Monday, 31 December 2012

'Vilanova Grand Marina - Barcelona' and the Beach 'Ribes Roges' in the Winter

Photos from a winter walk down to the beach platja de Ribes Roges and the luxury yachts in Vilanova Grand Marina - Barcelona; all in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Catalonia.

December Pictures from Vilanova i la Geltrú

Here are a few instagram photos taken during daily walks through Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona, Catalonia) in December 2012.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas in Penedès (Catalonia): Living Nativity Scenes, Midnight Masses and a lot more

Christmas, Boxing Week and New Years Eve (December 21-31) is an unusual time of the year from an events calendar point of view: Rarely do we have so many things going on at the same time, even in the smallest villages of Penedès. Equally rarely does it all, let us say, repeat itself so much, since everything is based on the same Catholic traditions: Living nativity scenes, Christmas masses and a lot of concerts.

You can - of course - enjoy and explore these cultural expressions anywhere in Catalonia, but I suggest you do so out here. The small towns of Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia will give it all a very special flavour! So, welcome to Penedès!

Find my full Penedès Agendas in English at

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Traditional Rooster Fair ('Fira del Gall') in Vilafranca del Penedes

Saturday and Sunday, December 15-16, were the days for this year's traditional Rooster Fair (Fira del Gall) in Vilafranca del  Penedès. Here are a few picture from the event.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Choir 'Stella Polaris' in Santa Lucia procession for Swedish ExPats in Barcelona

Saturday December 15, the Swedish community of Barcelona celebrated its annual Christmas mass followed by a get-together with glögg (Swedish mulled wine) and pepparkakor (Scandinavian ginger nuts).

This year, for the first time, the event took place in the church Església Evangèlica de Sant Pau (C/ Aragó, 51) - a very good choice, in my eyes.

Warm thanks to the Barcelona based Swedish choir Stella Polaris for the nice Santa Lucia procession.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Improve Europeans’ Image of Catalan Nationalism through Nous Catalans

In my contacts with fellow immigrants to Catalonia from Sweden and other EU countries, I am usually sadly surprised about the limited interest they take in the Catalan language and, on top of that, that they usually have an extremely negative image of our "regional" politics and politicians. Among expats who live and work in the centre of Barcelona, I feel that the majority are quite up-dated with the latest anti-catalanista arguments we tend to find in Madrid based press, radio and TV, while they do not seem equally receptive to the perspectives presented in Catalan media.

To blame this on a lack of knowledge of Catalan is too simplistic an explanation, since the Barcelona based quality newspaper LaVanguardia is readily available in Spanish. Neither can the reason be that these foreigners do not have Catalan "nationalists" among their neighbours, since the sum of the parties which (more or less) have this profile (CiU, ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP) always beats the number of votes for the typical unionist parties (PP anc C’s), even in municipalities like Cornellà del Llobregat, Castelldefels and Badalona.

So can it be that these foreigners simply do not have any natural spaces to interact with catalanistes? Or, alternatively, can it be that Catalan "nationalists" prefer to remain silent when their foreign-born neighbours or colleagues joke about or openly challenge, for example, the overwhelmingly well accepted Catalan education system? So far, I do not have the answers.

Catalonia is different and, to me, that is only fascinating! Ant it is a fact that among the European expats I know, who live further away from the centre of Barcelona, almost everyone accepts Catalan "nationalism" as something absolutely normal. Not all of us out here in the small towns are independentistes but very many of our friends are, and that makes understand that their Catalan identity is 100% genuine and does not have anything to do with a greed for money or political power – the typical explanations promoted in Madrid based media.

The time has come for me to start to actively discuss my picture of Catalonia with other expats. To leverage my efforts I have decided to join the association Nous Catalans (New Catalans) where they are just about to establish a section for us Europeans, Espai Europa.

The plans for now are to kick off early next year with a theme day on the topic “Entrepreneurship and Business, Catalonia and Europe” where we will invite all European residents (from the EU as well as other countries, not the least Russia) who want to learn to know Catalonia.

Are you interested in this project? If you are, please, let me know or get in direct contact with the head office of Nous Catalans.

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Just to clarify: Catalanisme (Catalan "nationalism") is not the same as independentisme (separatism). Let me exemplify: Today, we would not see as many manifestations of Catalan independentisme (the demand for a new European state) as we currently do, had only Spain and the EU been more prepared to accept a Catalan national identity, albeit as a nation without a state.

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Just in case: The second most voted party in Catalonia, PSC, has not been included here since although they defended the concept of Catalonia as a nation (see the original version of Estatut as approved by the Spanish parliament), they (as I interpret it) do not think that this nation has the right to decide its future unless the rest of Spain agrees to it.

Penedès this weekend: Rooster and Red Wine Fair in Vilafranca, English Theatre in Sitges

Cava and wine tourists in Catalonia will be happy to find out that this weekend - December 15-16 - there is a D.O. Penedès Red Wine Fair in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès). It is organized in connection with and at the same place as the more traditional rooster and chicken fair, Fira del Gall.

Foreigners living in Barcelona and looking for family entertainment in English might want to check out Sleeping Beauty by Sitges English Theatre Company in Sitges (Garraf), with shows December 14 -16.

