Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sunday August 30, Vilafranca is the Place to Be

Coming Sunday, August 30, at 12:30 the Castellers de Vilafranca (in green shirts), the Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls (soft red), the Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls (red) and the Minyons de Terrassa (purple) will enter the plaça de la Vila of Vilafranca del Penedès in pillar formations. These are the top four human tower teams as of their 2009 results and they come here for the Diada de Sant Fèlix to enjoy themselves, but also to challenge each other.

Some people consider the vilafranquins pretentious when they claim that they have the "number one human tower square" of Catalonia (“la plaça més castellera”). Other people stress that building castells is a social activity, where you are not supposed to be competitive and, therefore, cannot say that a certain team (colla) is the best. I do not belong to either of these groups.

This year, the hosts have raised the bar by repeatedly communicating that they will make an attempt on a human tower of 10 levels and judging from how easily they assembled a “3 de 9” during their practice (assaig) yesterday, this is clearly within reach. Last year we did not see any constructions this high. Now, the outcome of the 2008 Human Tower Championship (Concurs de Castells) and the current ranking give at hand that “els Verds” are in the best shape to accomplish it. So, let us not be jealous but wish them all the best and, on Sunday, go to Vilafranca and scream ourselves hoarse when they make it!

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Practical information: This event attracts a huge amount of visitors so do not enter the town centre, but make do with parking in the outskirts. Alternatively come here with the train Renfe Rodalies C4 - it takes less than an hour from Barcelona Sants. If you bring a child in a push chair, avoid the middle of the square since you will be locked in by the other spectators as soon as the performance starts.

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Find the program of the Festa Major of Vilafranca del Penedès here. The full version is in Catalan, but there is a "Town Festivity - short guide" in English. By the way, take note that vilafranquins have registered both and as theirs. Sitges was probably only minutes away, but obivously too late. And in Vilanova we are a bit sulky, because again and again we realize that our neighbours are smarter than we are.

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Technorati tags: Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Human Towers, Penedès, Vilafranca

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Event Calendar - September 2009 - by

The Wirdheim.CAT Event Calendar has a focus on activities typical for the Catalan popular culture and is presented under the headlines Human Towers, Festa Major, Other Events and Exhibitions. General information can be found at the end of this entry.

Castells/Castellers (Human Towers) and Falcons

September 5: Olot. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera) in the Plaça del Dr. Fleming
Participants: Castellers de Terrassa, Sagals d’Osona, Xerrics d’Olot.

September 6: Rubí. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Bordegassos de Vilanova, Castellers de Cerdanyola, Castellers de Rubí.

September 10: Vic. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Sagals d’Osona.

September 11: Badalona. At 12:00, a National Day of Catalonia (la Diada) performance.
Participants: Castellers de Barcelona, Castellers de Sabadell, Xicots de Vilafranca.

September 11: Barcelona. A National Day of Catalonia (la Diada) performance in the Plaça del Setge de Barcelona
Participants: Castellers del Poble Sec.

September 11: Rubí. A National Day of Catalonia (la Diada) performance.
Participants: Castellers de Rubí.

September 13: Mollet del Vallès. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Castellers de Mollet, Castellers de Rubí.

September 13: Terrassa. At 12:30, a Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Nens del Vendrell, Castellers de Terrassa, Xiquets de Reus.

September 20: Barcelona. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Castellers de la Sagrada Família, Castellers del Poble Sec.

September 20: Valldoreix. At 11:30 in the plaça Casal de Cultura (Jornada Castellera de la Festa Major). Participants: Bordegassos de Vilanova and Castellers de Sant Cugat.

September 20: Vic. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Castellers de Lleida, Marrecs de Salt, Sagals d’Osona, Tirallongues de Manresa.

September 23: Tarragona: The Santa Tecla Day celebrated with "walking pillars" (pilars caminants).
Participants: Xiquets de Tarragona, Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona, Xiquets del Serallo, Colla Castellera de Sant Pere i Sant Pau.

September 24: Barcelona. The Annual Meeting of Barcelona’s Human Tower teams (trobada castellera de colles de Barcelona).
Participants: Castellers de Barcelona, Castellers de la Sagrada Família, Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia, Castellers de Sants, Castellers del Poble Sec.

