Everyone has a ‘place’ in their city or local town. A place that they perhaps find fascinating, calming or once stumbled upon purely by accident, but a place nonetheless that they would make a point of showing a visitor for one reason or another. If it were me in Farnborough it would probably be the Wellington Statue, the old balloon hanger or the Abbey, not because I am particularly clued up on their history, but because they are a part of my town’s history.
|Bunker del Carmel © Gillian Gryz|
So when I was recently in Barcelona, the recommendation by some friends that we all go up to the bunkers because they offer a good view and have an interesting history, was an invitation hard to refuse. Our friends happened to be living in Barcelona at the time, and having come across this site, wanted to share it with us. So off we went up this pretty steep hill, knowing little other than that the site had been the location of anti-aircraft defences during the Spanish Civil War and had later become the site of what was described to us as a slum.
As soon as we arrived at the top you could see why this site had been chosen for the anti-aircraft defences in 1937 – the views over Barcelona were breath-taking and I expect the feelings it evokes now somewhat contradict those felt back in the 1930s. My knowledge of the Spanish Civil War is pretty limited but I had remembered that it had seen the first use of aerial bombing purely targeted at civilian populations and sitting looking out over the city, that recollection prompted Goosebumps.
There was more to be seen up there than I had anticipated – you can still see the circular concrete platforms where the guns would have been mounted, the bunkers themselves, as well as various lookout points. You can also see remnants of the domestic side of the site – the floor tiles and drainage systems of the former houses that had developed after the war owing to a housing shortage.
The site became the home of several families and remained in use until the 1990s, when development for the Barcelona Olympics saw them rehoused. It was a rather peculiar place to visit but a really fascinating one and I have to admit that it was one of the first things I looked up when I got back.
Recent develop has seen the site taken over and publicised as a heritage site. New boards and information panels have been installed to reflect the history of the bunkers and as a site it now offers people a quiet-ish getaway from the bustling city below; a chance to take in some spectacular views and to contemplate a turbulent period in the city’s history.
This was definitely a case of Ispyhistory in action - Thanks Gill and Jimmy for taking us up there!