Friday, 30 December 2011

Penedès Agenda January 2012


January 1
Spain
Public holiday: New Year’s Day
Read more in Spanish

January 5
Igualada (Anoia); 18:00-21:00; town centre
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
The Festes dels Reis d’Igualada are one of the oldest (1895) and most spectacular three wise men parades throughout Spain.
Read more in Catalan: festes.org and Igualada.cat

January 5
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 18:30-21:00; Castell de la Geltrú, Rambla and surroundings
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan
Earlier posts about this tradition: 2011 and 2009

January 5
Sitges (Garraf); from 17:30; from the school Miquel Utrillo to the town hall (ajuntament) via the town centre.
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 5
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès); 18:00-21:00, plaça de la Vila and surroundings
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 5
El Vendrell (Baix Penedès); 18:00, town centre
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 5
Calafell (Baix Penedès); 18:00, Teatre Auditori Municipal and surroundings
Three Wise Men parade: Cavalcada dels Reis Mags
Read more in Catalan

January 6
Spain
Public holiday: Epiphany - The Day of the Three Wise Men
Read more in Spanish

January 7-22
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Festa Major d’Hivern: Festes de Sant Raimon
Concerts, theatre performances, sports events, open lectures etc.
Read more in Catalan

January 8
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 13:00, plaça de les Casernes
Human towers (castellers): Festa Major d’Hivern
By: Bordegassos de Vilanova
Read more in Catalan

January 8
Sitges (Garraf); 18:00-19:30, Sant Bartomeu church
Concert, organ and choir: Interpretació del "Rosari Pastoril" etc.
By: Amics de l'Orgue and Francesc Pi
Read more in Catalan

January 14
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 19:00-20:30, La Sala
Concert, Catalan music: Sant Antoni - Tres Tombs
By: Venus
Read more in Catalan

January 15
Sitges (Garraf)
Half maraton: XXIX Mitja Sitges
Read more in Catalan

January 15
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 12:00-14:00; town centre,
Peformance parade – giants (gegants), the horse dance (cotonines) etc. - Festa Major d'Hivern
Organized by: Moixiganga de la Geltrú
Read more in Catalan

January 15
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 19:00-20:30, Auditori Municipal Eduard Toldrà
Concert: Festa Major d'Hivern
By: Banda Municipal de Música Mestre Montserrat
Read more in Catalan

January 16-17
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf)
Festa Major d’Hivern: Sant Antoni - Tres Tombs
January 16; at 12:00, plaça de Sant Antoni
Opening ceremony with 12 mortar shots and church bell ringing
January 17 (local holiday), 12:00-15:00, Rambla and surroundings
Horse parade: Tres tombs de Vilanova
Read more in Catalan: 1, 2,
Earlier posts about this tradition: 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008

January 16-30
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Gastronomy Exhibition: Mostra gastronómica de l'Alt Penedès
17 restaurants serve especially created menus perfectly paired with Penedès wines.
Read more in Catalan

January 17
Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf): 19:30, town centre
Correfoc (Catalan devils dancing with fire): Festa Major de Sant Pau
If you also want to dance under the fire, make sure to wear old clothes and to cover your hair.
Read more in Catalan

January 22
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès); Rambla de Sant Francesc
Food Festival: Festa del Xató
Xatonada - a festival dedicated to the typical Penedès sallad xató.
Read more in Catalan

January 22
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); 19:00-20:30, C/ Esglèsia, 14
Concert, Choir: Gran concert de Sant Antoni
By: Orfeó Vilanoví
Read more in Catalan

January 24-25
Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf)
Festa Major: Festa major de Sant Pau
Sant Pere de Ribes is one of few municipalities where the main festa major is celebrated in the winter.
January 24; at 13:00, town centre
Opening ceremony with fire crackers and church bell ringing
January 24; 18:00, town centre
Performance parade, Catalan Folkdances: Cercavila dels balls populars
January 25 (local holiday), 13:00 and onwards, plaça de la Vila
Catalan folkdances, satiric verses and devil dancers: Passada dels balls populars, versos dels circolets and ball de diables
Read more in Catalan: SantPeredeRibes.org and festes.org

January 29
Sitges (Garraf); 19:30-20:30, Palau Maricel
Concert: World Music – Japan
By: Duo Shirabe
Read more in Catalan


- - -
This agenda is also available in German, Russian and Swedish.

- - -
The Penedès Agenda is a collection of celebrations, cultural activities and traditions which I recommend to foreigners (expats from Barcelona, tourists in Catalonia and others) who want to explore Penedès or events which I consider important from a – highly subjective – international perspective. It is biased towards the comarca Garraf (Vilanova i la Geltrú and Sitges) but also covers Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia.

The agenda posts are up-dated when I receive new information. To the greatest extent possible I link back to official pages for information on time and locations and cannot guarantee the accuracy of the data presented. Feel free to inform me about events which you think would fit in here, either by writing a comment or contacting me on twitter: @wirdheim

Thursday, 22 December 2011

May PP government be Christmas gift I most wished for


Since the new PP government of Spain has now been sworn in and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced that there will be policies to balance budgets and create a more business friendly climate, you might consider that I have already received the Christmas gift which I most have dreamt of. Partly that is true – I have never lived in a Spain governed by PP, but I am totally convinced that they will do a better job than Zapatero. However, since I live here in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona) I cannot help worrying about the negative comments some commentators are now making on the communication between the new central government and the one representing our autonomous community.

Possibly this is nothing but a media spin. As a result of the general elections, November 20, PP holds an absolute majority in the Spanish parliament so there was never any doubt whether Rajoy would be installed as Prime Minister. Given this lack of excitement, many journalist turned their focus on how the other parties positioned themselves and immediately found out that the representatives from the Basque Country did so totally differently than ours from Catalonia.