September 26: Calldetenes. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Sagals d’Osona.

September 27: Hospitalet de Llobregat. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Castellers de Mollet, Castellers de Rubí and Colla Jove de l’Hospitalet.

September 27: Roda de Ter. A Day of Human Towers (Jornada Castellera).
Participants: Colla castellera Nyerros de la Plana and Sagals d’Osona.

Festa Major - Town Festitivities

September 13-24 (culminating at the end): Tarragona, Festa Major de Santa Tecla
The official program in Catalan can be found here and a festa major glossary here.

September 19-27: Sitges, Festa Major Petita de Santa Tecla. Find some more information here, but also in the 'Agenda of Sitges'. The top event will be a 'Moixiganga meeting' (a dance developed from religious processions) by teams from Badalona, Lleida and Sitges, in the Sant Bartomeu church, Saturday Sep 19, at 22:00.

September 23-27: Barcelona, Festa Major de la Mercè
The official program in Catalan can be found here.

September 25: Reus: Festes de la Misericòrdia.

Other events

September 11, Catalonia: La Diada – the National Day of Catalonia. The main celebration takes place at 11:30 in the Ciutadella park of Barcelona. In Vilanova i la Geltrú, this year's commemoration will be in the Rambla de la Pau at 19:00.

September 18-20: Sitges celebrates its grape harvest festivity – la Festa de la Verema. Find more information (in Catalan) here. Sunday, September 20, at 18:00 there is a grape treading competition.

September 19: Vilanova i la Geltrú: At 18:00, Giants carrying fighting clubs (porra) from all around Catalonia, paraded through the town.

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The Wirdheim.CAT Event Calendar is a summary of events where I will go, or at least could think of going, but can hopefully help other expats and tourists when they explore Catalonia. It is biased towards the Penedès area (including Sitges), but will also list manifestations of popular culture and other activities taking place in Barcelona, along the Costa Daurada and in the rest of the Catalan speaking world.

This entry will be up-dated whenever I learn about new things, since, compared to my native Sweden, here information about what will happen tends to come late. To the greatest extent possible will I link back to official pages (usually in Catalan) for information on time and locations but can not guarantee the correctness of the data presented.

Further information on castells/castellers (human tower) performances can be found under the tag ‘Properes Actuacions‘at the Coordinadora de les Colles Castelleres de Catalunya, or in the ‘Calendari’ at

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Castellers, Catalonia, Festa Major, Costa Daurada, Expat, Human Towers, Penedès, Sitges, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

The Sitges Procession in Honour of Sant Bartomeu

Foreigners tend to know Sitges as a international and posh tourist resort, especially popular among gay men, but this is a town of many dimensions. Sitges is also a very cultural town, careful to preserve its old Catalan traditions. Never is this aspect as obvious as during the Festa Major de Sant Bartomeu, a festivity which culminates on August 23-24 every year.

This festa major is celebrated with an impressive intensity and high participation and it is the only one of the comarca (county) Garraf which, since 1991, can be found on the Generalitat’s list of Traditional Festivities of National (i.e. Catalan) Interest. Most of the elements and the order of events has remained more or less unchanged for the last 150 years. The giants, what I assume is a dragon (tarasca) and the dances are mentioned in written sources from 1814 and from 1853 there is documentation of the devils, the stick dancers (bastoners), the gypsy dance (ball de gitanes), the flower garland dance (ball de cercolets) and the now lost so called ball de Sant Bartolomeu.

After some days of vacation in folk culture poor Sweden, I was happy to be able to see at least the final procession (processó en honor a sant Bartomeu), even more so since my wife went with me. Already before had I heard that the festa major parades of most Penedès towns bear a strong resemblance, but still I was surprised. This was very similar to what we are used to from Vilanova i la Geltrú.

Among the differences, I find it worth point out that the old giants of Sitges (gegants vells) are accompanied by two quite funny couples: first the small americanos Panchito and Panchito (he apparently always carrying the latest issue of the local newspaper l’Eco de Sitges) and then the tall gegants moros (the Arabs) Faluch and Laia.

The religious element is also more present here, on the one hand since a figure of the Patron Saint sant Bartomeu is being carried in front of the local politicians and dignitaries, and on the other hand, thanks to the moixiganga - a dance which tells the story about the life of Christ and for which Sitges is famous. Visca la Festa Major de Sitges!

