I guess it would be strange to write about my time in Barcelona without mentioning the terrible tragedy that occurred there. Yes, Barcelona, my second home, was brutally attacked while I was visiting. In fact, I was just in Las Ramblas not too long before. And while I am so thankful that neither me nor anyone I care about was injured or even directly affected, my heart still breaks for Barcelona. It’s an indescribable feeling, but there’s something about Barcelona that makes you feel so incredibly safe. For example, most big cities have a kind of ‘sketchy’ night scene. Barcelona does not to me because there are all sorts of people walking around until 2am in the morning. Old, young, female, male, and all types of ethnicities. It feels safe. And now, I don’t know what to think. I still believe Barcelona is not dangerous, but my world changed. Nonetheless, I’m really happy to share Gràcia with you. I originally came to Barcelona in burning August because I wanted to see the Gràcia festival. Victor had been telling me about all the decorations and festivities at this time of year. And this year, I finally got to go!
I’ve organised this post by the winners, starting from the bottom and landing with the best I saw. Get ready for lots of colour!
22nd: Sant Jordi
I know a lot more about Sant Jordi/St. George than when I did when I took these photos. Sant Jordi has a famous legend across Catalunya and some unique traditions to promote the holiday. Like many Christian saints, Sant Jordi has his own holiday. In Catalunya, it is a tradition for gifts to be given on Sant Jordi’s Day. It has turned into a kind of Valentine’s Day alternative. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion – “a rose for love and a book forever.” In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary.
The legend behind Sant Jordi is that a terrible dragon terrorised the town. In exchange for peace, the town had to give up one of its own people everyday to the dragon. Finally, the King’s daughter was sent as a sacrifice. Sant Jordi saved the princess and slayed the dragon. This is why Carrer Maspons is decorated with a dragon, roses, and books. It all makes a lot more sense now, am I right?
21st: The Romani People
I passed by this very quickly because the sun was starting to burn and I had so many more streets to see! Plaça del Poble Romaní was actually quite interesting because it was dedicated to the Romani people of Barcelona. It was filled with music, snacks, workshops, and many things dedicated to the culture of Gypsies.
Carrer Berga put on a wonderful display of a candy shop in a circus-like atmosphere. Lots of colour, lots of fun! Filled with cakes, caramels, chocolate, and lots more sugar, this street was adorable.
19th: Without Borders
Carrer Ciudad Real went for a really interesting theme, perhaps one of the most in Gràcia this year. ‘Without Borders’ focuses on those who have escaped their homeland for a better place. There is a beautiful poem describing the theme and basically the message is that the world is full of borders, and those who struggled to cross those borders should not be forgotten. Borders are just borders, and such borders should not stop people from looking for a better life.
18th: Seaside Town
An interesting choice, Carrer Placeta de Sant Miquel i Rodalies (I know, a mouthful!) chose to copy a seaside town. The decorations are about the Mediterranean and the countries along it including Italy, Greece, France and parts of Spain including Catalunya and Valencia. The idea is to depict the daily life and characteristics of these seaside towns. Complete with hanging laundry and a busting market, Gràcia has its own city by the sea! It also reflects the refugee crisis which has impacted the Mediterranean. Often refugees come from Morocco to Spain, from Turkey to Greece.
17th: Off to the Circus
Carrer del Perill was actually the first street I ventured into. Circus-themed, I loved the simplicity and unity of this street. There were so many little details, like the tickets hanging from above and the activities for children.
What’s even cooler about this street is the fact that they paid homage to their own Circus theme from 1950.
What would rock and roll be without ambition, craziness, danger, and fun? It would be nothing and hence why it is still important to many people even today. I admit I never listened to my dad’s old rock ‘n’ roll vinyls… I listened to his classical music vinyls because I was that weirdo. But I’ve learned so much about rock ‘n’ roll since many stars have passed away within the past couple years. Carrer Mozart paid a great tribute to a great era. It was also just a really fun street!
Perhaps it is not too surprising for this theme to come up, but yes, Carrer Providència put on a 60s theme. It is stock full with peace symbols, colours, flowers, and happiness all around.
14th: Da Vinci
Simple but beautiful, Carrer Tordera put on a Leonardo Da Vinci street. Little details along the street made it spectacular, like the equations, gears, and wheels.
13th: The Little Prince
A charming and thoughtful presentation Plaça de la Vila (one of the main squares in Gràcia) picked The Little Prince as its topic of choice. The theme was ‘The essential is invisible to the eyes,’ inspired by the Little Prince. It tries to depict the drawings of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The plaça is divided into spaces depicting each of the little Prince’s adventures.
