----- Catalonia, Spain ---------------
It seems I tend to fly out of Barcelona back to the USA since this is a cheaper route then most other cities. However I have friends in the city, and I always love returning to Barcelona although it now tends to be either an entry in or exit out of Europe. I booked my trip in advance, but I had no idea that the weekend I would be in town was during the biggest festival in Catalonia, La Mercé. Barcelona is CRAZY during this weekend as for several days the streets are filled with parades and other activities. All the major areas of the city have some sort of event going on.
We started our first night by having dinner with Anna whom I met in Barcelona on my last trip with Jovany and Gabe. We were enjoying some tapas while many locals in the area were beating on pans and shouting for around 20 minutes as a show of solidarity of independence from Spain. I came during a pivotal time in Catalonia as the vote for independence from Spain was imminent. Add to that Barcelona had just suffered a major terrorist attack a month earlier, and people were already on edge. The city was not nearly as crowded as I had anticipated, and I believe that was due to the very recent attack on Las Ramblas.
As we walked the streets of Barcelona, Catalonia flags were draped from buildings throughout the city. People marched the streets wearing the Catalonian flag in protest to Spanish rule desiring to separate and form a new Catalonian government. Combine the demonstrations for independence, a recent terrorist attack and the biggest event of the year and the result was police everywhere. Police were found all over Barcelona, streets were shut down and police vehicles prohibited access to many areas. However a lot of the craziness did not bother me. Reggie was concerned, and liked to avoid the crowds. I however navigated the crowds to see two events that are famous during La Mercé... the Gegants and the Castells.
In Plaza Juame the event started with the march of the Gegants. Local musicians played folk songs while the 10 feet tall Gegants made their entrance and marched through the plaza. The more interesting event was the Castells. Castells are human towers. People start to form a tower by standing on the shoulders of someone below them, and then another person climbs to repeat the process. After around 7 levels of people are in place a small child climbs to the top to complete the tower. Whichever tower is the highest in the event wins the prize. I had watched a few towers form, but as one tower started to disassemble, the people began crashing down into the crowds. People were cheering on the Castellers! I just hope no one was hurt!
There were a lot of stages set up for concerts as well. I remember the stage set up in Plaza España and could hear them at night blasting Shakira's Bicicleta as people walked and danced in the street. It was a cool time in Barcelona, but I was hoping to meet up with some of my other friends who were not there that weekend. My friend Remi was in Brazil for 3 months, Daniela was sick and Laura ended up going back to Italy and could not get back to Barcelona during that time. Anna ended up inviting me last minute to a party the night before I left, but I could not make it due to the fact it was outside Barcelona. All in all we had a good time.