Our timing was perfect for observing some of the celebratory activities connected with Barcelona's La Merce' festival.
It was thrilling for us to have stumbled upon the traditional folkdancing segment held at the Placa de la Seu, in the shadow of Our Lady of Mercy church.
Groups of all ages dressed in colorful costumes, held hands forming a circle then followed the same prescribed dance steps. We didn't know anything about this annual Fall festival, so we were curious to learn more about it.
La Merce' was first held in 1902. The highlights of the festivities include the Correfoc, where revelers dressed as devils run through the streets equipped with sparklers which may or may not fall upon innocent observers; parade of giant figures meant to be "effigies of kings, queens and nobles" and castellers or human towers, up which a small child climbs then when reaching the top stands to receive applause.
There are also aerial goings-on such as hot air balloon flights, kite displays and finally 'Piromusica' which presents fireworks and music to the appreciative crowds!
There is no charge to be present at the festival and from the hearty cheering we heard, those who attend are thoroughly invested in this five day event!
Our Lady of Mercy basilica was the site for some of Le Merce's celebrations which were in full gear during our visit to Barcelona.
A large crowd was gathered at its square to cheer on the folkdancing segment of this annual event. We were excited to be in the middle of all the hoopla!
As we watched the dance groups move about the plaza in their small circles, we took advantage of the sliver of shade provided by the basilica. It wasn't a hot day, but there was a glare from the sun.
The original church on this site "was erected in 1267, reformed in the 14th and 15th centuries and renovated by architect Joseph Mas in 1775" to appear in its final form.
The Order of Merced was an early 13th century religious order established by Catalan Peter Nolasco in 1218 and whose foundation was based on personal piety. Organized charities having religious values were very popular in the High Middle Ages. The Order exists today in 17 countries.
We were told that it's become customary for sports teams to visit the basilica after winning a game to give their thanks in song.
Just a word about bull fighting in Barcelona. Usually bull fighting schedule is from April through September - so likely bullfighting is out in Barcelona and surrounding area, the rest of the year. Also a note. Barcelonians consider themselves Catalans rather than Spanish, and they feel that bullfighting is more a Spanish tradition. The bull ring in Barcelona is ancient (built in 1914),and there were two even older, both of whom are no longer in use. Usually you will find older folks hanging on to an old tradition, and tourists in stands, that is about it. I did see the legendary matador, El Cordobes in Barcelona, back in the late 60s, but it was much more popular then. You are likley to find more local enthusiasm for bull fighting in Spain proper. I am not discouraging you from witnessing a bull fight, - just trying to put things in perspective.
The Font Màgica was part of a project built for the 1929 Universal Exhibition. The exhibition took place on Montjuïc, a hill on the eastern end of Barcelona. The project, designed by the engineer Carles Buigas consisted of a series of cascades and fountains between the Palau National, the main exhibition center on the Montjuïc, and the Plaça d'Espanya at the foot of the hill. It took one year to complete the project. The most spectacular part was the monumental the Font Màgica.
After many years of disuse the fountain had fallen into a bad state. It was restored for the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona.
The show lasts roughly about 15 min and it is a rather impressive display of light, water and classical music during which the fountain constantly changes color and shape. At the same time, the Palau National is illuminated, providing a magnificent background.
The show runs every thirty minutes. The start and end date depend on the time of the year, but the best time to see the fountain is in the dark.
Please it's no fun to see an innocent, crazed animal tortured before a screaming crowd of people, who should be hanging their heads in shame. Even if you leave after 15 or 20 minutes, the damage has been done (your money has gone to support this hellish business, which decent people are working to end. Handlers weaken the bull for days before the bullfight. They put laxatives in his food and heavy sandbags on his back. They file his horns down to the tender quick, and they drug him. In the ring, they drive lances into his back and neck muscles, so he can't lift his head. By the time the matador appears, the bull is weak from blood loss and dizzy from being chased in circles. The horses used in bullfights are old and usually drugged. Wet newspaper is stuffed in their ears and often their vocal cords are cut, so the audience will not hear their cries. They wear long blankets, to hide their entrails, which spill out when they are gored and disemboweled. Please help these tormented animals and if YOU COME TO BARCELONA AVOID BULLFIGHTS AND SPEAK OUT AGAINST THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is another photo taken in the Barcelona Forum-2004.
Here you can see a nice arabian dancer,really this is a nice place to see diferent cultures in world!.
I seen in the Forum also a very interesting exibition: XI'AN WARRIORS from China,it was really a great and interesting thing to see because it was the first time that about 100 of these warrior sculptures was out from China to other foreign country!.
Take a look to my travelogue to see more pictures taken here.
This is a new place in Barcelona,will be open just from May 9th till September 26 of 2.004.It is called also Forum of Cultures and is a new and creative space for the relationship of all cultures in world.
Is a huge place,I spend a full day visiting the Forum during my last trip to Barcelona.Is very interesting and it has many pavillions and expositions from all over the world.During my visit I had the chance to see a catalan cookery demostration,an african concert (Ivory Coast) a beautiful morrocan dancer girl and also some tibetan monks painting something called Mandala,and lots more!!! really I enjoyed my visit to the Forum very much.Cause this place is so big we didn't see everything with just one day,is much better see it on two or three days.
One thing we knew we had to do in Spain was to go to a bull fight. Barcelona was our last city, and we still hadn't gone yet. We decided to go buy some tickets. We ended up paying about 20 euros. If you have a love for animals the bull fights are hard to watch. It's really sad watching one bull being fought off by about 10 men, but it is a national sport, so you have to respect that.
One thing that is always present in the "Festes majors" is the "Havaneres". This is songs that have a specyal rhithm, similar to the rhithm of the waves of the see. Often these songs have fanny lyrics, in catalan or sometimes in spanish, although another are sad, related with the nostalgia of the saylors.
If you can't understand, at least you can enjoy the melodies, and also taste the "Rom cremat", that always accompany the fest. It is a drink, with ruhm, sugar, lemons, cooffe, and i don't know what more, burned a little bit. It's really worth to taste. The origins of these songs are in the saylors who went to Cuba in the times in which was a big interchange. Now, the bands who sings these songs, are almost al of the villages of the coast, and there's bigs festivals in coast villages, like Calella.
The "gegants" (giants) are almost always in the fests of towns of Barcelona. If you travel with children, they sure enjoy a lot these big characters who walk around the streets. The music of the "gralles" accompany and invite to dance with the giants. Normally it take place in the middle of the morning.
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