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On September 23 -i.e. only a month after the big one - Sitges celebrates its Festa Major Petita of Sant Tecla.

Read more in Catalan about the Festa Major de Sant Bartomeu here.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Costa Daurada, Penedès, Sitges

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Cercavila de l'Imaginari - Legends and Stories from Vilanova i la Geltrú

On the last day of the local Festa Major, some 200 children from Vilanova i la Geltrú take part in a performance parade called la Cercavila de l’Imaginari. It consists of eight dances which tell and illustrate the following legends or true stories (click on the names of the dances to see the corresponding YouTube clips):

The Founding of the New Town (la fundació de la Vila Nova): Vilanova was founded by people from la Geltrú who did not like the feudal lord (played by a giant) and therefore built a new town (Vilanova, of course, means the “new town”) on the other side of the river. In 1274, it was acknowledged a town by king James I (Jaume I, the other giant).

Miralpeix: Legend has it that the Christians fooled the Saracens (saraïns) to leave a strategic castle here by drawing their attention to a huge fish (mira el peix means ‘look at the fish’).

The Fishermen (els Pescadors): This dance is a celebration to the role the fishing port has always played for this town.

The moon in a basket (la lluna en un cove): Vilanovins are said to be llunàtic;-moon crazy or, at least, overly stubborn. This is the legend about a boy who could not stop trying to catch the reflection of the moon in a basket.

The Caves of Ribes (les coves de Ribes): Legend has it that a huge snake kept a treasure in one of the caves of Ribes, and that all riders who tried to recuperate it were petrified after looking into its eyes. In the parade, instead of spitting fire this snake spits water.

The arrival of the railway (l’arribada del ferrocarril): Historically, people from here took their produce to Barcelona either by boat or via Vilafranca. This dance reminds us that only in 1881 did Vilanova really start to develop after local investor Gumà i Ferran had financed the construction of railway tunnels through the mountains of Garraf.

The Grapevine (el cep): This is a maypole dance about the vintage. The festa major of Vilanova is celebrated in honour of the Patron Saint Virgin Mary (la Mare de Deu de les Neus) who, in the 18th century, is said to have intervened when hailstorms year after year destroyed the harvest.

The Waterwheel (la Sínia): A celebration of agriculture where the rings of the dance has its inspiration in the movement of waterwheels.

Read more about the Cercavila de l'Imaginari in English on this blog and on the official web-page in Catalan and Spanish.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

The Children's Parade and the End - Festa Major 2009, Day 9

The Festa Major activities on Thursday August 6 started late, at 19:00. For many vilanovins this is the big “day after” but it does have its own important program: the children’s performance parade.

In most Catalan towns, the children’s processions are merely copies of those performed by adults, albeit with lighter giants and not the noisiest of firecrackers. The one here in Vilanova – la Cercavila de l’imaginari - is different and, in my eyes, a model for how you recuperate and build a local culture. In 1999, it was created by a team lead by ethnologist Bienvé Moya and it consists of eight dances which illustrate the history of this town and its local legends. The music, dances and clothing have their origin in Catalan traditions, but are in fact recent creations. Find here a description of all the dances.

Within the Festa Major of Vilanova i la Geltrú, the Cercavila de l’Imaginari is a separate entity with an elaborate web-page available in both Catalan and Spanish. If you live here and have small children you should keep your eyes open for when the next year application forms are presented here. To participate is an adventure – the dances are rehearsed during the summer – but many children want to do so and only 200 are admitted through a lottery.

Before the last Festa Major day was over - in a plenary hall ceremony so popular that I was not even close to being able to enter – the organisers (pabordes) Policarpo Aparicio, David Fernànez, Eva Fuster, Roger Grau, Anton Manyer, Eloi Montcada and Núria Morte were thanked for their hard work. As far as I have seen in local media, the 2009 edition of this beautiful tradition was considered a major success, not at all marked by a negative crisis mood.

Personally, the fact that I was invited to write el bloc de la Festa made this my best Festa Major ever, above all since I met so many new people. Thanks to them I have learnt a lot – part of which I hope to have passed on here in my blog – and thanks to them have I finally decided to now actively take part in the local cultural life.

