Karie on Aug 17th 2008 05:18 pm
Each year the neighborhood of Grácia (where we lived our first few months in Barcelona) hosts a week long festival, complete with elaborately decorated streets, 15+ stages throughout the neighborhood, random competitions, and of course, food. It’s hard to believe that an event of this magnitude is put on completely by volunteers in the neighborhood (with financial help from the local government and some serious fundraising efforts).
We had just missed the “Fiesta Mayor de Grácia” when we moved to Barcelona last year, so we’ve been anxiously waiting for it to come around again. The street decorations and sets were so impressive that we decided to go twice so we could see them both at night and in the daytime – which are two completely different experiences.
We hung out for a few hours Saturday night, and planned to go back Sunday afternoon. While we were wandering around Saturday night I had the good fortune of finding an event guide on the ground (which I later learned costs 5€). That’s when we realized that we were going to be able to check something off our “things to do while in Spain” list, that we thought we weren’t going to get to accomplish this year!
The “Castell,” or human castle, is a Catalan tradition where teams of people (Castellers) compete to build the most impressive tower. It has a wide base made up of at least 20 men, and keeps building on itself with smaller people, until finally, a child (probably between 4-6 years old) climbs to the top of the tower and raises their hand with 4 fingers, symbolizing the Catalan flag. Then they all shimmy back down. It’s pretty amazing, and the good teams constructed and dismantled their 4-story “castle” in about 3-4 minutes.
Check it out:
While all the Castellers were impressive, some teams made it look easy, and others showed signs of how difficult it really is. There was one team that called off the tower twice after reaching the 2nd or 3rd level of people, as their human “foundation” was not stable enough to continue. However, they ended up with a successful 7 level castle on their 3rd attempt. Another team was extremely wobbly, and one or two people in the 3rd layer nearly buckled under the weight. I was a little nervous, but apparently I underestimate their strength and skill.
The tradition of the Castell is often carried out at big festivals throughout the region, but for one reason or another, we had never been able to make it to a show. Until we found that event program on the ground, we thought that they only did the Castell on the last day of this fiesta, on which we will be out of town. We thought our dreams of seeing a human tower this year were crushed, so we were thrilled to get to witness this unique tradition after all. Oh yeah, and the rest of the fiesta was really cool too. The Spanish (and Catalans) really know how to put on a good party. I need to add that to the list of things I’ll miss.