Silent Senses

August 3, 2011
By silverwriter BRONZE, Rockville, Maryland
silverwriter BRONZE, Rockville, Maryland
1 article 0 photos 0 comments


There is a certain something about traveling that appeals to people. Whether it is the colorful rainbow of new faces, the spinning pinwheel of different daily routines, or simply just a change in air, there is always a spark that will ignite the fire that warms one’s imagination. In visiting a new place, one's five senses are instantly stimulated, and prepared for action, like a hungry tiger hidden in the trees, ready to pounce on his prey. The five senses – see, taste, hear, touch, smell - all have their major contributions to how we interpret our surroundings. These five wonders act as an explorer, leading pilgrims to a new land, discovering an unknown, and teaching them something new about themselves. When journeying to Barcelona, I realized that the culture was a peach bursting with tangy juice, and that there were so many minute details that I could not miss. I finally came down to closing down one sense at each place I visited,
allowing me to use the other four to absorb the juice from the peach.

Park Guell: unable to see

I enter Park Guell designed by Gaudi. The entrance is a grand foyer, and an aura of fascination strikes me. There is a banquet today: people are laughing and chatting. I feel a tingle of excitement glide through the air and land on the tip of my tongue. The smooth, glossy mosaics dot the walls like the coat of arms would in a palace. Laying a hand across one, I feel a sharp, unexpected surge of coolness. A moment later, I feel the same sharpness in the air, as the breeze chides my hair. It was pleasant sharpness, and it hit me with same impact as the excitement when I first entered the park. Occasionally a breath of warmth whispers in my ear and across my face. The two towers give me a sense of security, as though they are two guards on duty overseeing the entire palace.

Faraway, a guitar is strummed, slowly and delicately. Perhaps it is nearer, but I would not know because the melody is muted by the continuous hum of water. The sound is broken, but consistent, like a galloping horse pulling a chariot. In addition, a choir of birds sings an ensemble unfamiliar to me. They duet with leaves dancing the flamenco in the wind, and barking dogs fill their brief intermissions. A child flings a stone into the fountain; it's plop! causes a series of
ripples to race across the pool of water so intensely that I can sense their tremors. I can smell the cigarette smoke that has grandly swooned into my nose, tainting the crystalline air, but almost as quickly as it came, it departed, making room for an aroma of sweet sugar. At first I could not determine the source of the smell, and thought that maybe it was emitting from a bakery shop. Then I realized that the aroma was not in just one area, and that a magical spell was being casted through the entire park.

La Boqueria: unable to taste

Dozens of little kiosks checkerboard La Boqueria, or the marketplace. I freeze in the center, mesmerized by the variety of it all, but I instantly realize this is a mistake, when I am hustled on by an impatient shopper behind me. I yearn to stop by the colorful columns of assorted candies, but I allow a flock of giggling children to pass by me so they can guide their mothers to it instead. I scan the piles and decide there must not be a single shade of color unused. I am hit with the realization that the variety in just one kiosk is so immense. Even in the cheese shop, variety prevailed. Each one is brandished with a price per kilogram, ranging from two to thirty euros. I am on the verge of pressing my face to the glass encasing the cheese because of
how extraordinarily delectable they look.
I pull myself away, and walk down another row. Large mounds of meat hang by little ropes from the ceilings of the shop, creating red draperies of meat. Just the next isle over, it is as though the entire Mediterranean had washed over the east side of the market. The air is cooler, perhaps by the mounds of ice appointed to keep the food fresh. Lanes of silver scales and bright orange crayfish stun me by their glinting scales. But then, the sour, sharp stench of seafood taunts my nose, threatening to drive me away. I marvel over how fresh the food is, and how locally they are exported. I finally decide to make a stop at the fruit stand. I spill the fruits I had embraced in my arms onto the counter. The vendor behind the counter offers me a wide smile and exclaims "Hola!" I return the smile and make my purchase.

