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Festes, Correfocs i Castellers!

Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin

I’m a lucky guy, I’ll admit that. I married a beautiful Catalan girl and regular travel to her hometown of Barcelona is a perk of the job!

We’re always trying to visit at different times of the year to experience all the city has to offer. Our previous trip was during the holidays, and our current trip during August is quite different.  Barcelona in August is much emptier than anytime of the year as most of the locals take their summer holidays outside the city at the beach or in the mountains. Not only is the temperature drastically warmer, but there always to be some sort of traditional Catalan festivals taking place during each of our visits and this trip was no exception.

Les Festes de Gràcia.Photo by Robert Caplin Les Festes de Gràcia. Photo by Robert Caplin Les Festes de Gràcia. Photo by Robert CaplinLes Festes de Gràcia. Photo by Robert Caplin

First there was a week-long festival in the Barcelona neighborhood of Gracia where the locals decorate their narrow streets into various-themed experiences. Residents work on the decorations year-round in much the same way as a group might build a large parade float. The various blocks within the neighborhood compete against each-other and are judged by local officials. In addition to street decorations, there are stages built for music and dancing, outdoor bars, fire runners called Correfocs, and Castellers who are those folks who build human towers.

Castellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona. Photo by Robert CaplinCastellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinThe Castellers were pretty amazing to watch. Being the photojournalist, I jumped right into the mix and documented everyone preparing to build their human towers. There’s a lot of skill and concentration needed to build these towers as you could imagine. Everyone wears matching shirts and a cloth wrap around their stomaches and backs which allow the climbers a place to grip their hands and feet as they move up the tower. First there’s a massive base built that all the largest people create by smashing themselves together. Then the lighter castellers begin climbing on top of the base and building the structure. As the tower gets taller the smaller and younger the castellers get. In fact, the person who climbs to the peak of the tower, called the “enxaneta”, is always a tiny boy or girl between 5-10 years old!

Castellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Castellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Castellers building human towers in Gracia, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinIt was really fun to watch all these people work. Their camaraderie, patience, and strength was obvious and the emotions they showed after successfully building and disassembling the towers was evident. In fact, the group of blue castellers had just completed their 100th 8-story human tower, so there was extra celebration and excitement.

Because my wife and I are always on the move visiting her family and taking various excursions around Europe, we only experienced a small portion of these festivities, but they were truly exciting and memorable experiences to say the least!

Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinCorrefocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinLastly, we visited the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona last night (Barri Gòtic) that was ending their week-long festival with correfocs (fire runners dressed as devils) parading through he square and narrow streets. This was 424th year in a row for this particular festival. When we arrived to the area we found the correfocs gathered in the main square called Plaça de la Catedral accompanied by a group of drummers and surrounded by spectators. Quickly the all lined up and had their fireworks atop their pitchforks ignited  and began running around the square shooting their sparks into the crowds.

Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinThey proceeded to march down the narrow streets led by a large dragon with fire shooting out of it’s mouth. There was nothing quiet about this parade as people were yelling, drummers were drumming, and the fireworks were spinning and popping. Fortunately I’d thought ahead and wore earplugs. I learned my lesson after shooting 85+ Bieber concerts years back!

Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona. Photo by Robert Caplin Correfocs de les Festes de Sant Roc, Barcelona.  Photo by Robert CaplinAnyhow, I’ve found there’s always something fun to do and see when visiting Barcelona. While I’ve enjoyed all my previous visits, I think this trip is the most memorable in terms of zany festivals. I’d highly recommend a trip to Barcelona in August!

¡Visca Catalunya!

 

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Posted in photojournalism, travel on August 19, 2013
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