Sant Cugat, Terrassa

Sant Cugat and Terrassa, both located in the suburbs of Barcelona, are not exactly  touristy, charming European towns and typical tourists would not make it a point to visit them. I probably overstayed a little in Barcelona so I thought it would be a better idea to see some nearby towns rather than to while my time away in the museums or shopping districts. They are easily accessible from Barcelona by the train. Visiting them was a good idea because they gave me a more holistic perspective of Catalonia. Actually I will really want to visit other parts of Spain, in particular the central and northwest parts, some day to better distinguish the typical Catalan things from the typical Spanish. Well, that can wait. Still so many places to see in the world!

Sant Cugat is an affluent suburb due to its proximity to Barcelona. There are big houses, something not too commonly seen in the compact city of Barcelona, and pedestrian shopping areas. Eva’s university is located there together with a public library which only opens on weekdays rather peculiarly. The main tourist attraction of Sant Cugat is the impressive monastery which also has a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. According to Eva, the monks had a lot of power in the past and people staying in the region had to pay the monks to pray for them.

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I didn’t spend too much time at the monastery partly because I have seen quite a number of such buildings in a short period of time and partly because I was distracted by the activities around the monastery. There was a flea market and it was busy and noisy as people promoted their various items on sale. It came as a surprise for me because I was there around 10 am and who would have expected to see a flea market of this size in the morning in a country where people are reputed to be lazy?

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Terrassa, on the other hand, is an old industrial town. It was an important city during industrialization and I also learn that industrialization was a very important period for Catalonia because it made the region rich again. While most cities/ towns direct effort at preserving and showcasing the Gothic or Romanesque buildings, Terrassa puts in quite a bit of effort at preserving and promoting the Modernista buildings constructed in the late 19th to 20th century. Of course, there are also grand churches in Terrassa as well but they aren’t located in the city center unlike the other Spanish towns I have been to. The local tourist map also kindly points out the various buildings from industrialization in the city center and the signboard located in front of each building explains its importance succinctly. This is the old labour union building.

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I visited the old textile mill (now the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia) and I learn a lot about the history of science and technology – the evolution of energy generation and different technologies which include calculators and centrifuge machines. For a Singaporean, even the sight of old industrial chimney is an eye-opener because this country doesn’t have enough space to keep obsolete objects of the past.

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Now that I think about it, actually it is quite a meaningful experience to visit Sant Cugat and Terrassa. The former has a powerful religious institution where people toiled over 100 years to build while the latter is an industrial powerhouse where people used machines and science to change their fate. It is interesting to think how far civilization has progressed. In the past, the religious institutions have a lot of power because people’s biggest fear is God and today, the scientific organizations have the power because people’s biggest fear is mass destruction weaponry.

As a chemistry teacher of tomorrow, I was quite impressed by the section on the periodic table where things that the element could be found were put on display. The coverage was quite good as elements from Group 1, Group 2, Group 7, Group 8 and transition metals were all on display. I would love if our science center has something like this.

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