The Streets: unable to hear

During an ordinary day in Barcelona, a pedestrian is transformed into an explorer. Clothing lines adorn the buildings like ornaments on a Christmas tree. I could feel the sole of my shoe staggering over the bumpy stones that made up the street. Occasionally the sour smell of sewage would dart through the allies, but it was quickly overcome with the cloudy odor from a lighted cigarette or the piercing one from motorcycles leaving behind traces of gasoline. Up ahead lies a sequence of little parlors. The fronts of the shops are large and made up of transparent glass. Shopkeepers have arranged their most prized merchandise in the view of the window to entice pedestrians walking by, and to attract them into entering their shops. Little silvery trinkets gleam from the windows of jewelry shops in the mid-afternoon sun, while wafts of sugary churros, hot from the oven, emit from the bakery. A couple of the shops are closed for the mid-day siesta, and were marked so with gray, metal blinds.

Mountain Bike Ride: unable to touch

A 15-minute bike ride downhill. That was all I was told when given a bike and a helmet at the top of the mountain. I did not know what to expect and little did I know how much the ride would affect me. It was mid-afternoon and I could see pearls of golden sun falling through the milky white sky and dissolving before my eyes. The beginning of the ride is slightly uphill. The tires of the bike turned compatibly with the rocky grovel on the road, and the gears often gave a playful screech of beatitude.

I imagine myself as the red stripe of a candy cane, winding around the mountain with deliberate eloquence. At times I was speeding with such intensity that my surroundings spun into a rainbow blur, and I could taste the spicy twang of the candy in my mouth as I rode. The
wind was a siren to my ears, loud and deafening, but alerting me of my surroundings. I could no longer hear the whirring of the bike tire, and it seemed as though the pedal was far below me. When at last I sense that the slope was losing its steepness, and the mountains around me looked much more formidable than they had earlier, I knew the ride was coming to a close. I came across a stout cherry colored barn with a little grassy pasture in front. To complete the
view, a large auburn cow stood proudly in the front, staring at me with eyes of tranquil gems. There was no fence encaging the cow and it appeared to be as pleased as I was.

The Arabian Bath House: unable to smell

An Arabian bathhouse in Barcelona brings together Spanish, Arabic, and Roman cultures all into one. It was candle lit, and the pools also were lighted. It was a mid-summer night: the rooms like the sky, the candles the fireflies, the pools the moon. The first pool was salty, which entitled me to float on back. It was as though I weighed nothing, and my head had not a single thought. I was so unaware of the world around me that I had unknowingly drifted from one side of the pool to the other. And when I stood up finally, it was as though I had popped the balloon of mindlessness. I then entered the coldest pool. I hesitantly walked down the steps, but when I reached the lowest one, an instinct inside of me instantly submerged myself into the water, having only my head outside. A thousand snakes were biting my body, squeezing the breath out of me. But only for a second. I spent one minute in the pool, but after the first second, the snakes were gone, and I was left alone, shivering. I exited the pool, hobbled a few feet across the puddle filled floor, and then plunged into the hot water pool.
The pool was like quicksand. I sank deeper and deeper until just my nose was poking above the surface of the water. Nothing could pull me out, but only because it felt so incredibly amazing, and I did not want to leave. Instead of becoming immune to the heat, the sensation lasted, and every moment of being in the water gave me the same amount of gratification as the first one had. Then I dipped into a warm pool which sharply contrasted with the other pools. The temperature was the same as the salty one, but even so, it felt entirely different from it. I could no longer float, so I could feel myself wading back into reality. The bath was required to be kept silent from talking, but up until then I had been entirely oblivious of the sounds that were permitted. I realized that soft, traditional music was playing from the speakers located high upon the wall. Men and women were padding across the walks in their blue, foam slippers. When it was time to leave, I sat on a stone ledge and served myself piping hot tea, generously flavored with apple and honey, feeling placid and content.

The author's comments:
This summer I visited Barcelona, Spain with a National Geographic student expedition. It was an amazing experience, so I chose five places and documented my experiences of visiting there.

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