Spain

A Gaudí Birthday Surprise & Lies from my Spanish Teacher

A close-up of Gaudí's details in La Sagrada Familia.

A close-up of Gaudí’s details in La Sagrada Familia.

I think my Spanish teacher lied to me.

It’s the same feeling of the childhood realization that Santa isn’t real: it’s probably true… but I just can’t accept it.

I distinctly recall sitting in the classroom trying to remember which Spanish artists, writers, and icons were associated with particular cultural significance for a high school exam. That is, until La Profesora offered a “Eureka!” clue… that the word “gaudy” originated from the surname of the famous architect Antoni Gaudí.

What sense! Especially since much of Gaudí’s work was quite ornate: out-of-the-norm structures, embellished facades, vibrant colors… it could be considered, well, gaudy!

Thenceforth, whenever I heard the famous architect’s name, I envisioned a large building adorned in bulky, colorful, costume jewelry. I aced my Spanish culture exams and stored this piece of trivia in my back pocket.

And so I believed this: Gaudí = Gaudy. So much, that even during my European Backpacking Adventure, I dribbled this “fact” all over any Gaudí mention. I possessed the gaudy-etymology apple from the tree of knowledge.

Until today. That apple dropped on my head.

Today marks Gaudí’s 161st birthday. What better way to celebrate “God’s architect” than to craft a reminiscent post about my surreal visit to La Sagrada Familia? Clever me thought to open this post with the etymology of the word gaudy and its ties to the Spaniard.

But I finally did some background research. This adjective, gaudy, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, is expected to be of Middle English origin from the 14th Century.

What? No mention of the architect. No reference to the Spanish language. And here I am, dumbfounded by my deception. Gaudy did not stem from Gaudí’s architecture. Santa isn’t real.

So instead of my reflective account of my Sagrada encounter, here is my Gaudí birthday surprise (and no, not the etymological one I just wrote above):

Gaudí, Illuminated (Literally)

Every morning in Barcelona, I stepped out on the balcony of the Kabul Backpacker’s Hostel and overlooked the Plaza Real dotted with palm trees and lampposts. One particular lamppost stood prominent among the rest.

This lamppost, garmented with more ornamentation and color than its comrades, stood boldly in the Plaza, like a peacock amid of a flock of Canada geese. It demanded attention, yet remained rather unnoticed. It was just a lamppost, after all.

Later, I discovered that this lamppost was designed by Gaudí.

There were no crowds of tourists scrambling for a photo with this Gaudi lamppost. In fact, passersby often trotted along, acknowledging its difference, but not realizing its creator. With Gaudi touted as such a prominent Spanish figure, this lamppost seemed rather unnoticed despite it’s famous creator. I never would have known this detail either, if it weren’t for my walking tour guide, JB. You never know what you’re really looking at. That’s why opening your eyes to the world and it’s beautiful details is so wonderful.

And that, folks, is my Gaudí birthday surprise – that there’s a Gaudí lamppost in Plaza Real. And if you go to Barcelona, you have the insider scoop to check it out.

Like opening a birthday card full of confetti, no?

For some strange reason, I never took a photo of the lamppost. But here it is, in the distance.

For some strange reason, I never took a photo of the lamppost. But here it is, in the distance.

A zoomed-in version of my photo. I guess I just need to go back to get a better photo!

A zoomed-in version of my photo. I guess I just need to go back to get a better photo!

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