Among the Basque members of parliament, PP’s own people (3) voted yes to letting Mariano Rajoy be the person to form the new government, but 11 more (PNV and Amaiur (!)) abstained from voting, so of 18 in total, only the 4 socialists voted against him. Contrast this with the 47 Catalans, of which 36 voted no to Mariano Rajoy (CiU, PSC, ICV-EUiA and ERC) and nobody abstained, while PP’s 11 own members obviously voted yes. Is this the final proof that Basques are in fact better than Catalans in understanding how to negotiate with Madrid?

Since Catalonia is such a vital part of the Spanish economy I truly hope that Mariano Rajoy will be able to see beyond any symbolic issues. Let us be honest, last year PP voted against Artur Mas being the President de la Generalitat, and still CiU and PP have been able cooperate in many areas. True, José María Aznar could usually count on the Catalans when he was Prime Minister, but this time CiU already in the election campaign conditioned their support for any prime minister on a new fiscal model which limits the tax transfers from Catalonia to other autonomous communities. During the last days before the installation took place, they asked for a gesture which would give them a reason to abstain (be it a promise to sort out what the state owes to Catalonia in terms of the so called fondos de competividad or disposición addicional tercera del Estatuto – money already committed but not never paid by Zapatero). Rajoy decided not to enter into these discussions and CiU, consequently, voted as of their earlier messages.

As residents of Catalonia we have every reason to hope for a better colaboration between the biggest political force here and the biggest political force on the Spanish level. All our complaining about the current model for regional tax transfers will lead to nothing unless those who represent the state are prepared to listen.

PP does not need CiU during this term of office, but can still benefit from seeing the ties strengthened. Artur Mas’s commitment to fiscal austerity in Catalonia – in spite of how it reduces the popularity of his government – is, as far as I understand, still unique in Spain and therefore an example. And on the state level, Duran i Lleida’s ability to ideologically defend liberal reforms of the economy will be quite useful already in January, when it is time to sell in the planned labour market reform to the Spanish citizens, although the trade unions will say no (Who thinks they will not?).

Politics is politics, but it is time to shake hands and work together. For the sake of my company and for the sake of our family economy, this change of government is a Christmas gift which I cannot allow anyone to spoil.

By the way: Happy festive season! Bones festes! ¡Felices fiestas!

- - -
It is a well known fact that within CiU, it was the bigger part of the federation, Artur Mas’ CDC which was not prepared to support PP without receiving anything in return, while Duran i Lleida’s UDC desired to show a bit more of flexibility. Not surprisingly, Duran i Lleida was one of the first politicians to express that the ministers of the new government had a “good profile”. Well done!

- - -
And as always a few links:

SPA - LaVanguardia: Enric Juliana - Rajoy, presidente, con aliento vasco
SPA - LaVanguardia:
El PP amaga con rechazar los presupuestos tras el no de CiU a la investidura de RajoySPA - LaVanguardia: José Antich - Matices de una investidura
CAT - Ara: El Govern suspèn per primera vegada en una enquesta del CEO
CAT - Ara: CiU vota 'no' a la investidura de Rajoy

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Watching “el Clàssic” in my new home away from home


This Monday evening, it was not my plan to switch on 8tv and watch “Tu diràs”, but in the end I could not resist it. I guess that many of you did the same – to relive some of the moments of el Clàssic last Saturday and hear just how the commentators would phrase their praise for FC Barcelona. Now, the funny detail is that while all of my friends here in Vilanova i la Geltrú consider it perfectly normal that I felt this urge, those who know me from before – my wife is probably the best example – keep being surprised with how I have changed. The truth is that until I moved here I was as interested in football as I am in, let us say, orienteering, i.e. close to zero.

It goes without saying that the feelings I today have for Barça do not originally stem from the brilliant play which Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and the others showed us in the match against Real Madrid. Their technique is something I am only slowly starting to appreciate – it is usually much too fast for my untrained eyes. Instead it is the role football which football plays in society here which, over the time, has captured me completely.

Possibly this is unique for Catalonia where FC Barcelona, as we all know, is far more than a club, més que un club (I cannot compare with other parts of Spain), but here the match schedules set the pace for social life, not only for football fans: all other activities must adapt. In Sweden, for example, a political party would not change the time of a meeting if it happened to coincide with a football match – here it is equally unthinkable not to change it, since if you do not, people simply will not turn up.

Influenced by many friends who are Barça members and, literally, do not miss a single match, I have started to think that football is important! Nowadays I enjoy that our neighbours shoot off fireworks even after the smallest victory and I have developed a need to take part in the big celebrations, when the police conveniently redirect the traffic so that they can take place in the main street of Vilanova - our local version of Canaletes in Barcelona. And then, the day after a victory, I love watching all children who refuse to go to school in anything but their Barça t-shirts. Honestly, we have nothing of this where I come from.

On top of this, learning to understand football is a lot easier here thanks to the – for a Swede strangely intensive - panel discussions (tertulies) you find on all serious Catalan and Spanish radio and TV stations. Since they are so frequent (RAC1 - Catalonia’s most popular radio station -, has at least one daily program dominated by Barça related news) you simply cannot avoid picking up new knowledge. And the constant exposure has for sure helped me develop my Catalan in general but my football vocabulary in particular, which today is far more extensive in Catalan and Spanish than in English or even Swedish. I have, in fact, once found myself in the embarrassing situation not to be able to express such a basic concept as falta (foul) in my native language.

If living here was what made me start following FC Barcelona, taking interest in football now helps me to integrate further in Vilanova – "my town" and "my team" are closely connected. With this in mind, you might understand that I was not exactly happy to realize that my wife had booked tickets for us all to go to Switzerland during the same weekend as Barça was to play the first clàssic of the lliga 2011-12. That is until I realized that I could watch the match in a Barça fan club. So that is where I spent the magic night, Saturday, December 10 – in the Penya Blaugrana of Zürich. Thanks to my new home here, I have gained a lot of homes away from home, all around the world.


- - -
And a few links:

SPA - LaVanguardia: Roberto Rodríguez - Cesc y Alexis Sánchez le dan la razón a Guardiola
SPA - LaVanguardia: David Ruiz Marull - Cristiano Ronaldo, el reflejo del Madrid de Mourinho
SWE - DN: Erik Ask - Tillbaka till ritbordet

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Debate or consensus when PSC elect their new leader?


Evil tongues say that the enormous losses which the Catalan socialists PSC saw in the recent elections to the Spanish parliament were predictable. The party did badly in last year’s elections to the Catalan parliament but did not react. Then in the May municipal elections, more surprisingly, they saw CiU taking over power in many places – most notably in Barcelona –, but still did not react. With this perspective, November 20 was only the latest and most embarrassing part of this disastrous trend and the question is what will happen next. In the warm-up ahead of the coming congress, December 16-18, everybody agrees that there is a need for a profound remodeling of how the party operates and its politics, the problem is to determine in which direction to go. That is, of course, especially difficult in a movement which prides itself to unite various spirits (ànimes in Catalan, almas in Spanish).

Which these spirits are can, according to senior PSC member Raimon Obiols, be exemplified by three of the people aspiring to lead the party: The most well-known of them is Miquel Iceta, spokesman of PSC in the Catalan parliament. With a background in the municipal council of Cornellà de Llobregat he is the candidate which best represents the socialists of Barcelona’s “red” suburbs (el cinturó vermell), above all the populous comarca Baix Llobregat. Here the majority of the inhabitants first and foremost feel Spanish, and only after that (if at all) identify themselves as Catalans. The opposite can be said about the two others: Àngel Ros is, in his position as Mayor of Lleida, firmly rooted in a Catalonia which does not accept being just another part of Spain but the same catalanista spirit can be found with Joan Ignasi Elena, former Mayor of our town, Vilanova i la Geltrú. The big difference between the two is that Ros wants to focus on challenging CiU by giving PSC a solidly Catalan identity combined with a general left-wing program, while Elena has set his eye on the Catalan left – ICV-EUiA and ERC – which he wants to attract over by turning PSC into an open, but more radically socialist platform.

Having said this, a forth candidate - Pere Navarro, Mayor of Terrassa, - is considered to be best connected in the current PSC leadership. And while he might not embody any of the PSC spirits in their purest form, he certainly represents a big part of Catalan reality; Terrassa belongs to the province of Barcelona without being a part of the metropolitan area, it has strong Catalan traditions but has changed due to a major influx of Spanish speakers - not the least during the Franco era – but, above all, it is a typical former industrial town struggling to find its place in the modern economy.

Interestingly, all candidates have expressed their desire for a fruitful debate, but at the same time most of them want to see themselves as the leading personality of a united candidacy. The excitement decreases further since it seems clear that Pere Navarro will win in the end –he has the support of PSC Barcelona and estimations indicate that 70% of the delegates hold him as their favourite.

Iceta can be expected to be the first to throw in the towel and join him – the formal excuse could be that Iceta realizes that he is not perceived as a new face (How could he ever be for anyone who has watched the news on TV3 during the last few years?), while I assume that the real reason can be found in an existing (but changeable…) party rule which says that any non-elected candidate is barred from subsequently joining the core team of the winner.

But where does this leave Ros and Elena? Well, as I understand it, the case of Ros is that he will use the congress to build his profile within the party with a view to the primary elections for President de la Generalitat, to be celebrated at a later stage. Elena, on the other hand, is somehow expected to fight until the end, well aware of the consequences, and then accept the role as a left wing conscience within the organization.

In the end, I cannot help wondering if we will see an intense debate on this congress, since all delegates on beforehand know that one candidate has the right answers on hand, and that these answers are, more or less, a continuation of the ideas defended by the outgoing leadership. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is still a lot to discover. Maybe PSC will again be a force to count on not only in Catalan but also in Spanish politics.

- - -
By the way, the youth organization Joventut Socialista de Catalunya has sent out an open letter to all the delegates of congress, reminding them that a PSC only represented by leaders who started their political careers during Spain’s transition to democracy, will only attract voters who remember that era. On top of this they want a party with a strong socialist and catalanista identity. I interpret this as support for Joan Ignasi Elena, without mentioning his name, but maybe I am just being Vilanova-chauvinistic! ;)

- - -
And a few links:
CAT, SPA - PSC’s web page
SPA - ElPeriódico: Ramón de España – Por qué dejé de votar (al PSC)
SPA - ElPeriódico: Joan Tapia- La batalla de Nicaragua
SPA - LaVanguardia: El PSC se plantea votar por separado al líder y la ejecutiva
CAT - Ara: Sara González - Navarro ja té prou suport per ser el nou líder del PSC
CAT - Ara: David Miró - La decantació terrassenca
CAT - Ara: Àngel Ros es presentarà a unes primàries del PSC per ser candidat a la Generalitat encara que no sigui primer secretari
CAT - Ara: Les joventuts del PSC demanen primàries obertes i reforçar l'agenda catalanista

Friday, 2 December 2011

Living in Vilanova, yet not foreseeing the collapse of Spanish and Catalan socialism


Given the continuing force of the crisis, I guess that quite a few socialists here are happy that PP now take over the responsibility to govern Spain. That does, after all, give PSOE a chance to take a leading role in the protests against austerity policies which we will see within shortly. But while it might feel nice to reunite with old friends from the trade unions, let it be clear that demonstrations do not solve the real problem for the Spanish "workers' movement". Please, just have a look at my native Sweden, where the Social Democrats - during decades a symbol of strength for the European left but now living a second term in a row as opposition – are weaker than ever although there are things to be upset about also in Swedish society.

Without any intention to minimize PP’s election victory, let me stress that what above all happened in Spain on November 20 was that PSOE (PSC in Catalonia) lost their support. This is easily illustrated with figures: During Zapatero's last term as Prime Minister, PP won the vote of 552.683 people (in 2011, 10.830.693 people voted for them compared with 10.278.010 in 2008). In fact, that number of votes is lower than what PSC lost here in the province of Barcelona alone (they went from 1.309.171 votes in 2008 to 725.669 this time – a loss of 583.502 people!) To make things worse, only a few days before the elections, PSC’s top name in this constituency, outgoing Defense Minister Carme Chacón, was full of hope that this would be the only socialist stronghold to remain more or less intact. Instead the opposite happened. Why?

Was it because of Zapatero’s and his government’s lack of action in handling the galloping unemployment rates or his overoptimistic predictions (2008, -09, -10 and -11!) that the seasonal improvements which Spain sees every spring were indeed the brotes verdes of a turning point? Or was it the tragic comic situation which we observed earlier this year when the socialists in Catalonia accused the CiU government for making too tough budget cuts, while their comrades in Madrid demanded even more? Or when PSC was the only Catalan party to vote against CiU’s request that the Spanish government pay out the so called fondos de competitividad?

Or was it Zapatero’s promise that Catalonia would have a new Estatut such as the Catalans had approved it in a referendum, but then rapidly accepted how the Spanish Constitutional Court diluted it? Or Carme Chacón’s celebration of the form the Estatut finally got – publically manifesting her personal point of view although it was out of line with PSC’s official position? Or can it have been the funny little detail that the same Carme Chacón - only two days before the final election debate was about to take place in Catalan 8TV and when we all (including all the other candidates) were truly looking forward to it - decided not to participate, although she had received the invitation two months in advance?

Although I personally have had a growing list of areas where I have been irritated with Zapatero, I must admit that I never foresaw that the punishment would be so heavy. And that bothers me since here in Vilanova i la Geltrú – a former industrial town of some 65.000 inhabitants – we live in the middle of the change. In 2008, a record 50,22% (!) of the local electorate voted PSC - this time only 30,24% did so. From the figures we can guess that half of them opted for other parties - CiU, PP or ICV-EUiA (in that order) - but we can also assume that the other half simply stayed home (like in the rest of the province of Barcelona the participation dropped, here from 71,24% to 66,43%).

But in the end, here I spend time reflecting over why things went so totally wrong for the Spanish and Catalan socialism, although I am anything but sad it did. For PSC’s and PSOE’s many professional politicians, however, this is a question about their very reason to exist. Many of my Vilanova neighbours know the answer. I wonder if anyone will bother to ask them.

- - -
The fact that PSC lost more votes in Barcelona than what PP won on the state level, does not mean that PSOE-PSC could have stayed in power, had only the Catalan socialists repeated their 2008 results. One of the peculiarities of the Spanish election system is that a vote in the big provinces (especially Madrid and Barcelona) does not have the same weight as one in the small ones.

- - -
The full Vilanova i la Geltrú results in the November 20 elections were: PSC 30,24% (50.22%), CiU 28,27% (19,93%), PP 17,95% (13,16%), ICV-EUiA 9,04% (5,80%) and ERC 6,88% (6,90).

- - -
A few interesting links:
CAT - Ara: Eleccions 220-N, dades
SPA - LaVanguardia: Fernando Ónega - PSOE, tienes un problema
SPA - LaVanguardia: El PSC rompe el frente catalán en el Congreso
SPA - LaVanguardia: Rafael Nadal - Moneda de cambio
CAT – Ara: La sagnia del PSC alimenta totes les opcions
SPA - LaVanguardia: La Junta Electoral Central da la razón a 8tv en el recurso por el debate boicoteado por Chacón

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wirdheim in Vilanova Newsletter 'Penedès in English' has just been sent out


A summary of the Penedès Agenda for December and a selection of local news from the month of November has just been sent out to those who have subscribed on my free newsletter Penedès in English.

Find here a link to the latest edition and here the form where you sign up in case you want to receive it on a regular basis. A presentation of the idea as such can be found here.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Penedes Agenda December / Christmas 2011


December 4
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); Auditori Eduard Toldrà
Family Performance: Pau. La vida de Pau Casal
By: Forani Teatre
Read more in Catalan

December 6
Spain
Public holiday: Constitution Day - Dia de la Constitució Espanyola

December 8
Spain
Public holiday: Dia de la Puríssima Concepció

December 8
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Acrobatic human towers: Gran actuació d’aniversari de falcons
Falcons de Vilafranca
Read more in Catalan

December 11
Sitges (Garraf)
Christmas concert: Concert de Nadal
Read more in Catalan

December 17-18
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Trade Fair: Fira del Gall
The "rooster fair" - an annual trade fair with sales of poultry and related food.
Read more in Catalan

December 18
Sitges (Garraf)
Sardana performance: Ballada de Sardanes amb la Cobla Contempòrània
Read more in Catalan

December 18
Sitges (Garraf)
Christmas concert: Concert de Nadal
Read more in Catalan

December 18
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Concert: Els grans del Gospel
Gospel Concert - part of the Project
By: FOCUS - Followers of Christ Upholding Standard
Read more in Catalan

December 18
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Christmas concert: Concert de Nadal
By: Coral de L'Espinguet
Read more in Catalan

December 20
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Ballet: the Swan Lake
By: the Moscow Ballet
Read more in Catalan

December 25
Sitges (Garraf)
Traditional Christmas Concert: Tradicional Concert de Nadal
Read more in Catalan

December 25
Spain
Public holiday: Christmas Day

December 25
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Christmas Concert: Concert de Nadal
By: La Principal de la Bisbal
Read more in Catalan

December 26
Catalonia
Public holiday: Dia de Sant Esteve
Read more in Catalan

December 26
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); Auditori Eduard Toldrà
Concert: Concert de Sant Esteve
By: Orquestra de Cambra del Garraf
Read more in Catalan

December 26
Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès)
Concert: Tradicional Concert d'Orgue de Sant Esteve
Church Organ
Read more in Catalan

December 28
Catalonia
Traditions: The Catalan version of April Fools’ Day: Dia dels Sants Innocents
Read more in Catalan

December 28
Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf); Auditori Eduard Toldrà
Concert: De Broadway al Paral·lel
By: l’Orquestra de Cadaqués and Nina
Read more in Catalan

- - -
The Penedès Agenda is a collection of events which I recommend to foreigners (expats or tourists) who want to explore Penedès or events which I consider important from a – highly subjective – international perspective. It is biased towards the comarca Garraf (Vilanova i la Geltrú and Sitges) but also covers Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia.

The agenda posts are up-dated whenever I learn about new things. To the greatest extent possible will I link back to official pages for information on time and locations and cannot guarantee the correctness of the data presented. Feel free to inform me about events which you think would fit in here, either by writing a comment or contacting me on twitter: @wirdheim

Saturday, 26 November 2011

CiU and Southern European fiscal responsibility


A slightly peculiar aspect of Swedish political correctness which I have discovered only during the ongoing financial crisis is that while it would not at all be acceptable to argue that immigrants living in Sweden are too lazy for hard work, it is perfectly legitimate to write that Southern Europeans might not have the intention to be responsible for their national finances. And while Angela Merkel’s resistance to Euro bonds angers José Manuel Barroso and Nicolas Sarkozy, she can count on strong support – occasionally bordering admiration – in Swedish media. Most Swedes share the German voters’ lack of trust that the Euro countries now facing financing problems will in the end adopt tough savings and reform programs. We clearly live in times when the old prejudice (?) that Northern Europe is industrious and thrifty, while the Southern part prefers fiesta and siesta, is growing stronger and stronger.

With this as a background you might understand why I was so positively surprised with the Catalan results in the Spanish general elections. While the absolute majority for PP was a signal that the whole of Spain sees the need for change, the way you voted here went one step further. For the first time ever did CiU become the biggest political party in Catalonia, although the last year with this force ruling the Generalitat has been dominated by budget cuts. I mean, how many times have we not seen protests against the closing of primary care units or even big demonstrations and strikes among health care workers (the latest one just a few days before last Sunday)?

Given this situation, you could have all opted for PP and thereby expressed your discontent with how the socialists have governed Spain while at the same time signaling that CiU has been too brutal in cleaning up after the Tripartit. However, you did not. Of the 47 Catalan seats in the Spanish parliament, CiU will now hold 16, up from 10 (!). (PSC will hold 14 (-11!) and PP 11 (+3). Even here in our “red” Vilanova i la Geltrú did 28,37% of the electorate vote for CiU compared with 19,93% in 2008.

As I see it, you demonstrated your understanding that CiU does what needs to be done - you voted for the change to continue (Mai millor dit! Ping: PSC Vilanova i la Geltrú)! That was an encouraging confirmation that at least one little part of Southern Europe is committed to fiscal responsibility. I promise to do my best to convey that message to my fellow Swedes.

- - -
Interesting media links:

CAT - Ara: Eleccions 220-N, dades
CAT - Ara: Boi Ruiz obre la porta a una nova retallada a Salut en plena vaga
GER - Handelsblatt: Merkel ist kein Bond-Girl
SPA - Expansión: Rajoy debe mirar a Barcelona y entenderse con Mas
SWE - Dagens Nyheter: Euroobligationer: Barroso gapar över mycket

Friday, 25 November 2011

Let’s celebrate PP’s absolute majority – “de moment”…


I certainly do not think it is fair of the world’s financial market to be as tough as they are on Spain right now. True, Mariano Rajoy and his PP team have not yet started to take measures, but the elections where they saw their historic victory were only last Sunday. If you ask me, I am confident that they will make the economy one of their strongest disciplines, especially so since they reached the desired absolute majority (186 of 350 seats in the “congreso”!) and therefore do not depend on any other party when they finally start implementing the many reforms which Zapatero and PSOE, unfortunately, spent so much time delaying.

My interpretation is that the people of Spain have voted PP well aware that will result in big austerity cuts and increases of fees and taxes. True, when that happens some of you will protest that Rajoy did not give you all details before the elections, but that is not serious. We all knew and we all know what will come. Those of you who, within shortly, will show your anger in the streets did not vote PP in the first place, and those who did were not exactly dreaming about more public libraries - not even airports, this time around. ;)

Then I hear that many of you now worry about what a strong PP government will mean for Catalonia and our Catalan language, but I, for one, do not. True, I moved here only in 2005, so I have never lived in a Spain ruled by the “conservatives”, but let us be realistic: four years are a very short time! And the coming four years will - in the best case - be marked by a burdensome recuperation from the deep crisis in which Catalonia and the rest of Spain have already sunk so deep. Here the Catalan branch of PP is totally right: Spain cannot recover without Catalonia, just as Catalonia cannot recover without Spain. Whatever long term vision you might have for this country, for now we have to accept that economies which are totally intertwined have to support each other - to do the opposite would be only counterproductive.

As you might understand, thanks to PP’s victory I have again started to feel hopeful about the future and – as strange as it will seem to some of you – the main reason lies in their Spanish patriotism. I mean, you cannot have missed how many times the party’s representatives repeat that “!España es un gran país¡” (Spain is a great country!) whenever they have the opportunity. Change ‘Spain’ for ‘Greece’ and proclaim that phrase in my native Sweden, and you will see how people react.

Rajoy will never want to see foreigners laughing at Spain, as we now all do at any sign of Greek national pride. The absolute majority has given him the perfect conditions to demonstrate what a strong, democratically elected, government can achieve when acting fast and radically, in contrast with countries ruled by broad coalitions or technocrats. May PP surprise the world and show that Spain is different – for a start – and even great! Why not?

