Our arrival in Barcelona turned out to be one of the busiest nights of the year. At the time we didn’t know it but the La Mercé Festival was in full swing. By the time we travelled on the train into Passeig de Gracia we suspected something big was happening. There were queues of hundreds, if not thousands of young people waiting for a metro train. So after waiting for perhaps twenty minutes we inched our way forward onto the platform then in time onto an absolutely jam packed train. (Think Tokyo in peak hour.) Of course they were all heading to Via Laietana for the dragons and devils fireworks and then to Barceloneta beach for the biggest beach party. We were only trying to reach our hotel in El Born. Once we arrived at Jaume 1 station we skipped across Via Leilani dodging the fireworks and up to our hotel.
(Note – As we were luggage laden at the time I have used a photo from the Barcelona Tourist Guide website to give you the idea.)
The guy on reception was in the festival mood and gave us a beer each as we checked in. That meant Mark received two beers as Karen doesn’t drink beer! Our room was spacious and the huge bed soon welcomed two tired travellers. Next morning I checked out the wifi and discovered that we had arrived in Barcelona for the four day festival of La Mercè. The highlights for the day were the parade and dancing by the Barcelona ‘giants’ followed by the castellers (human tower makers) to be held in the Plaça St Jaume. A quick drink and bite to eat at Boheme cafe on the way and on to Plaça de St Jaume. With luck and good timing we made it to the square to gain a front row standing position for the giants. Each area (barrio) of Barcelona is represented by a lord and lady giant. When we arrived they were all lined up around the perimeter.
Then each pair is paraded and perform a dance. The music is provided by a small band from the barrio.
The giants are on a wooden frame beneath the costume and carried by a man each. In preparation they wrap their backs up with a long strip of material for extra support.
They have to not only be strong but also light of foot to perform the dance. Quite amazing.
This process continues until all have danced then they parade off away from the square. Next were the castellers. Each barrio creates a foundation base of perhaps a dozen men. They support one man who in turn supports a young girl who in turn allows a daring child to scramble up their bodies to create a human tower. Next the foundation base ‘walk’ the tower to the front of the town hall to the waiting dignitaries. Just fantastic.
Once each barrio had performed this various barrios create further permutations of the towers in the central area beneath the town hall balcony.
One group managed to go eight levels up!
The organisation, strength, balance and sheer bravery of the smallest castellers made this a fantastic experience for all we spectators. By the end we were ready more than ready for lunch. More of Barcelona next post.