Finally, on Sunday December 16, Catalan TV3 holds its big annual charity event, Marató TV3, this time collecting money for cancer research. In Penedès there will be several activities related to this, for example sardana dancing in Calafell, a concert in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) or a bicycle tour from Els Hostalets de Pierola to Igualada (Anoia). 

A good way to support Marató TV3 is to buy the Penedès charity t-shirts which you can find at

Full Penedès event calendars in English can be found at

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Vilanova i la Geltrú (Catalonia) on Swedish Public Radio

Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona) was well represented (some will say over represented) on Swedish radio in the weeks leading up to the elections to the parliament of Catalonia on 25 November 2012.

From here the program Konflikt (conflict) started its 24 minutes (!) long description and analysis of the political situation in Catalonia. As a backdrop of Catalan culture, journalist Lotten Collin used the the big human tower exhibition which was organised here to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the local team Bordegassos de Vilanova. Obviously, it was not her intention to focus on our little town, but when she returned to Barcelona to interview political experts and politicians representing separatism as well as unionism, she happened to meet Santi Rodríguez (PP-member of the Catalan parliament), who also he happens to come from here. The program was broadcast November 17 on P1 - the channel for current affairs – on Swedish public service radio.

It was also here in Vilanova i la Geltrú journalist Robin Olin met up with me, Erik Wirdheim, and carried out a light hearted interview about the meaning and manifestations of a Catalan national identity. The result was broadcast on November 25 as a part of the program Korrerapporten (approximately: the correspondent’s report) on P3 – the youth channel – on Swedish public servive radio. (The part on Catalonia starts at 27:00 while I, personally, turn up around 30:45.)

However, although Swedish radio listeners might now be slightly aware that there is a Catalan town with the name Vilanova i la Geltrú, I will do my best to make them hear more from us.

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Interestingly, Lotten Collin knew that there was a Swede present among the around 500 participants at the human tower exhibition she watched in Vilanova. I still do not know who told her...

Falcons de Vilafranca - Gymnastic Formations from Penedès (Catalonia)

Four videos from the end-of-season exhibition (dia de la colla) by Falcons de Vilafranca in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès). Falcons are gymnastic formations - thus not Catalan human towers (castells). This cultural expression is typical for the cava and wine region Penedès and has its historical origin in the small town Llorenç del Penedès (Baix Penedès).

Cava & Wine at 'VineTast' in El Vendrell

Atmosphere and product pictures from streets and squares of El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) during the gastronomy, cava and wine fair VineTast (7-9 December, 2012).

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Cava & Wine Fair in El Vendrell, ‘Falcons’ in Vilafranca del Penedès and more

For those of you who want to explore Penedès as the land of wine and cava, the fair Vine Tast in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) is the main event during the weekend 7-9 December, 2012. If you, on the other hand, above all want to have a cultural experience which you can only have here in Catalonia - and nowhere else in the world -, then the end-of-season exhibition by Falcons de Vilanfranca in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) is what you must not miss.

Full Penedès events calendars in English can be found here (comarca by comarca): Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia.

Welcome to Penedès!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Penedès This Weekend: Christmas Market in Canyelles, Cava and Wine in Sant Pau d’Ordal and more

Let me speculate: The average visitor from the Barcelona metropolitan area will go to the Santa Llúcia Christmas market in Canyelles (Garraf). The average international wine tourist will go to the Gastronomy, Cava Wine Fair in Sant Pau d’Ordal (Subirats, Alt Penedès). The typical tourist with a special interest has already arrived at the European TV Film Festival, Zoom Igualada (Anoia) and for us locals, the most unique event this time is the Fira de Sant Andreu in La Llacuna (Anoia). Do you agree?

Recommendations on what to do in the wine region Penedès during the weekend November 30 – December 2, can be found in the video above or, alternatively, in my full agendas in English for Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia, respectively.

Welcome to Penedès!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Voteu CiU per enviar un fort missatge d'unitat a Catalunya

Find here the version in English

A tots els meus veïns i veïnes que encara dubten a qui votar el proper diumenge, dia 25 de novembre, m'agradaria recordar-los sobre el valor dels símbols.

Com que mantinc la meva ciutadania sueca, no puc votar aquesta vegada, però ideològicament em sento proper a CiU (a CDC, per ser més precís). Comparteixo el seu compromís amb l’emprenedoria i alhora crec que aquesta formació política interpreta i presenta Catalunya d'una manera coherent amb la societat que m'envolta.

Molts de vosaltres no compartiu aquests sentiments, però encara així us demanaría que aquesta vegada almenys consideréssiu votar a Artur Mas. Per a tots i totes que creiem que Catalunya és una nació i defensem el dret d’aquest poble a decidir el seu futur, no puc imaginar un senyal més fort d’unitat catalana que si un partit polític obtingués més de la meitat dels escons al parlament. I us puc prometre que axiò, si passés, tindria un efecte immens sobre i a través dels mitjans de comunicació internacionals.