So, join me and celebrate PP’s absolute majority! – “de moment”…

- - -
More or less related links:

ENG - BBC Video: Spain’s conservatives celebrate landslide victory
SPA - (Provisional) Official election results: Ministerio del Interior
SPA - LaVanguardia: Mariano, échanos algo
SPA - El Mundo: La prima de riesgo de España, al alza, y la Bolsa, a la baja

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Penedès News in a different format


Penedès News has been one of the main pillars in the editorial line of this blog for the last few months and the time has come to evaluate the results. By now, I consider that I have been running project long enough to make conclusions and decide on adaptations.

The only interaction I have been able to stimulate with Penedès News – above all on Twitter, but sometimes also on Facebook – has been with posts either related to the individual towns (above all Vilanova i la Geltrú, for obvious reasons) or companies, organizations and networks. As far as I can see, there is no community which takes an active interest in having news from Penedès as a totality or not even from the four comarques as such presented in English.

On top of this, the interaction I have seen with Penedès News is much inferior to what I have experienced with my more recent but increasing focus on posts on human towers, #castellers. Here I regularly get feedback, on the one hand from the individual teams and on the other from people who have a more global or general interest in this cultural expression.

I have started to feel that, most likely, there is no real demand for having local Penedès news explained in English. However, at the same time, I know that there is a need for news filtering - as a service to the expats living here, but also for tourists. As a consequence, Penedès News will continue to exist but – at least for now – be transferred to my personal Twitter account, @Wirdheim. Here I will present the news as headlines in English but link to original sources in Catalan and Spanish. The most important of these tweets will then, once a month, be summarized in the newsletter Penedès in English.

The other content part of Penedès in English – the Penedès agenda – will not be affected by these changes. And as to what will come instead, here on the blog, I am not really sure. Maybe it is time to start experimenting again... ;)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Vilanova’s 'Fira de Novembre' boosts local business


The sunny weather during the weekend certainly helped a bit, but the new location and format of the traditional November trade fair in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) – this year held November 11-13 – has proved to be highly attractive. In spite of the crisis, all space had been contracted and this time the line of stands followed the local Rambles all the way down to the marina – an initiative which made the exhibition less crowded but at the same time encouraged the visitors to reach new parts of the city centre.


In connection with Fira de Novembre, the shop keepers of the town – coordinated through the association Viu Comerç – extended their Friday evening opening hours to midnight in a so called Vilanova Shopping Night and on the Sunday, the traditional Xatonada popular was housed in plaça de la Mediterrània; all of a sudden perfectly integrated with the rest of the trade fair. As always, there were performances by sport clubs and cultural entities but also attempts to make people connect in new ways, for example #LlescaTwit – a physical meeting point for Vilanova’s twitter enthusiasts.

Fira de Novembre in its current form has existed for 21 years, but can be traced back to the year 1381, when Vilanova (not yet united with la Geltrú) was granted the right to hold a fair during the first fifteen days of November.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: Vilanova Digital and Diari de Vilanova (1, 2)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

'Minyons de l’Arboç' and 'Jove de Vilafranca' end the season with nice human towers




The Diada de la Colla which Bordegassos de Vilanova organised on November 13, did not become the success the team had hoped for, but the two guest teams partly compensated for that and offered the spectators in plaça de les Cols of Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) a few nice surprises.



Minyons de l’Arboç achieved the best results this day by completing 5de7, 3de7 and 4de7 plus – for the first time evertwo pillars of five levels (Pde5) built at the same time. They thereby rounded off an emotionally difficult season on a strong note.

Colla Jove Xiquets de Vilafranca completed 3de7, 4de7 and Pde5 but also presented the world of castellers with a totally new construction: 7de6 dismantled via two pillars (7de6a). However, the 5de7 - which they had hoped to build for the first time collapsed before crowning.

Bordegassos de Vilanova, finally, had managed to mobilize a lot of the team’s sporadic or former members, but this time it was of no use, since the children (la canalla) were too scared to crown the most challenging human towers. The attempts to build 2de7 and 4de8 ended in as many as four constructions dismantled before crowning (intents desmuntats) so the final result was only 3de7 and 4de7.

But as one of the senior members of the team put it: “We can’t be disappointed with these children. It’s thanks to them we have such a great season behind us, especially the second half!

- - -
Read more in Catalan: the web page of Bordegassos

MOST - the Penedès Wine and Cava Film Festival – is here to stay


During the days November 10-13 – and coinciding with the European Day of Wine TourismVilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) housed the first edition of MOST – a festival dedicated to films related to wine and cava. The organizors are very content with the event and have already started to plan for next year. Among the Collita 2011 (“Harvest 2011”) awards handed out, the jury prize went to David Maye for "Maye et fils", Fred Florey with "Les saisons de Marie Thèrése Chappaz", got the prize for the best documentary film while "Lingo vino", by Daniel Texter was selected the best fiction movie.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: El 3 de Vuit

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Calafell will not receive a new public library


Due to budget cuts, there will not be a new municipal library in Calafell (Baix Penedès). The former municipal government (PSC, ERC and ADMC) planned to house it on the second floor of the new fresh food market, of which the construction work has recently begun. However, the now ruling coalition (CiU and PP) will not go ahead with the project, since reservations have only been made for just over half of the € 1,3 million it would cost.

The fresh food market will have 35 stands and is financed by the chain Mercadona which, in return, will hold the concession to operate a supermarket in half of the building.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: El Punt / Avui

- - -
I am not particularly happy with my Baix Penedès headline picture. If you know a place from where I can take a nice panorama picture, please, let me know.

ADIF puts up safety fence in Botigues de Sitges


ADIF - the Spanish authority responisble for railway infrastructure - has just started to put up a 2,2m high safety fence along the tracks from the train station Platja de Castelldefels to Port Ginesta, Botigues de Sitges (Garraf). The work is expected to be finished before the end of the year.