The Festa Major 2009 is over but, fortunately enough, the new pabordes - Lourdes Campins, Pilar Contreras, Ramon Enfadaque, Roser Jané, Xavier Llorens, Mireia Montserrat and Quim Tonda - have already started to outline the one for August 2010.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

The Mass and the Most Important Parades - Festa Major 2009, Day 8

August 5 is a day when you have to get up relatively early in case you want to experience all traditional parts of the Festa Major of Vilanova. I was quite slow, but arrived in time to see the last part of the parade leaving the plaça de la Vila. Then I was recommended not to follow them, but to rush up and focus on how the teams make their entries into the church Sant Antoni Abat. How correct! To see giants and mulasses, followed by all our groups of bastoners and other dancers passing through the high portal in formation was a sight which I am very grateful not to have missed. (Thanks Maite! (Bordegassos))

After having seen so many young people in the streets, I was surprised to find the interior of the church totally dominated by the older part of the population. From a friend I learnt that most parade participants simply walk straight through to the door on the other side, and see the mass as a perfect opportunity to, finally, eat breakfast. The mass in itself was carried out in a joint effort by many priests and at the end all visitors have the chance to kiss the local patron saint, the Virgin Mary (la Mare de Deu de les neus).

The early evening of this day is celebrated with folk dances (balls populars) in the plaça de la Vila – a great show where the audience is presented with all variations of this tradition which are performed here in Vilanova. This year, there was an extra twist to the verses and steps of the flower garland dance (ball de cercolets), the tambourine dance (ball de panderos) the shepherd dance (pastorets), the Serrallonga dance, the Valencian dance, the gypsy dance (ball de gitanes), the ribbon dance (ball de cintes), the nans (the midget dance) and the Moixiganga de la Geltrú, since some political activists struggled with the wind to hang a huge senyera (the flag for Catalan independence) on the façade behind the stage.

Before the show was over, we were also treated to a joint performance by Vilanova's four teams of stick dancers (ball de bastons).

For the first time I stayed to watch the full performance of the local Petits Diables (small devils) and the Diables de Vilanova. I am not a fan of noise but the satiric verses read in between are well thought-through and those of us who still struggle with the Catalan language, can follow the text in the souvenir program sold on the occasion.

The late evening performance parade of this day (la cercavila del vot del poble) is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary and leads up to the town’s vow to be faithful to her for another year. After a first short stop in C/ Caputxins, I took my final position right below the church Sant Antoni Abat, since that is where all teams make a last effort to excel before they reach the goal. Participants of the moixiganga, the falcons and the castellers climb the church steps in suitable constructions while the stick dancers (bastoners) arrive totally sweaty after having danced non-stop for a good part of the Rambla.

Here, a priest (mossèn) and our mayor make short speeches and then - while fireworks light up the dark sky - all teams receive a last opportunity to perform before it is all over for this year: there is music, people dancing and building castells and there is fire and explosions from dragons and devils. If I would have to select one and only one favourite moment to symbolize the festa major of Vilanova i la Geltrú, then this would be it. The only sad detail is that it always leaves me with a strong feeling of emptiness. Visca la Festa Major de Vilanova i la Geltrú!

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

The Invitation Speech and the 1st Performance Parade - Festa Major 2009, Day 7

August 4 and 5 are the two main days of the Festa Major in Vilanova. The Tuesday program started in the morning in the plenary hall of the ajuntament. There, in front of the organisers, local politicians and others, the writer Ramon Solsona from Barcelona read this year’s opening speech, in his words, five mysteries of joy (misteris de goig) - five scenes which he associates with Vilanova i la Geltrú: First, the railway and the role it has played for this town. Second the Wamba - a rubber shoe which had its origin as a by-product the Pirelli tyre factory which used to be located in what is now Eixample de Mar and which became highly popular. Third, la Geltrú and its, possibly, historic roots in the Germanic girl's name Guisaltrud. Forth, the work of Victor Balaguer and the museum he left behind here. Fifth and final, the snow of August (la neu d'agost) since during these days the town dresses up in white to honour its patron saint Virgin Mary (Mare de Deu), purissima like virgin snow.

