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Catalan rift clouds Spain’s homage to attack victims

A year after a jihadist rampage in Catalonia killed 16 people, Spain paid homage to the victims Friday without managing to set aside bitter divisions over the region's independence.

Catalan rift clouds Spain's homage to attack victims
Queen Letizia, Spain's King Felipe VI, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, President of the Parliament Ana Pastor, President of the Senate, Pio Garcia Escudero and Catalan regional president Quim T

Families of the victims had called for a “truce” in the political row over Catalonia's failed secessionist drive last October, which quickly overshadowed the bloody attacks that shook Spain.

But right above the spot on Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas boulevard where a van came to a stop after ploughing into and killing 14 pedestrians on August 17th, 2017, separatist activists unravelled a banner reading: “Free political prisoners. Without them this ceremony is a scam.”

Under the banner — which refers to separatist leaders in jail over the failed secession attempt — relatives of the victims laid flowers on a pavement mosaic designed by Barcelona-born artist Joan Miro.

Further up the road on the central Plaza Catalunya, another large banner hung from a building reading in English: “The Spanish king is not welcome in the Catalan countries”, with an upside-down picture of the monarch, who took a hardline stance against the secession bid.

King Felipe VI, his wife Queen Letizia and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez joined families of the victims on the plaza for an emotional commemoration, to cries of “long live the king” and “long live Spain” by pro-unity onlookers sporting Spanish flags.


King Felipe VI greets victims and relatives during a ceremony in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

“It was a complete disgrace, such a shame. In the end others took the limelight and not the victims,” Jose Vargas, president of the Catalan association of terror victims told AFP.

Dark day for Spain

A year ago, tourists and locals in Barcelona were enjoying yet another sunny day in the city, perusing the many flower stands that line Las Ramblas.   

But around 4:30 pm (1430 GMT), everything changed.   

Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan man, drove his van into the crowds, killing 14 people, including two children aged three and seven.   

Abouyaaqoub fled, stabbing to death a young man before stealing his car.   

Hours later, a car carrying five of his accomplices sped into the seaside resort of Cambrils some 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Barcelona.   

The five occupants of the Audi A3 jumped out and went on a stabbing spree, killing a woman, before they were shot dead by police.   

Even then, at a defiant gathering against the attacks days after they happened, the king was jeered by supporters of independence.   

READ ALSO: Anti-king banner unveiled in Barcelona ahead of attacks ceremony

 

On Friday, separatist organisations staged their own commemorative marches to avoid being in the monarch's presence.   

On Twitter, Sanchez on Friday stressed the need for “the unity of all of Spanish society”, which “makes us stronger in the face of terror and barbarism”.

Catalonia's pro-independence president Quim Torra said “we emerged stronger and more united and more convinced of our principles” after the attacks.   

He paid tribute to former Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero and Joaquim Forn, the former regional interior minister who is in jail over the subsequent secession bid, and whom Torra described as “unjustly imprisoned”.   

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage but investigators have not found any evidence that the cell of young men who carried them out had any international links.

They believe an imam in the Catalan mountain town of Ripoll indoctrinated a group of youths of Moroccan origin.   

READ ALSO: A year on, suspicion and silence in Spain jihadists' hometown

They made explosives at an abandoned house which police believe they intended to use to strike the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, the city's Camp Nou stadium or even the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But these accidentally went off on August 16th, destroying the house, killing two of them including the imam, and prompting the remainder of the cell to improvise a vehicle attack similar to the ones carried out in other cities such as Nice and London.

By AFP's Daniel Bosque 

 

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14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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