Josh got back from the US this morning and it was soooo good to see him (and our American goodies). Liam was waiting at the front door to our building waving and blowing kisses as Josh got out of the cab. He was just so excited to see his daddy after 10 days! And it was so nice to be back together as a family. Josh travels for work but usually it’s 2-3 days here and there, maybe once every 6 weeks. I know we are lucky in that aspect here as many families I know here have a spouse that travels several times per month. But Josh doesn’t do many 10 day trips, as a matter of fact this was only his second this year, so it was really nice to have him home.
But there is no rest for the weary and after unpacking and taking a shower we hit the road. It has been raining here pretty consistently for over 3 weeks now and it was supposed to rain all of today so it was an unexpected surprise to see the sun shining. I had seen a post on my facebook from the kids school that there was going to be a casteller festival today at noon.
We’ve seen the Castellers before but I always find it so fascinating and this was going to be right in our neighborhood of Gracia. The kids didn’t want to go initially preferring to stay here and veg out. Part of me didn’t blame them, we were all kind of in that mindset. But in the end, I’m so glad we went. Not only were the Castellers amazing, but we laughed and played as a family in a way that we haven’t in a while. No one was moody and no one had tantrums. We laughed and giggled and played tag as we ran up the streets.
One of our favorite squares in our neighborhood is the Placa de la Vila de Gracia, or as we call it, The Clock Tower Square. And that’s where the Castellers were going to be. Off we went. We got there just in time as they had just started and the crowds weren’t as overwhelming as they are when we see the Castellers during La Merce. In case you don’t remember from previous entries, the Castellers are human towers. They are primarily in Catalunya which is the part of Spain that we live in. This is a tradition that has been going on for years and has actually been declared by UNESCO to be a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The castells range in size and height but they are ALWAYS topped with a small child. A child that only in recent years needs to wear a helmet for safety (because nothing else will happen/break to your kid dropping 40 feet in the air, right??). The child is the enxaneta and climbs into place at the top and raises one hand with four fingers erect, in a gesture said to symbolize the stripes of the Catalan flag. Amazingly accidents where one is injured or killed is rare and the most recent death was in 2006 and before that in 1983.
Josh and I each had a kid on our shoulders and my neck and shoulders hurt after just a few minutes and that was with just a 40 pound kid on them. Imagine the weight of several people climbing onto your shoulders? Reminds me a little bit of the Dr. Seuss book Yertle the Turtle where Yertle climbs on the backs of hundreds of turtles in order to rule over all that he can see.
The festival starts out with a colla (group/team) walking out to the center of the performance area. These are usually at least 4 people high with a team surrounding the lowest level to push him forward and to catch the participants should balance be lost.
Because I couldn’t get that close up or a picture from above, I checked online so you can see what the base of a castell looks like: