So after six months, sadly, as of yet-unblogged due to my own gross ineptitude, in the lovely Delft as part of my Erasmus Mundus Masters, I have arrived in the headline slot: three and a bit months in Barcelona!
After arriving I managed to avoid a repeat of hostelgate as in Dresden and find a flat with two of my wicked coursemates in Barcelona. Phew. With that milestone out of the way, I was free to start enjoying my time here and the cultural hotspot I have found myself in! Oh and study or something.
I’m not sure if you have heard of Barcelona, but it is a city in Spain. Spain is in the south-west of Europe. In general, the rain falls on or near the plain. Within Spain, there are many historical districts and Barcelona lies in one of the proudest in the nation, if not Europe: Catalonia (Catalunya in Catalan).
Having pride in Catalonia is the norm out here, with residents all extremely proud of their catalan heritage. In fact, this is part of the reason for the popularity of FC Barcelona. Back in the dictator Franco’s wacky regime of terror, it was banned to speak any regional dialects or show any allegience to seperatist causes. With Catalonia such a place with mass desire for seperation, it was seen as too risky to join a pro-Catalan independence group and, as such, people who held this view would join FC Barcelona - membership of which was far less risky whilst still portraying the same message. In fact, El Clasico (the match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid) is seen as so important to the nation of Spain because it is a modern parrallel for the civil war - the sectarian Catalonian-based Barca vs. the pro-state, capital-based Real. Hence the Barcelona club motto ‘More than a club’.
Essentially, though, Barcelona is a city very proud of it’s Catalan heritage, with many of it’s population keen for independence for Catalonia from Spain. Everywhere you go you see the red and yellow striped flags of Catalonia hanging from the endless apartments. Within the flag displays, seperatists can be identified by their flags of yellow and red with a white star on a blue background, as shown below.
The pride in Catalonia in Barcelona is everywhere. Once a year, however, it is literally inescapable in a festival of Catalan pride and independence ‘La Diada Nacional de Catalunya’ (The national day of Catalonia). This festival sees the residents of Catalonia take to the streets during the day to march and then, in the evenings, party like the Spanish know best.
This year’s event was one of the largest on record, with 1.5million people taking to the streets of Barcelona to march. 1.5 million people. 1point5. Million. Wow! With One-Direction-esque screaming and more flags than you can shake a stick at, it was an impressive sight.
It was a brilliant festival of independence with no violence or negative energy, just a celebration of cultural indivuality. All very positive (as demonstrated by the quite adorable sign below) and a great big party! With such positive emotion, it’s hard not to get behind the Catalan cause. I feel that a similar event back home would invariably turn to violence or some sort of trouble.
Within the mass crowds there is a Catalan tradition called Castells - human towers built by local people, climbing up each other to create a human summit. They are truly incredible and there seems to be a channel on the local television devoted purely to showing the best towers from this year’s celebrations. Including the falls, which are nasty! One of the
greatest craziest parts of it is that the very top of the towers, often 5 people high, are formed by little children in little helmets! Those kids have more guts than I could ever hope to muster together! It’s an activity that brings together the whole community and they were doing it all over Barcelona.
In the evening, the city put on a massive free concert of purely Catalonia acts. There were a few bands, the highlight of which was a band called Pastora. I think that’s what they are called, but I’m keeping an eye out for my new favourite Catalan band! The gig was massively well attended by 300,000+ locals, and included some impromptu Castells - below you can see my friend grabbing a grope whilst ‘helping’ in the construction process. The party-Castells were defintely a highlight of the parties, only rivalled by the presence of people who walk around with carrier bags of cold beers, walking through the crowds selling their wares. It may not be service with a smile, but I enjoy the presence of beer on my doorstep (which seems to happen ALL over the city at anytime post-sunset!).
All in all, this time in Barcelona is a fantastic opportunity to not only absorb some sun (read: avoid burning my pasty white skin), but to gain some insight into a new Catalonian culture. So roll on the Catalan - now I’ve celebrated it’s existence I should maybe try and become part of it for three months!