As soon as he had finished, we could see local politicians and the festa major committee (pabordes) take positions on the town hall balconies, while a salute of (at least) twelve mortar shots was fired off and devils and dragons were dancing in the plaça de la Vila.

In the late afternoon the celebrations continued with the “performance parade of the vigil before the festa” (cercavila de la vigilia). While the parade of August 5th always follows a strict protocol, limiting the number of teams (colles) allowed to participate to the most traditional ones, the one on August 4th is an opportunity for the newer ones or those closely linked to the outer neighbourhoods (barris) to show their cultural skills in the town centre. Now, since this parade is takes place before the sun sets, it naturally lacks a bit of exciting atmosphere, but, for the same reasons, offers better conditions for observing and filming all activities.

Thanks Jordi (Bordegassos) for letting me experience what it is like to see this performance parade from the balcony of the Gran Penya in the middle of the Rambla.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

Basil Plants, Funny Games, Morris Men and More Giants - Festa Major 2009, Day 6

On Monday, August 3, it was never my intention to take part in the funny team games of the so called Gimcana, but I was sure that I would be able to pass by a few of the stations to take pictures, but an important delivery to my company came so late that I missed it all. I regret that, since the pabordes – the committee which organizes our festa major – had made a great effort promoting it with posters and setting the rules in a way to make it a meeting point over the generations.

In my eyes, this should be the first steps towards making use of the Gimcana to invite newcomers into the Festa Major traditions. Something needs to be done to avoid a future dilution of local traditions, especially if Vilanova i la Geltrú again starts to grow at the same pace as before the crisis.

Speaking of the crisis, what I at least managed to document on this Monday morning were the pabordes decorating the Rambla with basil (alfàbrega) plants carrying the name of vilanovins who had adopted the Festa Major 2009. The fee was modest - € 5 per person – but the total contribution to the budget (€ 2.600) was enough to finance one of the concerts.

In the late afternoon, after work, I watched the international element of this Festa Major – the Gloucester Shire Morris Men – perform stick dances (ball de bastons) together with the main team (gran colla) from here. Judging from reactions in local media, the people of Vilanova were delighted to see the resemblance between the dance forms. Personally, I was more concerned with one big difference: the youngest English dancers were about the same age as the oldest ones among the Catalans. Here the ball de bastons is so popular that young people who want to become members have to put down their names on waiting lists but, most likely, will never make it to the teams. In the U.K., unfortunately, the opposite is true.

Both the tall (gegants grossos) and the small giants (gegants petits) of Vilanova were exhibited in the Saturday meeting of centennial giants from all around Catalonia, so only for the beautiful gegants de la Geltrú was our local parade (baixada dels gegants) the top event of the Festa Major 2009. Therefore, I did not expect the to be especially popular, however, a surprisingly big share of the population lined the streets or followed behind them and it felt as if we were all taking photos. The giants are obviously among the most appreciated inhabitants of this town.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

A Little Goat and Many Falcons – Festa Major 2009, Day 5

In the Sunday morning, August 2, the smallest one of Vilanova’s three mulasses (giant donkeys) celebrated its 25th birthday with a cercavila where small monster animals (bestiari popular) from here but also from many of our neighbour towns were paraded through the streets, many of them by children and young teenagers. The birthday child herself is called la Cabreta (“Little Goat”), but her dance is highly energetic so it takes two adults to master her.

The afternoon was dedicated to our local Falcons – acrobatic human towers – and their guests from Northern Catalonia, the Falcons del Riberal (France). To gain audience, the two teams paraded down the Rambla – every now and then stopping to show some of their constructions – and then made magnificent entries into the plaça de la Vila. There, the junior Falcons del Riberal were the first to mount the stage, where a capdil 7de7 and a serra de 4 puntes were among their most remarkable numbers.

The Falcons de Vilanova rounded off the exhibition with a show meeting very high standards. Unfortunately, I fumbled with my camera and thus missed the impressive pira de 10, but I managed to catch other highlights like the escala de 9 (alternatively: capdil 8 de 9), the catedral, the typical 2 vols de 4 i 2 vols de 3 inpspired by flying birds and, above all, the pillar of four levels, erected from below and – at least for a second – net, i.e. without a support base.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

Giants and Human Towers – Festa Major 2009, Day 4

Saturday August 1 was the day which gave me, personally, the strongest memories of the Festa Major 2009 of Vilanova i la Geltrú.

