Tourists and Octopi

“Well it looks like everyone else is ordering it, so we might as well too.”

And about 15 minutes later I ended up eating octopus for the first time in my life . Sarah, Emily and I flew to Barcelona this weekend and decided to get tapas (appetizers—they’re really famous) for dinner. We tried some really delicious ones: potato omelets, seasoned peppers, cheesy meatballs, and then we saw that many of the other customers were ordering this fancy looking dish. We asked the waiter what it was, and after a few hand motions, we figured out that it was octopus. And since the whole restaurant was ordering it, we thought it would probably be very tasty and also a good representation of the local cuisine.

We managed to eat a good amount of it!
We managed to eat a good amount of the octopus!

I probably won’t try it again. The suction cups were still on the tentacles, and the texture was a little too squishy and chewy for my liking. But it was an experience for sure! Not something I would eat on a normal day in Munich.

In general, visiting Barcelona was a very different experience from the past few months of living in Munich. For example, the people speak a language that I don’t know at all, the streets are narrower, the city is on the Mediterranean, there are lots more tourists, and the culture is quite the opposite. The Spanish get up later, eat dinner way later, and stay up much later than Germans or Americans. Punctuality isn’t quite as important, and the culture seems a bit more relaxed.

The beach will always be my favorite.
The beach will always be my favorite.

Although it was kinda hard to tell much about the true culture because I was only there for a weekend and the city is very touristy.

I mean, very touristy. Lots of people were selling their merchandise along the streets. I lost track of how many times we were asked to buy various trinkets or to eat at different restaurants as we meandered down La Rambla (Barcelona’s most famous street). Almost every single restaurant in the super touristy sections had servers standing outside with menus trying to get people to come eat there. And then of course, there were tons of tourists milling around the Sagrada Familia taking pictures or enjoying the impressive view of the city from Park Güell.

A view of the city from Park Güell.
A view of the city from Park Güell.

Nestled between mountains and the Mediterranean, Barcelona is really beautiful. We spent Friday and Sunday afternoon relaxing on the beach, and my inner saltwater-and-sand-loving-self was very happy. Fun fact for the day though: a lot of Barcelona’s beaches were man-made with Egyptian sand and California palm trees right before the 1992 Olympics, which is also part of the reason there are now so many tourists in Barcelona. People around the world realized that it is a cool place to visit.

Walking amongst palm trees was pretty cool.
Walking amongst the palm trees in Park Güell (and throughout Barcelona) was pretty cool.

And I would agree. I really enjoyed my time in Barcelona, but being there made me appreciate Munich so much more. Although Munich has a population of about 1.5 million people, it only feels crowded when I try to get on the U-Bahn during the peak times of the day, and even then I wouldn’t guess 1.5 million people live here. It’s a big city, with a lot of really cool things to do (theaters, festivals, museums, etc.), but it also feels lived in. I’m not surrounded by tourists (although I’ve definitely seen them), but rather by people who go about their daily lives in this beautiful city. And that’s a really comfortable and peaceful feeling.

Over the past three months, Munich has felt more and more like another home. I know street names and have a mental map of a good chunk of the city. I have favorite cafés and gelato shops, and I know exactly where to find the groceries I need from Aldi and Edeka. As nice as it will be to return to Virginia, leaving this wonderful place will not be easy. But I guess that’s where pictures and memories (and yearbooks!) come in—reminding us of all of the good times we’ve had and preparing us for the future.

“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it—memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” –Tad Williams

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