Now Carrer Puigmartí put on a great display which was a lot of fun! Perhaps the most fun!
If there’s something strange in you neighborhood
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
It was based on both the old and new versions of Ghostbusters. The finale with Gozer is shown at the end. Pretty epic!
11th: Punk Flamingos
As evident by the name of the theme, Punk Flamingos is based off of the movie Pink Flamingos. I admit I have not seen the film, but further research shows that it is a transgressive black comedy exploitation crime film with the main character being a drag queen. It is apparently famous for its outrageousness. I mean, we are talking nudity, profanity, and frivolity.
Carrer La Perla played with the theme to include flamingos throughout as well as a giant representation of the main character.
10th: Green It Up!
A street I did not venture into, Carrer Joan Blanques de Baix was an ode to nature itself.
9th: The Neverending Story
My personal favourite, Carrer Fraternitat de Dalt presented The Neverending Story. I saw so many smiles when people walked through this street because I think there’s a lot of nostalgia for this childhood staple.
For those of you who may not be familiar with The Neverending Story, it became popular from a 1984 adaptation but the original story is a book by a German writer. The main character is a young boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux who becomes entrenched in the world of Fantasia. Other memorable characters include Atreyu, another main character who is employed by the Childlike Empress to save Fantasia. There is also Engywook and Urgl (two gnomes), Falkor the Luckdragon, and Grograman. It is a truly wonderful world.
The decorations along Carrer Verdi del Mig were all about the abstract idea of different atmospheres. They create an imaginative world full of colour and texture. They try to focus on the senses so you can experience everything in every way possible.
Typically Carrer Verdi del Mig puts on a pretty impressive display. You can always expect something over the top, hence why the street was so incredibly dense and colourful!
Definitely one of my favourite streets, Carrer Llibertat became the Inferno. You enter the devil’s mouth and continue through a dark cave where you see demons and skeletons. Many greek mythological creatures emerge, including Cerberus.
Carrer Llibertat was also honouring their history because 30 years earlier, the theme Inferno won second place.
This street was over the top, and Victor and I loved it. I may be biased because I also got to try a traditional Catalan treat Coca de Vidre. Vidre in Catalan means glass, which reflects the bread because it is very thin and easy to break. The name also comes from the fact that when you pour the anisette (anise-flavored liqueur) into the flatbread right after the oven, the mixture of anisette and sugar crystallises. Right before putting on a show, the street organisers passed out boxes and boxes of Coca de Vidre—definitely a highlight of the day!
6th: Russian Revolution
Carrer Progrès depicted the Russian Revolution of 1917, marking 100 years since in 2017. It symbolises the end of the oppression of the Czar and the beginning of a new society based on mutual support and the solidarity of the working class.
Visitors were greeted by a giant statue of Lenin with a giant Kremlin behind. Inside the Kremlin there was stained-glass made out of cellophane.
There were so many great details throughout the street, like Russian propaganda, different types of workers, as well as symbols from the time.
The finale was probably the best. A cartoon-like scene with Lenin kicking out the Czar with a broomstick. I wouldn’t be able to think of a better depiction.
5th: Fantasy in White
“Fantasy in White” took over Plaça Rovira i Trias. This theme was perhaps the most complex in terms of the idea. The decorations play with the colour white, or the absence of colour. It also plays with colour through different constructions. During the day, the decorations will appear white, but during the night they transform to three colours representing the sky, land, and sea.
4th: King Kong
Carrer Fraternitat de Baix’s King Kong display was definitely one of my favourites. Walking up to King Kong climbing up the Empire State Building was just “plane” awesome.
My favourite part of the street were the planes flying with tissue paper contrails. Super creative!
A simple but beautiful display, Carrer Jesús depicted the life of a butterfly.
Once entering the green space, visitors are greeted by bright orange caterpillars. The next phase shows the caterpillars spinning into their cocoons. And finally, the cocoons open to reveal beautiful, colourful butterflies.
Ironically, the 1st and 2nd place winners are two of the three streets I did not explore! What are the chances! But in any case, it seems that the winners of Festa Major de Gràcia truly deserved their prizes. Carrer Joan Blanques de Baix came second with a theme centred around ‘Once upon a time.’ Carrer Travessia de Sant Antoni came first with its Skiing Resort town theme.
And, I believe it is now appropriate to say: that’s a wrap, folks! Though the 200th anniversary of Festa Gràcia was in some ways tainted by the tragic acts of terror, the streets still stood, the decorations still made people smile, and Barcelona still stands strong. I can’t wait till I can return!