Anarchotourism in Barcelona

Sant_Felip_Neri_-_Barcelona, by MarcelloScotti

The Plaça de Sant Felip Neri is quiet, despite the constant flow of tour groups. I perched on the edge of the fountain and watched the pigeons, people sipping their coffee at the cafe, the wind in the spindly trees actually audible over the crashing thunder of Barcelona. I had wandered through a few slender lanes, almost missed it once, but backtracked and found myself at the plaça. And sat.

The plaça was bombed by Franco in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War, killing 42 people, mostly children, including orphaned refugees. The shrapnel scars attest to the intensity of the blast. Like Berlin, Barcelona bears its architectural wounds for anyone who cares to notice. I’m constantly crafting a patchwork understanding of history after a thoroughly mediocre American-jingoist public school education.

I half-heartedly took a few snaps of the pockmarked facade, but knew they wouldn’t look like anything in the chiaroscuro sunshine. I didn’t take many photographs at all in Barcelona. I was constantly wading through people shrieking with drunken glee while I was looking for the leaden weight of history. I was unexpectedly consumed by the Civil War and Catalonia’s history of anarchism, and vicious acts of government oppression as remembered in place names and bullet holes. Between sessions, keynotes and dinners for the EAA in Barcelona, I walked between 15-20 km a day, trying to make my own map of the place.

In 2001, a group of artists founded Tactical Tourism, “organizing interventions in public spaces drawing on the practices and language of tourism” to rescue secret histories of Barcelona. Their most famous intervention was the Route of Anarchism, a route “conceived as a guided tour to a hidden Barcelona, silenced and out of tourist view, the ‘red and black city’ of the anarchist movement, a Barcelona that is also known as ‘the Rose of Fire’.” This quote is from Pau Obrador and Sean Carter’s short article, Art, politics, memory: Tactical Tourism and the route of anarchism in Barcelona, which discusses the tactics of the group.

I spent a lot of time in the neighborhood El Raval, at the site of an infamous women’s jail, stopped by La Rosa De Foc, an anarchist bookshop, wandered by lots of mosques and read up on George Orwell and the Myths of the International Brigades. I could feel the voyeuristic spectre of difficult heritage hovering just outside of my eyeline. So I did what any good tourist would do and bought a poster:

Ricard Obiols 1936  Barcelona CNT-AIT

Ultimately, I failed as an anarchotourist. I focussed on the oppression, destruction and brutality and did not engage (as much) with the joyful noise of the situationist-led play that characterizes anarchism, “Tourism here is not seen as a passive spectator activity but rather as an active, playful form of engagement with the city.” Instead of visiting squats, I went to the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, which covers the continual Catalonian resistance but also has a fancy rooftop cafe overlooking the harbor. I couldn’t afford the drinks, sadly. So I continued to wander through Barcelona, soaking up as much as I could.

Colleen in Oz (Kinda)

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Are you coming back?

In 2012 when I was writing my dissertation I would post a very small part of an ongoing pulp fiction series each time I’d finish a chapter. I’d fight in space, ride a horse in the Wild West, you get the idea. So when I finished the whole thing, I imaged that I’d finally met the Wizard. The Wizard of Oz.

So I finally went. To Oz, that is. The last few months (make that years, really) I’ve been traveling a lot. The esteemed James Flexner and I (of previous Kalaupapa fame) applied for a visitor’s grant from Australia National University for me to give a couple of seminars and come rub brains with archaeologists down under.

I ended up giving two talks, Critical making, creativity and play for disruptive heritage practice and Archaeology, Augmented Reality, and Avatars, two of my favorite research topics at the moment, met several people in the department, and was generally impressed by the state of things academic. I didn’t really have a lot of time to dwell on the fact that I was in Australia—I have been buried by deadlines for just as long as I’ve been traveling. At that point I was working on an upcoming publication on difficult heritage online, the Introduction to Critical Blogging in Archaeology, and the processing the big Genetics/Heritage conference in Liverpool that I had organized with EUROTAST.

This is where I was, 99% of the time.
This is where I was 99% of the time.

So I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing. I was able to check out the requisite koalas and kangaroos, and went on a lot of long runs up and down hills in Canberra. It was Fall (in May) so the leaves were turning yellow and it was getting chilly. The architecture was very modern, and pretty much felt like America, except for all the massive birds.