From lunch time and onwards, the celebration of the 300th anniversary of our giants culminated, starting with an exhibition in the plaça de la Vila. It was quite a sight it was to see all these antique giants together in one square and one thing which struck me much more here than in the museum were the big size differences; from the extremely tall ones like those from Barcelona or Sitges, to those being merely oversized humans, like the Gegants Vitxens from Reus or the Giants from Plaça Nova. As a grand final to this jubilee, all giants couples made a dance parade trhough the town.

Directly after the last giant couple had left the plaça de la Vila, the people who build human towers entered for the diada castellera of the Festa Major. It might have been thanks to the giant exhibition, but it can also have been because the Catalan champions the Castellers de Vilafranca were here: the square was much more full of people than during the last few years. To make things better, we received some state-of-the-art performances.

The "Green Ones" (els verds de Vilafranca) who will make an attempt to build a tower of ten levels during their coming Festa Major demonstrated their strength not only in technique – opening with an advanced eight level construction (4 de 8 amb l’agulla, descarregat) two solid nine level towers (3 de 9, descarregat and 4 de 9, descarregat) but also in participation – occasionally I had a feeling that a quarter of the square was green.

Our local Bordegassos took an important step in their recuperation of former fame by successfully erecting and disassembling and advanced tower of seven levels (torre de 7) and most of them were so happy that they rapidly forgot about the unsuccessful attempt to build a tower of 8 levels (3 de 8).

From the third team - the Colla Jove dels Xiquets de Valls – relatively few people turned up in Vilanova, and still they easily erected three eight level towers (3 de 8, 5 de 8 and 4 de 8).

Thanks to the Bordegassos I had the opportunity to watch the diada castellera from a very privileged position on a town hall balcony. I was aware that this would cause a bit of irritation among some vilanovins, but did not even consider not accepting the offer. Most likely, this will have been my last opportunity to watch the Bordegassos from above: I plan to join the team and since I am above Catalan average height we can assume that I will never make it above the base (pinya).

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The giants exhibited in the plaça de la Vila – clockwise from the tall giants (gegants grossos) of Vilanova – were: the giants of plaça Nova (Barcelona), giants del Carnaval (Casa Caritat; Barcelona), giants of Badalona, gegantons of and giants of Mataró, giants of Manresa, giants of Lleida, giants of Cardona (comarca: Bages), giants of Vic, giants of l'Arboç, giants of Santa Maria del Mar (Barcelona), old giants of Tarragona. On the other side of the square stood the giants Indis, Moros and Vitxets, respectively, from Reus, giants from Sitges, giants del Pi and gegantons del Pi (Barcelona), giants of Vilafranca, giants of the City of Barcelona, and the small giants of Vilanova.

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

Monday, 3 August 2009

Penedès News in English

From an expat perspective, this week’s most interesting local news item is that the start of August vacations has had a severe impact on the weekend traffic. Here follows a summary of local news from Sitges (comarca: Garraf) and other Penedès towns, starting with the region as a total, followed by local items, presented comarca by comarca, town by town:

Gran Penedès

The Penedès weekend traffic has been heavily impacted by the many people from the Barcelona area who have headed towards destinations along the Costa Daurada. Some of the worst congestions have taken place on the motorway AP-7, where it passes Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Vilafranca del Penedès. (Punt)

The political parties of Vilanova i la Geltrú have unanimously decided to request for the Generalitat to create a united planning entity (ambit de planejament) for the Penedès area, in line with what has been agreed in the council of the comarca Garraf. Their equivalents of Vilafranca del Penedès went one step further and demand that all items in the territorial plans of Barcelona, Tarragona and Central Catalonia which affect the comarques of the Penedès be put on hold until the new Penedès planning entity has been created. (Punt)(Punt)

The Institute of Penedès Studies is carrying out research in how the aerodrome Santa Oliva (close to el Vendrell) – built by the republicans during the Civil War of Spain - was used. Together with those of Santa Margarida dels Monjos, Sabanell and Pacs-Vilobí it formed it made up the republican side’s aerodrome base and used to be called El Vespre (wasp’s nest) de la Gloriosa. (Punt)


