Take a hike! 5 unique treks in Europe

Travelling isn’t just about going to museums, learning new customs and eating different food. It can also be a chance to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

Hiking during a trip is a wonderful opportunity to get out of the city, off the trains and into the wilderness. With a decent pair of shoes, a waterproof raincoat and a bottle of water (and maybe a map and a phone), you’re off to the mountains.
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Getting dizzy at Sagrada Família in Barcelona

Spiral staircase at Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

Gaudí’s Sagrada Família in Barcelona is an ongoing project.

Begun in 1882, Gaudí made his plans mainly in his head and on the fly. When he died, no blueprints were left (some had been burned but most were non-existent), so architects taking on the massive project (projected to finish in 2026, 144 years after it was started) must try to imagine what Gaudí would have wanted.

The Sagrada Família feels like it’s just dripping with nature-inspired Gothic architecture. The columns supporting the church are meant to look like trees, the pointy spires become bowls with fruit and berries and the spiral staircases look like snail shells. The ceiling looks like the canopy of a forest and birds soar around the outside of the building.

Lacking any purely flat surfaces, there is a lot to admire in this church.

Visiting the enormous church mid-construction is certainly interesting, but if you head to the side entrance on Carrer Sardenya (just ask someone working), you can attend mass in either Catalan or Spanish. There are no English services.

While everyone is welcome (you won’t be turned away unless you’re inappropriately dressed), the service is intended for the local congregation. You might not understand any of it, but it’s a great (and free) way to see the inside of the church and get a lesson in Catalan or Spanish.

Check out the rest of my visit to Spain, including Barcelona, Girona and hiking in Montserrat with a day hitchhiking to Besalú, Castellfollit de la Roca and Olot.


Catalan luck and Gaudí love

Irish and Northern Irish accents were hard to understand. Even British accents in London were difficult at times. But Spanish is a whole different language (obvious, I know).

I flew into Barcelona airport from London on a whim and even though I didn’t have much time to brush up on my foreign language skills, my high school Spanish slowly came back to me and a fast-talking and helpful Catalan woman helped jolt it back into gear right away.
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