I think that was the most disconcerting thing—the extremely large birds, just hanging out like pigeons. Cockatoos, parrots, massive, beautiful preening things, scooting around in parking lots and pestering people. So, America, but with big birds everywhere. Strangely, I was accused of not caring about being in Australia and not trying hard enough to experience it. Admittedly I was half dead from jet lag while I was there, and not on holiday. But I was constantly asked, “Are you coming back?” and I couldn’t provide an answer that satisfied anyone in the least.

Look, a zine machine!

Anyway, I like more improvisational travel these days. It’s a little miscellaneous, but serendipity can be a lot more fun than a brutal itinerary.

Notes on Getting Your Whole Life Stolen

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“It’s Not the Same” by Jonathan on Flickr

At the European Association for Archaeologists this year, our rented flat was broken into and a lot…a LOT of stuff was stolen, from me and the other archaeologists we were staying with. We’re still sorting everything out with the police, Airbnb, and insurance, but I thought I’d document a few things that I’ve learned.

I had Prey and Find My Iphone installed on my Macbook pro, ipad and iphone. While I will install them again on my new equipment, they are not much good against savvy thieves. We actually were able to get a better estimate of when the flat was broken into by the email message I got saying that my Apple ID had been hacked and Find My iPhone de-installed. Prey still lists my Macbook pro as missing and it’s never surfaced on Find My iPhone either. Regardless, I still recommend using these programs, and make sure to follow the directions for set-up–an open guest account and a locked-down main account.

I registered what I could on the Stolen Apple Computers list on mark-up.com.

It appears that I’ll be able to track the EXIF data from the stolen Nikon D800 on Stolen Camera Finder or CameraTrace. I can’t find any of my existing online photos taken with the camera, but that may be because Adobe Lightroom strips EXIF when converting from RAW to JPGs. tsk tsk, but this may mean I might find it later. Though getting the police to do anything about it may be a whole different thing.

It could have gone a lot worse–a fellow delegate was injured when a thief came through her window. None of us were injured and we mostly had insurance and had our data backed up. We had saintly friends in Istanbul–buy Veysel Apaydin and Gunes Duru a drink for me if you see them, they stayed with us until 4AM at the police station, and Veysel helped out translating the next day.

Have any other pro-tips for security or tracking lost equipment?

EUROTAST: A few photos from Ghana

A few photos from around Ghana: Elmina castle and Accra. Check out the rest of the set on Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/colleenmorgan/sets/72157643627864965/

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Yorkshire & the Ragged Ends of Travel

I was standing in the middle of a medieval street when it finally hit me–I’m going to be here for a little while. It was nighttime and cold, and I’m woefully unprepared for wintertime in Northern England. I am still living out of a suitcase, which is only half-full anyway, as I left most of my summery digging clothes back in Qatar. Two hoodies, a cheap scarf that I bought on Green Lanes in London wrapped so that you could only see my eyes, a pair of gloves with a hole in the thumb, and shoes so thin that I could feel the exact dimensions of the flagstones beneath my feet. And I was happy.

I had one of those moments that the full impact of two years spent ricocheting between continents came to rest on my shoulders. A wild reel of colors and flavors and faces, and a profound weariness. But there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with that kind of weariness, a reliance on your own endurance and self-preservation.

The street was unfamiliar, full of huddled medieval timber houses that lean over you, arching their eyebrows and trying to get in a word. I passed by a pub where Guy Fawkes was born, and a big, fuck-off cathedral, and isn’t this a little bit different than dusty ol’ Oklahoma? As I walked through the streets I was taking the usual inventory of useful shops and streets-I-should-remember, slowly getting used to the idea that this will become familiar and invisible in the months to come. The casual way the tea shop uses the Roman wall to prop up their signboard, soup advertised with all sincerity, the unselfconsciously tweedy old folks, the profound whiteness of this little Northern city will no longer deserve attention or comment.  The constant travel has only sped up the cycle of acclimation.