- - -
Read more in Spanish: ABC

Friday, 11 November 2011

Vilafranca lodges administrative dispute with ADIF regarding noice levels



Ever since the highspeed train (AVE) service started to operate on the railway lines going through Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) there have been severe complaints about noise. Now Mayor Pere Regull (CiU) has announced that he will lodge an administrative dispute with ADIF, the Spanish authourity responsable for railway infrastructure.

On the one hand, the ajuntament of Vilafranca wants for ADIF to reduce the noise in the non-covered parts of the track area, where it is still 13 decibels above the legal norms. On the other hand, it demands that the covered area – to which the local authorities do not yet have access – is cleant up since it looks like a deserted constructions site.

The AVE goes through but does not stop in Vilafranca. Pere Regull admits that the formal dispute is above all aimed at putting pressure on ADIF. A court ruling on the matter could possibly clarify ADIF’s responsibilities, but it will take negotiations to achieve a solution which does not only meet legal minimums but is also good for the town from an urbanistic perspective.

- - -
Read more in Catalan (el 3 de Vuit) and Spanish (ABC).

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Dolce Sitges wins Condé Nast Johansens Award for best MICE hotel for large groups


I have already informed you that Dolce Sitges Hotel had been nominated in the category for Excellence in MICE (meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions/events) among establishments with more than 100 rooms in the 2012 Condé Nast Johansens Awards, so I am now happy to be able to announce that they actually won it.

Dolce Hotel overlooks the rest of Sitges from the hills to the west of the town. It was opened in 2004 and has 263 guest rooms, 39 meeting rooms plus an amphitheatre, a spa area, four restaurants and three bars.

- - -
Read more in Spanish: Europapress

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

'Bordegassos' and 'Saballuts' complete the human tower 4de8 in Terrassa




Sunday October 6 was a day for which the weather forecasts predicted rain all around Catalonia, so also in Terrassa (Vallès Occidental) where Castellers de Terrassa planned for their final human tower exhibition this year. Since not only they themselves, but also their guests, were looking forward to their Diada de la Colla, from the very beginning did they have the partly covered square Vapor Ventalló as a back up solution for the day.



Due to a more or less consant drizzle, this is also where the human towers were built in the end. Castellers de Terrassa had hoped to find the form and be able to build 4de8, but in the end had to make do with completing 2de7, 5de7 and 4de7a.



The most stable guests, Castellers de Sabadell (Saballuts), completed 5de7 and 2de7 but, above all their 15th 4de8 of a season when they – a team which became colla de vuit (a team which regularly builds human towers of 8 levels) as late as two years ago - have been among the strongest ones in this group.

The other guests, Bordegassos de Vilanova, did not have any trouble completeing 2de7 but saw their 5de7(i) collapsing without having been crowned. However, most importantly, the team completed their 2nd 4de8 this year and now away from home. True, this happened after one intent desmuntat (a construction dismantled before being crowned) and long preparations, but the end result felt so controlled that the team decided to make an attempt also with 3de8(id). This construction was dismantled before crowning, but that does not really matter for a team which has been anything but stable this year, but are going through an amazing spurt now at the end of the season.

- - -
To live the positive spiral of Bordegassos de Vilanova "from the inside" is a wonderful feeling. In Terrassa, amazingly enough, I had the honour to be one of eight primers laterals in the 4de8. This time I certainly did not get the position neither for my qualities as casteller nor by necessity, but primarily for solidarity reasons. For the future, however, I will work hard to make it mine.

- - -
Read more: Web Casteller, El Punt / Avui plus the web pages of Bordegassos and Saballuts.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Alt Penedès and Garraf now officially 'Costa de Barcelona'


Four comarques to the north east and south west of Barcelona are now officially united under the tourism brand Costa de Barcelona (the Coast of Barcelona) – a measure intended to streamline and reinforce the marketing activities of these destinations, above all on the international level. The decision was taken by Agència Catalana de Turisme after pressure from business groups and a general insight that Catalonia has tried to promote itself with two many different names.

This means that the earlier names Costa de Barcelona – Maresme (used in the comarca Maresme) and Costa del Garraf (used in the comarques Alt Penedès, Baix Llobregat and Garraf) will disappear. The other eight tourism brands used in Catalonia are Costa Brava, (the city of) Barcelona, Costa Daurada, Terres de l’Ebre, Terres de Lleida, Catalunya Central, Val d’Aran and Pirineus.

- - -
Read more in Spanish: Hosteltur (1, 2) and ABC

Friday, 4 November 2011

'Sant Narcís' to remember for 'Marrecs' and 'Capgrossos', but not so for 'Minyons'


The northern parts of Catalonia do not have many traditional exhibitions in human towers but one of the few exceptions is the one held in connection with the Sant Narcís trade fair of Girona. One of the great teams which usually comes here are Minyons de Terrassa and this year, on October 30, they wanted to end the season with a major success – the monster constructions 3de10fm (gamma extra) which they are the only team to ever have completed and both times at home, in Terrassa (1998 and 2002).

The latest training sessions had given them every reason to think this was possible. However, although the assembly in the square went very well, the top children did not feel convinced and the big construction had to be dismantled before being crowned (intent desmuntat). After this difficult start, Minyons completed 3de9f and, later on, 2de8f but when, in between, they attempted to build 5de9f (gamma extra) they saw it collapsing before the crowning of its second part. For this team, the day was marked by deception and I guess they did not feel better when – three days later - Castellers de Vilafranca managed to crown 3de10fm.

The other teams, for their part, will remember Sant Narcís 2011 in bright colours. Capgrossos de Mataró completed 2de8f, 3de9f and 4de9f – in fact the same human towers which they then repeated in Vilafranca during Tots Sants.

The local team, Marrecs de Salt, has had a fantastic season (already before Sant Narcís had they recuperated 4de8, a human tower which they had not been successful with since 2002) and they ended it in the same way – by completeting 4de8 (their third one in 2011), 2de7 and 5de7.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: Diari de Girona and Web Casteller plus a press release by Minyons de Terrassa.

