Girona, Spain (10.24.09 – 10.26.09)

 

I arrived in Girona mid-afternoon on Saturday, and was met at the station by Mercé. We went back to her apartment and hung out for a while before she returned to the train station to meet a couch surfer she was hosting for two nights, Blaž. A few hours later, Mercé’s best friend Laura also arrived. I had gone to Girona because it fit in well with my plans for the remainder of my rail pass, and as it turned out, I arrived in perfect time for Girona’s annual festival: Festes de Sant Narcis, which Laura had come in from Barcelona specifically for (and to see Mercé, of course). Once we were all together, we cooked dinner, ate, and left to go and enjoy the festival. Saturday night’s main event was called Correfoc, which literally means “fire run,” and features a large group of people dressed up like “devils” who run through the streets setting off fireworks. Most of these devils have a stick, on which they attach fireworks, and once lit, these fireworks spin in circles, sending sparks of light flying everywhere as they dance and prance through the city. They are followed by a group playing the drums, who give the devils a beat to dance to, who are in turn followed by huge crowds of people. At one point, the crowd flooded into a square, which was outlined with fiery pots that effectively served to illuminate the plaza. Small fires dotted the ground, and bottles topped with candles hung from the trees. The whole square was on fire. We followed these dancing devils, spreading out and filling the available space, all the while watching them dance… and all of a sudden, they ran towards us. People screaming and tried quickly to run back down the narrow road from which we had all flooded out of only minutes before. The devils ran away as quickly as they had come towards us, and this compact pandemonium had everyone’s hearts racing. I couldn’t help but laugh, especially as the crowds slowly and nervously returned to the spots where they had stood before they thought they were running for their lives.
We followed these merrymakers for well over an hour, passing the cathedral, walking through and along the city walls, eventually stopping in the main square of Girona’s old town for the grand finale, which was a mesmerizing, non-stop frenzy of dancing bright lights and flying sparks. There are videos below, which will give you some idea of what this all was like, but the experience as a whole is something that cannot be captured in minute long videos taken with my camera. I couldn’t me more pleased that there are still places who couldn’t care less about “health and safety,” because otherwise there wouldn’t be magic like this.
Once the Correfoc was over, we went into the center of the city for continued festivities, to enjoy the concert being put on. We went and bought drinks first; I had a local specialty that tasted like anise. It was alright… I wish I liked the taste of anise more. We squeezed through the crowds of people to get closer to the stage, and periodically, individually weaved back out again to get more drinks. At 3:30AM, the music showed no signs of stopping, but I found myself absolutely exhausted, as did the others, so we decided to head home and call it a night. I was quick to fall asleep. As we found out the next day, the music didn’t stop until 5:30 in the morning… the Spanish really know how to party.
On Sunday, we woke up and the changed the clocks back an hour for Daylight Savings Time, which gave us an extra hour to get into town for the Castellers, another part of the Festes de Sant Narcis. “Castellers” means human castles. When I heard the term “human castles” used to describe what we would see, I was envisioning human pyramids, and all that I had imagined couldn’t come close to the entertainment that would follow. These “castles” were six, seven, and sometimes eight stories high… and when I say stories, I mean people. A large group of men and women would assemble together to form the “basement.” Next, depending on what sort of castle was being built, three or four people who climb across this mass of people, and form a circle, which is reinforced by another group of people who climb up and intertwine themselves between those who are already assembled. The levels continue to build as more and more people climb up these towers. Children go up to the very top, and each tower is completed by two tiny little things, who look as though they must be only six years old. The small children are the only ones who wear helmets, because, yes, sometimes the towers do fall. One of the two children who climb to the top curls up, and the other one climbs over the top. This means that the tower has been built, and the tower is quickly undone, and one by one, the individuals climb down. Once everyone has safely made it back to the ground, the group has successfully finished. Each tower was more impressive than the last, and every single tower was completed without injury. By the end of it, the two performing groups were absolute overjoyed, because as we were told: this was a historic day. This was the first day that all of the various castle types were built without anybody falling! It was such a sight to see, and upon each completion, the crowd would go cheer fanatically with admiration and support.
When the castellers were done, I left the others and headed for the train station so that I could journey to Figueres, in order to go to THE Dali museum.
I followed the signs that began as soon as I exited the train station, and after 15 minutes, I had found the museum. I stayed until it closed, amazed by its contents. Dali is one of my favorite artists, and I am always amazed by the diversity of his work. His work is consistently impressive, not only in different styles, but different art mediums as well. Perhaps he was out of his mind, but I think he danced that fine line that between genius and insanity, making himself a master of both. Oddly enough, he is buried in the museum! After leaving the museum, I returned to Mercé’s apartment. Laura had left for Barcelona, but Blaž, Mercé, and I ate a light dinner and before long, left once more to go into town. Another concert was being held in the same place as the night before, but the crowds were tiny in comparison to the night before. We were there to watch Mercé’s neighbor’s band perform, who ended up winning a contest that was being held that night. I enjoyed a couple of beers before we headed back to the apartment to call it an early night, as Mercé had work the next morning, and both Blaž and I were heading off to other destinations.
On Monday morning, we all woke early. Blaž and I packed our bags and left for the station as Mercé left for work. We arrived with only a few minutes to spare before getting on the train, and there was a line at the ticketing window that prevented me from booking the reservations I needed for trains later in the day. The train to Barcelona ended up being held up by over half an hour, as there was some problem on the tracks. This caused me to miss the train that I has planned on taking, so it ended up being a good thing that I had been unable to book reservations as I had wanted. Once in Barcelona, I sorted out a new schedule for my day, and a couple of hours later, I was on a train, heading for Tarifa, at the very south of Spain. The next day, I would catch a ferry into Tangier and begin my travels in Morocco.

But that is another story, and another entry of course. Now for pictures!

1.devilbeg

A lot of these pictures are blurry and out of focus… but I really love how they’ve turned out.

2.devilsdance

3.fireonfloor

This is within the square that was totally lit up by small fires on the floor, the ones that lined the outside of the square, and the bottles hanging from the trees.

4.blurs

5.eerie

I find this picture so eerie! We had walked up the castle walls to watch the Correfoc from above, which is where I took this picture.

6.square

In the square at the end of the Correfoc festivities.

7.silhouette

8.mantis1

9.mantis

10.redtones

11.squareend

12.MADNESS

13.merce

Mercé!

14.blaz

Blaž!

15.lauraandmerce

Laura and Mercé!

16.girona

Girona!

One of the castles being built!

18.base

The “basement” that provides the stability for the whole tower

19.teamblue

One of the groups completing and disassembling their tower.

21.towertotem

Another one of the towers. This one is like a totem pole!

22.littleone

One of the little ones at the very top!

23.dalimainroom

A giant piece from the main room in the Dali museum.

24.daliabelincoln

Baberaham Lincoln.

25.dalitomb

Dali’s tomb

26.dalimaewestface

A living room set up to look like Mae West’s face.

27.daliceiling

One of my favorite pieces in the museum was this: a ceiling piece of Dali and his wife, Gala.

28.group

Mercé, Blaž, and I.

 

…Morocco up next!

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