Earlier that day we had hired a removal service, which sounds very Repo Man-meets-the-mafia to me. All of my possessions were decanted from their storage unit and are trundling North toward a very tiny terraced house that I managed to lease on the same day. I’ll somehow cram all of my books and eventually my wayward husband into the place–he’s still off directing excavations in Qatar for the foreseeable. Still, I’m looking forward to doing a nice little bit of research while I’m at York, and they’ve been kind enough to furnish me an office in the stately King’s Manor, which King Henry VIII fussed around in at some point. Though I doubt he came to my office, which is next to the former kitchens.

Later I found out that the name of the little street that I stood on was Stonegate, but at that moment I was only aware that I was outside of a small bar with stiff drinks, and I shrugged off my introspection and went in out of the cold. To my delight they had Bulleit, which I ordered neat, with a cherry. Because not everything changes, and a sweet bourbon goes a long way to make a girl feel right at home.

English Countryside Interludes: Bat’s Castle & Whortleberry Jam

The gorse was dense and packed with brambles that caught and cut. There was patchwork-pretty countryside all around us, neatly divided by hedges and dotted with sheep and thatch roofs, but this hilltop was primeval with purple heather and shaggy ferns. I pulled a thorn out of my thumb and kept pushing through the scrub, looking for a particular low, shrubby plant with a small, blue-black berry.

We finally found a thick concentration of the plants on the leeward side of Bat’s Castle, an Iron Age Hillfort that had been re-used by the Romans and during the English Civil War. While I was initially disappointed by the low, undulating ripples of these hill-top “castles”–where were the ramparts? How dare they call them castles?–the picturesque placement and quiet of these sites was starting to grow on me. I’ve been to Maiden Castle and Danebury, both huge and trenched by famous archaeologists over the years, but I like the small, out-of-the-way forts, like Cow Castle, described by George Tugwell in 1863:

A real discovery it was of an indubitable Camp, with its line of outer earthworks as perfect, gateway and all, as when it was first piled–and it is to be found in no book or antiquarian memoir in all the three kingdoms.

There it stood, a circular crown on the brow of a lonely conical hill, washed on three sides by the wanderings of the Barle, out of bow-shot from all the neighbouring heights, within reach of abundance of water and provisions, for three valleys trended from it in a triple direction, commanding a wide and glorious view of peak and ravine, centrally placed in the very heart of the Forest.

And thick along the ditch of Bat’s Castle is a plant locally called the Whortleberry, more commonly known as the bilberry, and that was our target. Not quite a blueberry–tiny and incredibly pesky to pick, the bilberry is rarely cultivated.

It took the two of us about an hour to pick just over a pound of whortleberries, munching on a few stray wild raspberries and just-ripe blackberries along the way. 

It dyed our hands dark purple–the bilberry is also used as a traditional dye for wool. We carefully cleaned the berries, then added the juice of a lemon and a pound of sugar and brought the berries to a boil. Dan sterilized a few jars and we bottled up the Whortleberry Jam. It made about 2.5 jars and it’s my favorite jam in the world–similar to blueberry jam, but less sweet and more delicate.

We ate the half-jar over the last week but will hide away the other two jars for an after-Christmas welcome-home-from-Qatar treat.

English Countryside Interlude

“It is going to be bitter.”

There were two that looked acceptable, one still slightly auburn, but that could be overlooked. I leaned over the low stone wall and tugged the berries off the bramble. I took the reddish one and gave the other to Dan. We popped them into our mouths in unison, then both made faces and laughed.

It’s good to be back in the countryside–raincoats, wellies, huddling next to a wood-burning stove in August. The green-growingness, old brick, and ducks in the river Exe almost seem normal these days, almost go without remark.

I hopped the train yesterday out of hot and frenzied London after wading through a horrible mess at Oxford Circus (hsss, tourists…as if I’m not really one of them) frowning at loud talkers on the Quiet Carriage, towing my bright red suitcase through Paddington, which I almost don’t notice anymore, the iron work, the soaring arches, the huddled trains is a glass aquarium.

I’d like to live in London again someday; we’ll see what these unending job and grant applications bring. The countryside has a lot of quiet though–the hustle from living over Seven Sisters road was unending and the city always begged me to go down nobbly cobblestone alleyways and look in the shop windows at things I couldn’t afford.

There’s a leg of lamb from the neighbor to cook and Dan’s gone to pick vegetables in the rain. I’ll just leave you with Finsbury Park, one of my silly map drawings, my universe until yesterday.

Finsbury_Park_Map