The Curious Eco-System of the Barcelona Metro
By Anthony Bain
Every day I spend more than two hours of my life traveling beneath Barcelona, a journey taken within the confines of a compact fluorescent-lit netherworld, a place where jungle law reigns.
Where crowds of people come together to circumnavigate the city; guided by a robotic, salty Catalan voice that indicates your current location at any given time along the sprawling metro map of ever-increasing stations, construction officially began in 1863, the first line was opened in 1924, and the work continues to this day.
The Barcelona metro is by any reasonable standard a feat of engineering and efficient urban planning; trains are on time; delays are minimal. On a typical day, it constitutes a painless experience for any respectable traveller. Evenly comparable if not superior to any modern-day European rail system.
However, to adequately explain the nuances and intricacies of the Barcelona metro system, we need to peel away the layers and look into its true essence, right at its steaming guts.
Every day the population of Barcelona is thrown together inside the wagons of the Metro to endure each other ́s company. Tiny glimmers of life manifest themselves in their crudest of forms, in amongst the muffled existence of people who live with their heads down, bent over, held captive by their smartphones.
The metro world works like a sustaining social ecosystem, and what happens beneath the streets does not always respect the nature of what happens above.
Once you have spent time on the Barcelona metro and studied its flora and fauna, it suddenly becomes clear as a microcosm of society. If you are paying attention, it’s like the watering hole at a wildlife reserve; there is oh-so-much to see.
The metro safari begins at the platform. It’s a scrum, populated by Catalan office commuters, Peruvian builders, and shadow-world pickpockets. The platform clocks are ticking; you’re jostling for space. It is never more than 2 minutes between trains, and everybody stares wistfully at the tunnel as if awaiting deliverance.