Márton Münz's Website

The best television

Nov 11, 2023 - Life, Barcelona | 5 min read

At home, we have Netflix. We have Amazon Prime Video. We have Filmin. We have Orange TV with god-knows-how-many channels. We have RTVE Play. We have iTunes. And of course, we have the Youtube app installed on our smart TV. I’m personally subscribed to 614 Youtube channels. My wife, a few hundred more.

And I’m sure you also have a good selection of shows to choose from when you grab the remote control. But have you tried sitting on a bench in a non-touristy neighbourhood in Barcelona and just wait?

Do nothing, just wait.

You can choose a totally random location. It doesn’t matter. Sit there for half an hour, and let life unfold in front of your eyes. I promise you, it’s the best television.

  • You will see the young couple with the new house plant in their hands that they have just bought for their first common home after moving together a week ago.

  • You will see the 8-year-old boy in a Messi shirt, although Lionel Messi had left FC Barcelona years ago and now plays for Inter Miami.

  • You will see the 93-year-old man, with oxygen tank on his back, entering the bar.

  • You will see the two dogs, the big and the small one, jumping around in joy when they notice the little girl blowing soap bubbles. Their owner is in trouble for their leashes are getting tangled.

  • You will see the elderly couple walking hand in hand, after fifty-two years of marriage.

  • You will see the young man jogging with headphones on his ears, singing “Billie Jean is not my lover”.

  • You will see the silver-haired, grandmotherly lady, shorter than 150 cm, in a pink, flowery dress. She is arguing with a 2-meter-tall, fully armed policeman, telling him off vigorously for not being polite enough.

  • You will see a bunch of men, all over 70, playing Pétanque at the end of the street, getting into loud arguments.

  • You will see kids playing football just a few meters away, using the door of City Hall as their goal, and accidentally hitting a passerby on the head.

  • You will see four women arriving at a table on the street in front of the café: a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother, four generations. The mother pushing her daughter in a stroller, the grandmother wheeling her own mother in a wheelchair. They have all come for a slice of cake.

  • You will see elderly men sitting on the benches and staring at pretty girls as they walk past. You will see pretty girls walking past elderly men, well aware of the attention they are receiving.

  • You will see the woman in mismatched shoes eating ice cream.

  • You will see the waiter crossing the street, balancing a bottle of wine and some plates of tapas on his tray.

  • You will see the group of exuberant high school boys coming right from their PE class, still wearing their gym suits.

  • You will see two friends carrying a heavy sofa they have just bought on Wallapop, a local app for buying and selling secondhand items.

  • You will see mothers standing next to the playground, discussing their weekend plans, watching their kids crawling in the dirt.

  • You will see another elderly couple holding hands, watching the confectionery store’s display window.

  • You will see the grey-haired man walking out of Re-read, the second-hand bookstore, looking happily into his bag and checking the three books he bought for a few Euros each.

  • You will see a man crossing the street, a mobile phone in his hand, gesticulating furiously.

  • You will see local artists mounting their paintings on temporary outdoor exhibition panels, preparing for an open-air visual art competition.

  • You will see the woman stepping out of the market, carrying fresh fish under her arm.

  • You will see two young girls kissing.

  • You will see the fashionista taking selfies at the corner, posing like she’s on a catwalk, in her brand new Balenciaga sweater.

  • You will see the skateboarders moving quickly through the crowd, with dogs barking and running after them.

  • You will see the guy sitting on a small chair next to the organic food shop, playing flamenco on his guitar, surrounded by a group of friends.

  • You will see the children a few steps away drawing something colourful on the sidewalk with chalks.

  • You will see the blind man escorted by his grandson, telling a joke.

My favourite spot for people-watching is a bench in Passeig de Sant Joan, a vibrant yet peaceful avenue stretching through Eixample from the Arc de Triomf to the neighborhood of Gràcia. Perhaps you might have read about this boulevard in travel guidebooks for it showcases a range of architectural styles of different periods including modernisme (i.e. Catalan Art Nouveau), neoclassical, neo-gothic, and contemporary architecture.

More importantly for me, it has a wide pedestrian promenade in the middle, lined with tall plane trees. It is often filled with people strolling, walking their dogs, kids playing, couples passing by. It’s the perfect place for someone who enjoys witnessing the unchoreographed dance of life’s random, seemingly irrelevant and unrelated moments.

It’s a stream of snapshots from lives of strangers, and I can’t imagine a more hypnotic and enriching experience than watching this authentic show of real life for hours.

Who are these people? Where are they coming from - where are they heading?

The only thing that connects us is that we live in the same city. We all have different paths: we have never seen each other before, and will probably never meet again.

Still, we are sharing this moment right now.