The last few days have been full of tension here in Catalonia as long awaited events have been resolved, one via the ballot box and the other on the sports field.
The first important event were the elections for the Generalitat, the autonomous government of Catalonia, which saw a noticeable swing to the right which may well be reflected more generally in Spain over the next 6 months as other regions hold their own elections. This change was accompanied by a high turnout (60%) and emphasized peoples desire for change after 7 years of a Socialist coalition and a confused "head in the sand" approach to the general crisis which has swept Catalonia as well as the rest of Spain.
The second event was not political per se, but sporting, the football (soccer) league game between Barcelona and Madrid held at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona with over 90,000 fervent spectators cheering their respective teams. This particular game is far more than a football game, having been elevated to a status akin to a direct battle between the Catalan people and their oppressors, the central government as represented by the Madrid team who tax and control them excessively, so the general feeling goes. In actual fact the result was an absolute domination by Barcelona with a convincing 5-0 annihilation, and a show of skills which were spine tingling to watch and led to much celebration here for hours afterwards.
My feeling is that these two events could spark a feeling of renewed self confidence within Catalonia which might just help get them through the economic problems they have been engulfed in over the last few years, certainly they surprised everyone with the results of these two events, not least themselves!
Romanyà is a tiny village perched at 400m with sweeping views over the valley of Llagostera all the way to the Costa Brava in the distance is dominated by several large medieval houses around a Xth century church.
This is worth stopping to look at if you have time but from here is where things get interesting if you follow the signs to the menhir which is a large granite stone standing in a pine forest some 5 mins walk from Romanyà. Keep going along the marked path, past the village cemetery and you enter an old cork oak forest full of gnarled trees and filtered light. Soon you approach a small hill with what looks like some rocks on it and as you get closer it starts to take shape. This is the Dolmen of "La Cova d'en Daina" a 2,000 BC megalithic burial chamber surrounded by a cromlach of smaller stones forming an 11m circle around it.
The size and location under some huge cork oaks and pine trees was breathtaking. It is a place to just sit and wonder about, imparting a feeling of tranquility, peace and reflexion. It reminded me of Stonehenge before people were excluded from approaching the stones and the setting is Mediterranean instead of bleak England which makes it even better!
It's time for another World Press Photo exhibition which I saw in London last week and is already here in Barcelona until the 9th of December at the CCCB. There are some amazing pictures reflecting many of the "hot spots" from around the world in 2009. As always this exhibition is not for the squeamish, but then they only reflect the world we live in, unfortunately.
There are sections on landscapes and nature so not all the photos are grim war zone ones. Well worth a detour or even a special trip to see.
Another part of the festivities during the week long celebrations of Girona's patron saint Sant Narcis are various exhibitions of castellers. These are teams from different towns of Catalonia that "compete" in the building of human castles in the air. It all starts with a base of big beefy men dressed in their white canvas pants with a big black sash around their waists and usually coloured shirt and a scarf on their heads. From this solid base several more layers are added progressively and can get as high as 9 or 10 people with each layer perched on the shoulders of the one below. Usually as the castle gets higher the size of the people climbing gets smaller with only young children used in the final assault of the top where they have to stay still and raise one arm above their head to claim the completed castle and then come down again in reverse order without the whole edifice collapsing.
The skills are several; strength of the base and all the supporting layers, speed of completion to avoid undue stress and dexterity of climbing up the backs and shoulders of the various layers hooking their bare feet into the sashes to get footholds. Not all end in success and the crowd usually rushes in to catch any falling participants if one collapses.
It is a spectacular sight and accompanied with typical Catalan music at the same time raises the pulse every time.