Off the beaten path in Barcelona: La Merce 2016

This an annual festival, local to Catalonia, that celebrates Virgin Mary, the merciful, for which people from all over Catalonia and rest of Spain visit Barcelona. You can imagine the crowd if you add the regular number of tourists that visit from around the world!

We were lucky to be in Barcelona during the time, since it exposed us to a side of the city we may not have ever seen. Besides the tourists, who throng to Barcelona, the streets was full of locals and others from the surrounding areas, all out on a holiday, which led to an amplified atmosphere of festivity and fun- extremely helpful when on holiday yourself, and highly contagious!

Due to the festival, there were events going on at every big square. There were music concerts, folk music and dancing, parades and sporting contests. 

There was a parade of the Giants where famous local characters were paraded around the square with music. The size and scale was impressive.

One peculiar contest was making of the Castell by castellers. It is a human pyramid or ‘castle’ and the skill lies in how high you can go or how complex your castle is. It was amazing to see the kids were participating in this and our local guide told us that every village had a team and representatives and they took great pride in participating and winning this contest. You can see them prepping by adding belts for waist and back protection. The bystanders also participate by supporting the lowest ring of the castle.

One of the main stages had folk dancing, which looked nothing like the graceful Flamenco that one would normally associate with Spain, but a lot like line dancing!

In the night, there were fireworks by the beach, which were attended by more people than we thought possible! The trains was filled to busting and local police directed the human traffic at the metro stations, to make sure people weren’t knocked off the platforms in their rush to get to the scene of the action.

They also had late night free music concerts which we missed unfortunately, being too jet lagged to keep our eyes open.

All together the festival gave us more insight into the local culture and rituals. An interesting experience and highly recommended!

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