July 27, the Sitges beach les Anquines was temporarily closed off for swimmers until specialists from the police could establish that concrete cylinder, which had been found, was not a bomb. (Punt)

In its recently opened design centre, Sitges has decided to create an incubator for enterprises related to design and film production. With money from the EU Regional Development Funds, the idea is that companies will benefit from sharing common resources. (Punt)

Carme Prat, Sitges councillor of tourism, wants to regularize the market of private apartments for rent. The officially registered apartments add some 1.500 beds to the town’s offer of 5.000 hotel beds, but the real figure is supposed to be much higher. (DdV)

The Festa Major poster of Sitges, designed by Hydra Media, is a picture of Sant Bartolomeu, built up with small photos of folklore activities. Interestingly enough, Vilanova and Vilafranca have used similar techniques in their posters this year. (DdV)

Sant Pere de Ribes based entrepreneur Àlvaro Gassol, manager of the picturesque country house Clos la Plana, has presented a plan for how to transform small scale Garraf wineyards into tourism assets. Above all, local authorities need to allow for accommodation facilities to be constructed in what today is classified as land for agricultural use. (DdV)

There will not be a waste collection strike in Vilanova i la Geltrú from August 3, thanks to a late agreement between the responsible company and its workers. (VD)

A Vilanova businessman who one year ago was accused of having sexually abused two underage girls in his candy story, and who has spent time in provisional prison while awaiting trial, has been acquitted of crime . The accusation seems to have been an attempt to blackmail. I fully agree with Guillem Mercader of the Diari de Vilanova that journalists must report with the assumption that accused people are innocent until the opposite has been proved and that has not been the case for this man. (DdV)

August 1, the casteller team els Bordegassos de Vilanova, managed to assemble and disassemble a torre de 7; a human tower of 7 levels with 2 people per level. They did so for the first time in several years. (EW)

Alt Penedès

The railway infrastructure authority Adif has acknowledged that vibrations and noice from the high speed train TAV/AVE’s passage through Vilafranca del Penedès are above allowed limits and will therefore assume the costs of building a covering roof over the railroad tracks throughout the town centre. (3d8)(Punt)

The Castellers de Vilafranca has launched a campaign to win more support members. Those who sign up above all help the colla (team) to take on new challenges, but are also able to deduct a part of the fee in their annual income declaration and will receive special discounts in some local stores. (PD)

Baix Penedès

July 30, the environmental department of the Generalitat presented its sustainability report related to the planned 170 ha logistic centre CIM Logis Penedès, located in between l’Arboç, Banyeres del Penedès and Sant Jaume dels Domenys. This is being interpreted as a green light for the project, which is expected to generate 5.500 work opportunities when fully operational, but against which there is an active “No fem el CIM” (Let us not build the ‘CIM’) movement. (3d8)(PD)(EW)

On Fridays during the month of August, there will be guided night time visits to the historic fortification Ciutadella Ibèrica in Calafell. (Punt)

From August 3, it will be possible to sign up as a member to the new sports complex Vilarenc Aqua of Calafell. There will be five swimming pools and a 500 square meter fitness area. (Punt)

July 26, the casteller team els Nens del Vendrell, managed to assemble and disassemble a torre de 7; a human tower of 7 levels with 2 people per level. It was the first time they did so in 2009. (PD)


The use of fertilizers in agriculture will have to be reduced in Prats del Rei and Sant Martí Sesgueioles, both in the northern part of Anoia (Alta Segarra), since they are included in a new report on nitrate vulnarability, issued by the Generalitat. (AD)

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The main sources of Penedès News in English are AnoiaDiari·cat (AD), Penedès Digital (PD), El Punt (Punt), El 3 de Vuit (3d8) and Vilanova Digital (VD) and the print version of Diari de Vilanova (DdV). All opinions expressed are my own.

The signature EW signals that I am personally the source of the information presented.

L’Extra (Xtra) is the only news service which treats the Penedès as a united entity but, unfortunately, I find it too hard to work with their new format.

A brief on the political party system of Catalonia can be found here.

Earlier editions can be found under the label Penedès News.

