Catalunya Ràdio and the Barcelona city government have collaborated on a new free app for iPhone and Android that gives visitors an audio tour of key landmarks in the 1713-1714 siege of Barcelona. The tour is available in English, Catalan, Spanish, Japanese, French, and Italian, and the different versions are not just translations, but include individualized stories from each of the mostly foreign-born but Catalonia-based narrators. The English narrator is novelist and essayist Matthew Tree.
Tree begins in Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona’s most central square: “The date of September 11 is inextricably linked to the year 2001 and the city of New York, but for Catalans it is also linked to another year, 1714, and another city, Barcelona. Because that was the day that the Catalan capital surrendered to the troops of the Bourbon dynasty under Felipe V after a long siege, a surrender that marked a turning point in the history of Catalonia.
Indeed, September 11 is now the Catalan National Day. It always seems strange to me that the Catalans should commemorate not a victory but a military defeat which resulted in the loss of their institutions and traditional liberties, such as, for example, the right to use their language freely. Why would the Catalans want to constantly recall an event which to all intents and purposes was for them a military, political, and cultural disaster. To better understand what happened back then, we have to forget modern Barcelona with its 2 million people and non-stop traffic and enter the world of 18th century Barcelona which was a far smaller, walled city. We shall enter the capital through one of its main gates, known as the ‘Portal de l’Àngel’ which is now a busy shopping area specializing in clothes, and above all, shoes.”
The other guides are architect Benedetta Tagliabue (Italian), chef Hideki Matsuhisa (Japanese), actor Sergi López (French), actor and producer Santi Millán (Spanish), and journalist and TV producer Toni Soler (Catalan).