'Diada del Roser' – a great day for 'Xicots' and guests


Xicots de Vilafranca - the second team of human tower builders in Vilafranca del Penedès - have had a difficult season, not the least since quite a few of its former members now make up the core of the third team, Colla Jove Xiquets de Vilafranca, of this relatively small town. Having said that, during Diada del Roser, on October 30, Xicots managed to round off this year in the best possible way: by completing 4de8 and 2de7 and, on top of that, their first 7de7 ever.

Their two guest teams had every reason to be happy, they as well. Castellers de Barcelona completed 2de8f, 3de8, 4de8 and, in the round of pillars, their first pde6 since 2009. Moixiganguers d’Igualada repeated the results of their most successful exhibition 2011; they completed 4de8, 3de7s and 5de7, but this time away from home and, on top of that, all on the first attempt.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: el Punt /Avui and Web Casteller

Female strength in Bellprat (Anoia)


With less than 100 inhabitants, Bellprat (Anoia) is the smallest municipality in Penedès, and its claim to fame is that it was here, during the so called second republic in 1934, Natividad Yarza Planas (ERC) became the first democratically voted female mayor in the Catalan speaking part of the world. To commemorate this personality, on October 30, there was quite a different exhibition of human towers, where only women were allowed to take part in the stem – el tronc.

The most advanced construction of the day – 4de7 - was completed by Xiquetes de la Jove de Valls, who also completed 7de6 and 2de6. Les dones de Castellers de Vilafranca completed 3de6, 4de6a and 2de6. Les dones de Castellers de Sants completed 5de6, 4de6a and 3de6s and – if I understand it all correctly – they were the only team which had not only the stems but also the bases (pinya) of their human towers made up exclusively by women.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: el Punt / Avui

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Heavy rain causes flooding in Igualada and Òdena


The autumn rains are here and on November 3 they were especially heavy in the central parts of Catalonia. During one hour (between 7:00 and 8:00) parts of Anoia registered as much as 40 L/m2 and firefighters had to rescue a few drivers stuck in their cars and business owners whose warehouses had beed flooded. The worst consequences were registered in Barri del Rec and the industrial park les Comes of Igualada plus in some areas of neighbouring Òdena.

- - -
Read more in Catalan: Anoia Diari

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Castellers de Vilafranca crown the two most difficult human towers


According to the score rules of the biannual Concurs de Castells in Tarragona, the most difficult human towers to complete are, first, 2de9f (i.e. with an additional support structure on the second level - folre (f) - but not on the third one - manilles (m)) and, second, 3de10fm and precisely these two constructions are what Castellers de Vilafranca managed to crown (carregar) but not complete (descarregar) during their Diada de la Colla, celebrated on November 1, Tots Sant, as of tradition.



The first success of the day came with 3de10fm(c) when it was crowned on the second attempt (the first one collapsed before crowning). It was the 7th time ever Verds managed to carregar this human tower. (Since it was not completed, Minyons de Terrassa remain the only team to ever have done so with 3de10fm, and that on two occasions, 1998 and 2002.) On the other hand, the most unique construction of the exhibition this day, 2de9f(c), had only been crowned once before in casteller history – by Castellers de Vilafranca themselves, but back in 2005.

In the third round - with three collapsing castells fresh in mind - the team decided to not attempt building 4de9 (net, without folre) but opted for the more stable 5de9f – a construction which they themselves had only crowned this year, while Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls, so far, was the only team to have completed it. This time the construction was completed and when adding the score for this - their third gamma extra human tower of the day - to the earlier rounds, Verds achieved their best result of the season 2011 which in turn is their best season ever.

In the same exhibition, Xiquets de Tarragona was the second best team and completed a magic triplet of human towers usually reserved for the absolutely best teams; 5de8, 4de9f and 3de9f.



Capgrossos de Mataró also proved to be in great shape and completed the clàssica de nou; 4de9f, 3de9f and 2de8f.

Castellers de Sants, the fourth team, also they had reasons to celebrate: they completed 5de8 and 4de8 but, most importantly, crowned their first human tower of nine levels this season; 3de9f(c).

The total exhibition here in the plaça de la Vila of Vilafranca del Penedès (Catalonia’s number one square for human towers – la plaça més castellera), lasted for five hours and it is estimated that up to the moment when Verds managed with the 3de10(c), there were almost 10.000 spectators present in the square. It is also worth mentioning that on the occasion Verds had called in special support troops to reinforce the base – pinya - of the castells in the form of the rugby team Santboiana.

- - -
Read more in Catalan – el 3 de Vuit, el Punt / Avui (1, 2) and Tot Mataró – and Spanish – el Periódico

Monday, 31 October 2011

Museums of Sitges will be restored, not remodelled


What started as a partial halt to the refurbishing of the museums Cau Ferrat and Palau Maricel in Sitges (Garraf), is now officially a change of plans. The details are still to be worked out, but the CiU-lead municipal government has announced that the most controversial feature in the original plan – the glassed-in ramp on the facade facing the Mediterranean - will not come into existence, which in fact means that some already completed reforms have to be undone.

The now announced changes meet with protests from the earlier PSC-lead local government, which claims that they threaten the financing, since it depends on an agreement between several parties (the Spanish central government, the Catalan Generalitat and Diputació de Barcelona) and also risks delaying the end date with up to two years.

On the other hand, representatives of SOS Sitges – the platform channelling the anger many citizens feel since this project was initiated above their heads – reveal signs of restrained jubilation. As they see it, the town cannot be allowed to destroy an architectural heritage so closely connected with the artists Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas, with the art promotor Miquel Utrillo and the North American collectionist Charles Deering.

- - -
Read more in Catalan – Ajuntament de Sitges – and Spanish - El País

- - -
Related earlier post

- - -
Do you want to read more news from Sitges in English? Click here to find older posts and do not forget to sign up for the free newsletter Penedès in English.