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Technorati tags: Anoia, Barcelona, Calafell, Castellers, Catalonia, Costa Daurada, Expat, Garraf, Human Towers, Penedès, Sant Sadurní, Sitges, el Vendrell, Vilafranca, Vilanova,

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Not Yet a Good Catalan - Festa Major 2009, Day 3

What we celebrate these days is my fifth Festa Major since I moved to Catalonia and the correfoc ("firerun") last Friday made me recall the first one. Already back then had I started to read the Diari de Vilanova, so I understood that this was a major event, but I did not have a clue about what to expect.

Some friends from home – he from Sweden and she from Denmark – had come to visit us for the weekend, and for dinner my wife and I took them to a little pizzeria in the narrow streets around the church Sant Antoni. On the way back home, we heard the echo of explosions but were not at all prepared that hell was soon about to break lose. It happened when we arrived at the plaça de les Neus: strangely dressed men and women lit up sticks which then whistled and sprayed fire over us. We were all totally scarred and, to make matters worse, felt as if everybody who lined the streets found our reaction highly amusing.

Trying to be good hosts, my wife and I grabbed our friends under the arms and pulled them with us across the Rambla and kept on running until we reached the C/ Escolapis. However, the relative calm did not last for long: at the plaça de la Vila we saw and heard explosions in front of us, in the C/ Colom, but also to the right in the avinguda Francesc Macià and, to the left, in the C/ de la Fruita. Being totally surrounded, we realized that we had to be brave and run across the horrifying cercavila (parade) for a second time.

Some minutes later, with beers in front of us and at a safe distance from the lower part of the plaça dels Carros, did we finally relax enough to start to talk about what we were witnessing; noise at decibel levels which people from Scandinavia do not experience even in our nightmares and absolutely dangerous fire flying in the air. As if to prove how right we were, in front of our eyes the curtains in an open window on the other side of the square caught fire. But again, we were the only ones who were appalled and the devils continued their dance as if nothing had happened.

“Are you sure that you really want to live here?”, asked our friends. My wife and I tried to defend our new home by saying that this evening was an exception and that Vilanova was usually a calm little town, but at the same time we were so grateful that our little son (our youngest one still was not born yet) spent the summer holidays with his grand parents in Sweden.

As you will understand, I have evolved a bit since that evening. Nowadays I look forward to the correfoc and I am, of course, well prepared with a long sleeved shirt and a cap. I have learnt to love the smell of gun powder and I get childishly excited when I feel the sparks of fire around my head. But I still cannot stand the noise and my solution is to wear ear plugs. That part of the correfoc test I will fail even in the future. I will never become a good Catalan.

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Learning from Wikipedia that the Ball de Diables of Vilanova is one of the oldest, still active ones, I feel embarrassed not to have managed to film them. I promise to compensate during the folk dance exhibition coming Wednesday.

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Versió catalana

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova

Kites and Human Towers Striving Upwards – Festa Major 2009, Day 2

Two foreigners (as if I was not one, myself) whom I recently met here in Vilanova considered the second day of the Festa Major program a bit thin. For international tourists I guess that it was, since the main event was a late evening outdoor theatre performance. My excuse not to see it was that I was afraid that I would not understand the language, but that was a lie. To go there and practise my Catalan would me more typical for me. The real reason was that I had found something which I had wanted to do for a long time.

However, already on my way from work did I take part in one Festa Major activity: the kite flying festival (volada d’estels) – a new item for this year. For someone who did not have the slightest interest in kites before this day, I can say that I was impressed with some of the tricks I saw and I have learnt that our broad beach Ribes Roges is perfectly suited for kite performances.

In the late evening it was finally time: the Festa Major program invited us to the training of the Bordegassos – “our “ human tower builders. Apparently, their assajos (the trainings) are always open to the public, but so what? For me this was new and to see so many Catalans working together (almost) silently - interrupted only by the colourful screams of the leaders (caps): “Els castells s’han de patir”, approximately “You cannot build a human tower without suffering” or similar - was quite an experience. To make things better, I was allowed to observe it all from a staircase and that bird’s perspective revealed a lot of details which I have never paid attention to during square performances.

Unfortunately I do not have the time to be a bordegas, but that does not stop me from becoming one of their biggest fans. I love Catalonia!

Aquí trobeu un post sobre la volada d'estels en català i aquí un altre sobre l'assaig dels Bordegassos.
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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova