{{Walkin' in a...winter wonderland...?}}

This Monday, Barcelona was hit by one of the last things I expected to experience while here: a snowstorm. When I left for French class, I was completely surprised to find big white flakes drifting down from the sky above me. But I didn't have much time to think about it then because I had to get to the French Institute quickly to not be late for my exam. Everyone in class was slightly distracted by the snow; we kept looking out the window, or wandering over to look at the cars below growing increasingly whiter, as we waited for the oral part of the exam. And by the time I left French around 4, it was blowing quite strongly, with even thicker flakes, cold cold temperatures, and a chilly wind.

I went down to one of my favorite cafes to drink a coffee and escape the cold for a little bit; I didn't want to go home and miss the spectacle of snow downtown, but I needed a bit of warmth in my bones first. In the little time I was there, the snow started to fall even harder, completely coating the street and parked cars and slowing traffic to a crawl. But the human traffic around Las Ramblas had increased exponentially; it seemed that every Barcelonan was out enjoying the snow--taking photos, staging impromptu snowball fights, lovers wandering hand-in-hand and smiling at the phenomenon. I wandered down Las Ramblas to Plaça Catalunya, taking it in, but noting the increased wind and thicker snowfall the further downtown I got. The Plaça was absolutely gorgeous in the snow, with the fountains coated in white, the sky heavy with silver clouds, the surrounding buildings draped in a cold, fluffy blanket.

It was darkening and I wanted to take some photos in Clot, so I took the metro back home, just in time I believe. The metro was absolutely overflowing with people; we were packed together more-or-less like sardines in the train, and people who didn't move fast enough had to wait for the next train and hope that it was full of people who lived around Catalunya. When I got home Carla told me that it was lucky I had taken the metro home, as the tranvía and bus lines had been discontinued because they couldn't make it through the snow. Clot was quiet and peaceful in the snow, with the sound of laughing children, falling flakes, and honking horns on Carrer Aragó.

That evening, the Catalonian news channel, TV3, was filled with stories about the surprise snowfall. A full 30 minutes of the regular news were devoted to it, and after Crackòvia there was an hour-long special on the snow. Barcelona ended up with about 12 cm of snow, which completely paralyzed the city's transportation system. The government of Barcelona had to look for places to put up people caught at the bus stations, train stations, and airport. In other parts of Catalunya as many as 40 cm of snow fell. It all melted fairly quickly in Barcelona, thanks to above-freezing temperatures during the evening and sun Tuesday (though still cold temperatures), but my friend Vicky, who flew into Girona on Wednesday, told me it was still white around the airport there and she had been unsure if she would be able to make it in.

A short day of a Barcelonan winter wonderland, the first snowfall in the city in some 20+ years, and I was here for the snowfall of 08/03/10!

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