Day 17: Live From the Barcelona Baby Hole

by Eli Hodapp

A few days ago I decided that while I’m in Barcelona, maybe I should shift the things I do towards attractions that your typical tourist never has time to do or see in their typical week long holiday jet setting around the Mediterranean. I mean, everyone who comes to Barcelona goes to check out the Sagrada Família, but how many of them go and look at sculptures made out of chocolate at Museu de la Xocolata? In the Chicago area, tiny little hole in the wall attractions like the Museum of Holography were always infinitely more interesting than the more “famous” museums, so that only makes this whole thing make twice as much sense for Barcelona.

The first stop of my crazy things in Barcelona tour was today, the Barcelona baby hole. I’m actually really even not sure what to call it, because all of the information I can find out about it is all from actual excerpts from books and things which are all in Catalan. Google Translate doesn’t seem to work very well going from Catalan to English when it comes to anything but very simple phrases, but as far as I can tell the Barcelona baby hole is actually called “El Torn dels Orfes,” or, “The Turn of Orphans” in English. That translation could be wrong, it likely is.

It’s situated in Raval, which as mentioned in a previous post is notorious for being a very seedy part of town filled with prostitutes, thieves, and other similar people. Depending on which translation you believe, this baby drop-off either went online in 1370, 1583, or maybe even 1853. None of the sources I can find seem to agree on when the whole thing actually started, yet they all cite oddly specific dates. Another theory I have for this is that maybe the orphanage opened and closed several times, as funding either ran dry or a new organization decided to open its doors.

Regardless, the idea was that Raval was an area brimming with unsavories. Barcelona has a fairly religious history with an obvious spiritual and social stigma towards children born out of wedlock. So, the local House of Mercy provided a discreet and anonymous way for people to drop off unwanted children. Crazier yet, mothers of these adopted babies would often brand them with heated knitting needles in case they ever wanted to claim them later. Also, per another source I found, this orphanage was absolutely ravaged in a cholera outbreak of 1854.

I absolutely love crazy historical sites like this. The area now is filled with little shops, and it looks like what once would have been the entrance to this orphanage is now a women’s clothing store. Down the street a little more is a skateboard shop, a record store, and even a place selling musical instruments. All traces of this being a place where you’d bring a new baby and anonymously slide them through a turn style have vanished except for the baby hole itself, and the collection slot to the top left.

Just thinking you’re standing in the exact same spot where countless mothers gave up their illegitimate children is insane,  even more so that you can pinpoint the exact spot and still see the original wooden ring. So many lives were forever changed at this location, and now, some American jackass is taking a photo of it with his iPhone.

Speaking of being an American, I think I’m going to be watching the Super Bowl from an Irish pub called Ryan’s this Sunday. It’s really close, and they’re running some special where it’s €10,00 to get in, but that buys you five drink tickets to get five beers. Presumably that’s just Estrella Damm or whatever the cheapest beer they have is, but that seems pretty good to me. I actually just hooked up with a group called “The American Society of Barcelona,” so maybe they’ll point me somewhere better.

The actual Superbowl here starts at midnight on Sunday night, so I doubt any of my Barcelona friends would be interested in going not only because it’s so late, but also because everyone just seems to not like Irish pubs, oh and the whole working on Monday morning thing. Oh, and it being American football. But, whatever, I’ve actually sort of surprised myself with how much fun I have doing things by myself here in Barcelona, particularly when it comes to going out drinking and meeting all sorts of weird new people.

On the subject of drinking, last night I watched Forks Over Knives, a movie that’s been on my “must watch” list for way too long. Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t heard of it:

I’ve mentioned it before, but my family’s health issues have really inspired me to take better care of myself. It sucks that my Dad had to get so sick for me to do that, but, everyone needs a wake up call at some point. Combine that with the way people eat here, and how much healthier everyone seems, and it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that you don’t really want to eat the typical American diet anymore.

When you think about it, people are just animals like other creatures on this planet. While I’m not sure you can ever really avoid all the health problems of your environment, it makes sense to regulate what you can control and fuel your body a little better. I also really don’t know how you can argue against the findings that resulted in the atlas of cancer mortality in the People’s Republic of China. I’ve never even heard of a cancer study that had so many data points. And, like the above trailer says, the answer really does seem so simple.

Sure, like any movie with an agenda you don’t have to look very hard to find all sorts of rebuttals to all the “proof” laid out in Forks Over Knives. I also realize how deceptive a documentary actually can be, since really, how difficult can it be to find three different cases to focus on of fat people who got healthier by eating better, or whatever it is you want to promote? It just seems to me that it can’t hurt, and I can definitely buy into all the USDA conspiracies, as the whole “Pizza is a Vegetable!” fiasco last year made it crystal clear how much influence lobbyists have on our “recommended” diet.

The sheer proliferation of fantastic tasting and amazingly cheap produce everywhere in Barcelona is going to make eating a plant-based diet while I’m here very simple. I’m not so sure about things once I return to the USA. A big reason why we eat the way we do in America is because of just how easy it is, which is weird when you consider how heinously excessive that same style of diet seems for the rest of the world.

This afternoon I’m heading back to the Nudie store. I got an incredibly cryptic poorly written email which simply states, “have something for you come 16:30”. I’ve got no idea what to expect, but Gracia is an awfully nice area that I don’t mind going to just for fun.

Maybe I’ll walk there then take the subway back.