Feste de la Mercee

Barcelona is a city for all seasons. In winter, its warm, In summer there is the beach to cool off at. Autumn and spring merely add to the seasonal blend. Catalunya is on a personal crusade right now for independence. Turn out at rallies now number the millions as it pushes for political autonomy. Its been the richest area of Spain for a while (with the largest debt) despite its economic wings being ironically clipped by the on-going economic crisis in Europe. But its cultural identity and independence is displayed from the countless flags hanging from balcony, the widespread use of the language, the football club producing their own players and festivals proudly extolling the Catalanism.

We were in Barcelona for the Festes de la Mercee, a religious festival involving street parades, fireworks and more artistic cultural events than you can throw a ham at. The city comes to a stop. Stages are set up, streets closed off. Music lights up the city in day and night. Ilo didn’t know too much about all of this and her Spanish is, ummm, modest so I got to practice my language again and tried to organise everything from free accommodation (muchas gracias Nacho and Riccardo) to understanding the labyrinthine¬† old town and the scale of the festival.

We did other things too. We went to the beach (her idea), drank a lot of wine (mutual idea), ate huge burgers (my idea), bought a magnet (her idea), went to some cool bars (my idea), ate paella (her idea), had free accommodation (my idea), drank wine in the street (her idea), saw The Kooks free (mutual idea), got lost (my idea) and sulked (her idea).

The highlight of the weekend and maybe of all my times in Barcelona was the Sunday night Diablo firework night, a street parade initiation ceremony for the youth of Barcelona. Teams of drummers are accompany by Catherine wheel carrying demons who charge down the street. The idea is to dance in the sparks until it gives out its final bang. The other idea is to arrive dressed appropriately usually meaning hoodies, plastic glasses and long sleeves. I had a t-shirt, jeans and beanie. Ilo had glasses, no sleeves and shorts. Nevertheless after a bit of encouragement she joined me under the fireworks, hiding under me until the bang and we could flee. The noise, energy and excitement was amazing. Such fun. Later we drank in the street, watched a human pyramid family perform next to us, saw a light show and rumba concert and ate some street noodles at 2am. It was a good day.

Now I’m on to San Sebastian, the jewel of Spanish cities, recommended by everyone who’s been. Follow that with Bilbao, Naples, Venice and Bologna before Jan and I’s crazy plan comes into action. For now i can still hear my ears ringing from the drums and fireworks. Awesome time.


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