Friday, 27 July 2012
Vampires in Barcelona? Perhaps...
Despite the heat and sunshine, a modern day vampire film could easily be set in Barcelona. The narrow old streets, the shuttered houses, the broad avenues, the modernista houses, the modern architectonical creations, the numerous citizens and the masses of tourists flocking the streets and beaches well into the night, all of them are elements that would make an interesting backdrop to the fictional vampires preying a city in search of blood.
In real life, as a tourist one must beware of pickpockets and scam artists. A guy entering a metro train right behind me was pickpocketed, but fortunately recovered his wallet before the thief could get away with it. This, unfortunately, is the case with various larger cities, just as a waiter in a restaurant in the old part of the city apparently mixed up bills so I was asked to pay an amount that was almost one and a half of what we had actually ordered. Fortunately, most of the people we met on our stay were friendly and helpful.
Crama Dracula, a small Romanian restaurant located in 18 Carrer de Provença opposite a huge panopticon style prison (closest metro station is Entença). We arrived there early, so we got a lot of attention and the food consisting of some traditional Romanian dishes with mineral water and 'Dracula' Cabernet Sauvignon arrived very quickly.
I suppose you need some sense of humour to own or work in a Dracula restaurant decorated with various Vlad Tepes and Dracula artefacts, so perhaps that is why I afterwards thought our waiter had a hint of John Cleese about him. Anyway, we were treated nicely, also tasting their 'Dracula crepes' for dessert as well as their Țuică.
And if you want to enjoy Romanian wine and food at home, there is a shop, Unirea, selling Romanian wine and ingredients almost next door to the restaurant. Their 'Dracula wine' is actually pretty cheap, just €4.
On a more horrific note, this year marks the centenary of the detention of the so-called 'vampire of Barcelona', Enriqueta Marti, a kidnapper and murderer of children. Born in 1868, Marti moved to Barcelona as a young woman and ended up as a prostitute, later on specializing in prostituting children. According to wikipedia, she led a double life:
'During the day she dressed in rags and begged at houses of charity, convents and parishes in the destitute parts of town where she selected children who looked the most abandoned. Taking the children by the hand, she made them pass as her children. Later, she prostituted or murdered them. She did not have any need to beg since her double work as a procurer and prostitute gave her sufficient money to live well. By night she dressed in luxurious clothes, hats and wigs, and attended the El Liceu, the Casino de la Arrabassada and other places where the wealthy of Barcelona gathered. It is probable that in these places she offered her services as procurer of children.'
Operating for many years, she not only had a brothel prostituting minors, but also served as a kind of witch-doctor. Again, according to wikipedia:
'The ingredients she used to make her remedies were made from the remains of the children that she was killing, who ranged from infants up to children of 9 years. From these children she used everything that she could; the fat, blood, hair,and bones (that normally she turned into powder). For this reason, she did not have problems disposing of the bodies of her victims. Enriqueta offered salves, ointments, filters, cataplasms and potions, especially to treat tuberculosis, which was highly feared at the time, and all kinds of diseases that did not have a cure in traditional medicine. Wealthy people were paying large sums of money for these remedies.'
On February 27 2012 she was finally arrested after a neighbour had noticed a girl she had never seen before playing in Marti's mezzanine flat in 29 Carrer de Ponent, now 29 Carrer de Joaquín Costa in the part of Barcelona called Raval. The girl turned out to be a girl kidnapped by Marti. Investigators from the police then searched a number of flats where Marti had stayed and made macabre discoveries of human remains.
All sorts of atrocities are attributed to Marti, but as she was never tried - the legal proceedings were interrupted by Marti getting lynched by fellow prisoners in 1913 - the case appears to be somewhat unclear. But if you read the wikipedia article - which appears to be an attempt at translating the Spanish one - you will find all manner of criminal and sadistic acts attributed to her.
Christina, princesse de l'érotisme.
Charitably said, the cover of the DVD is more fun than spending 75 minutes to get through the story of a young woman going to the estate of her family after her father's death, ultimately learning that the family members she meets are (living) dead with a taste for blood. Franco has his fans, and this film has once again convinced me that I will never become one of them...
Finally, it may be worth mentioning that Catalonia is, of course, the home of Cercle V, an organization interested in vampires, including the historical aspects. Among those involved in Cercle V is Jordi Ardanuy.