Are you ready? Sit back, relax and try and enjoy the ride. Here follows the story of how we were “jugando con el muerte” (playing with death)
Early evening my wonderful Chilean flatmates and I set off to Plaza Aita Donostia in Bilbao. The sun was still shining and the stroll through the streets was refreshing as the feel of Autumn is now truly in the air. All the autumnal colours are every where to be seen, and the leaves are beginning to fall and drift from the trees all over the city.
After our walk to the plaza we were faced with un monton de personas and the sound of chatter in Castillian, Basque and even Catalan, something that I wasn’t expecting. The atmosphere of the crowd gathering was exciting, energising and made me want to join in with all the events.
As the clock struck six o’clock the first of the Castellers began to climb, up, up and up some more over each other until they managed to form this amazing tower. This photo shows one of the first towers made by the Castellers de Sants, it was something that I’ve wanted to see in a long time, see how they managed to do it, and now I’ve finally had the chance to watch, I’m even more impressed than I was before.
My understanding of the history behind all of this was fairly non-existent, but luckily enough for me there was a Spanish mother describing it all to her children…I took the chance to eaves drop.
It seems that the word Castell comes from the Catalan for Castle, and that in essence is what they we’re trying to achieve. To build as high a tower as possible, the most interesting part of their talk was that for the tower to actually count, the top person had to raise their hand, straight after the descent would begin and was done very quickly. Further into my eaves dropping I heard that the amount of lines of people supporting the tower was directly related to the amount of people in the tower. Another thing which surprised me was the young age of some of the children taking part, okay so they wore helmets but they were still super high.
You can see here the little girl raising her hand without a fear in the world, complete trust, something that reminds me of how fearless children really are. But this is nothing compared to the next one she took part in – you can just about recognise her right at the top.
The only thing that concerns me is the type of parents that allow their toddler to do this, but then again I guess it’s part of their Catalan heritage, and they need the little ones to get the higher towers.
As I continued to stare in awe and wonder as to how they were doing this we were handed a programme of the events, all be it in Basque, but we could just about understand it. We found out that the point of the Plazarik Plaza event was to present an exchange of culture between the Basques and the Catalans.
I got the impression that as they both want more independence from Spain they share a spirit, a unity. They had a certain chant that I would love to be able to share with you, but unfortunately listening to people shout in Basque and Catalan is not something that I can quite comprehend. But I think the photo below represents this quite nicely, from the left you can see the Catalan flag, the flag of the Castellers, and then the Basque flag (something that I want to own!) Unfortunately we were standing at the back, but I really liked how the two regions united and how brave all the children were.
After the Castellers de Sants had finished it was the turn of the dancers, another thing that I really enjoyed. The sun was beginning to set and the excitement of the crowd was in full swing. From a young age I’ve always loved all kinds of dance, except maybe hip hop, and it had been quite some time since I’d seen any live regional dancing. I’m not sure what to equate it to, I don’t think I can, it was individual and represents the individuality of the Catalans and the Basques themselves. The costumes were amazing and brought a massive smile to my face.
Beti Jai Alai was the name of the dance troop. They danced amazingly with the back drop of Bilbao and traditional music, something that I could not keep my eyes away from and could not stop from dancing along to like everyone else.
After all of this, it was time for a short break, some Pintxos, and what should have been mental preparation for the Diables de Sants. I’d heard that there’d be fireworks, but what I did not expect is that the fireworks would be less than five metres away from me and less than two metres in the air!
The Diables de Sants according to the local council consists of four fire beasts, the jellyfish, the unicorn, the bat and the goat who dance around with large maces in their hands which shot out fireworks and screeching sounds to the rhythm of hell. (The photo above should give you a good idea!)
They say a picture is worth a thousands words, so here are some of the photos which I took, which explain themselves just how health and safety went flying out the window with a bang!
As I was standing and watching, amongst the screams of fear, cries from children and ducking my head every so often to avoid the sparks headed in my direction, I was able to appreciate once again everything that Bilbao has given me. It’s given me free outdoor events, amazing food and wonderful views from all over the city.
I was slightly upset to think that I will not be in England for Guy Fawkes night this 5th of November, but after the events of last night I think it’s fair to say that I’ll have the memory of that for Fireworks night this year, something that I’ll treasure even though all my flatmates and I could keep saying was
Vamos a morir…we’re going to die!