Una majoria absoluta de CiU permetria a la vegada que el nou govern de no hagués de pactar cada possible assumpte amb altres partits, sinó pogués centrar-se en els objectius principals. Des del meu punt de vista, això l'ajudaria a estabilitzar el nostre viatge per als propers anys - previsiblement turbulent -, i en tot cas enfortiria la posició de Catalunya en les negociacions amb Madrid i amb la UE.

Però que passaria si CiU abusés de la vostra confiança i prengués una altra ruta de la que està prometent ara? O si al final resultaria que Artur Mas hagués estat involucrat en algún cas de corrupció? Bé, personalment no crec que això passarà, però entenc les vostres preocupacions i us demanaria no subestimar la força de la democràcia que teniu. Recordeu els missatges que els catalans i catalanes – sortint als carrers -, han aconseguit comunicar al món sencer recentment: En primer lloc el dia 11 de setembre, amb una forta crida per a "Catalunya - un nou estat d’Europa" i després, el dia 14 de novembre, amb protestes contra els efectes de les mesures d'austeritat en l'estat de benestar públic combinats amb un nivell inacceptable d'atur. Un poble amb aquesta capacitat de mobilitzar-se pot obligar a qualsevol govern a dimitir.

Aquestes eleccions canviaran la manera com el món veu Catalunya. Per què no optar pel màxim impacte?

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Quant als rumors de corrupció que han contaminat els últims dies del debat electoral a Catalunya, estic totalment d'acord amb en Toni Soler. No hem d’escoltar unes acusacions fetes per un diari molt conservador y centrista, sinó confiar en Artur Mas i alhora esperar que CiU sàpiga valorar el patrimoni que això significa.

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Una altra raó que tinc per confiar en la salut de la democràcia catalana és la vitalitat del sistema de partits. Aquest diumenge - per tercera vegada consecutiva - un partit polític entrarà al Parlament de Catalunya - obviament estic parlant de les CUP.

Com a liberal no estic en absolut d'acord amb el missatge anticapitalista de CUP, però porto molts anys seguint la seva gent al nivell municipal de Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) i precisament això m'ha donat un gran respecte per aquest moviment. A Suècia no tenim cap força política que treballa així des del nivell de base, activament fomentant la participació dels joves en la política, ensenyant-los els processos i els valors de la presa de decisions democràtica.

Mai abans en la meva vida m’he trobat amb una organització tan poc jeràrquica, on es fácil connectar amb els seus representants i no només durant les campanyes electorals. Tots i totes tenim molt a guanyar si aquest partit - "unit, al·legre i compatiu" - pot tenir un rol similar per al control i la transparència de la política catalana com el que ja està exercint a la nostra ciutat. Així que, tot i que jo mai votaria CUP, he de confessar que admiro la seva creativa campanya electoral. Fes un cop d'ull a aquest vídeo en alemany que els militants han creat destinada per a l’Angela Merkel.

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La gran pregunta de les eleccions el dia 25 de novembre no és la possible independència de Catalunya, sinó si els catalans i les catalanes ténen el dret a decidir el seu propi futur o si un referéndum només es pot realitzar juntament amb els altres pobles de l’Estat Espanyol. Personalment dono un ferm soport al dret a decidir i espero que una futur consulta per fi pugui aclarir les posicions de la nostra societat en aquest conflicte que – tot i que de baixa intensitat - sempre he sentit al meu entorn durant tots els vuit anys que ja porto vivint a Catalunya.

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Per adelantat s'agraeix tot tipus d'ajuda per millorar el nivell lingüístic d'aquest post.

Penedès this weekend: Festa Major in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia

Compared to earlier weeks, the weekend November 23-25 is relatively calm here in the wine region Penedès (Catalonia), well, at least with the exception of the Sant Sadurní d'Anoia (Alt Penedès) - the Capital of our sparkling wine Cava - where they celebrate their main annual town festival - Festa Major de Sant Sadurní.

Find more recommendations in the video here above or, alternatively, in my full agendas in English for Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia.

Discover Penedès!

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The new format? Well, in the middle of the still Festongoing campaign for the November 25 elections in Catalonia , US based blogger Liz Castro decided to go from written articles to videos and I find her results so inspiring that I want to give it a try. What do you think?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Vote CiU to Send Strong Message about Unity in Catalonia

Aquí trobeu la versió en català

To all my Catalan neighbours who are still doubt for whom to vote coming Sunday, November 25, I would want to remind you about the value of symbols.

Since I am a Swedish citizen, I am not allowed to vote this time, but I feel ideologically close to CiU (CDC, to be more precise). I share their commitment to free enterprise and at the same time I think they interpret and present Catalonia in a way which matches with the society that surrounds me.

Many of you will not share these feelings, but I still ask you to consider voting for Artur Mas this time. For all of us who think that Catalonia is a nation and defend the Catalans’ right to decide their own future, I cannot imagine a stronger signal of Catalan unity than one party taking more than half of the seats in the parliament. And I can promise you that, if this happens, it will have an immense effect on and through international media.

An absolute majority for CiU will at the same time allow the new government not to have to discuss ever single issue with other political forces but focus on the big picture. In my eyes, this will help to stabilize our foreseeably turbulent journey during the coming years and, under all circumstances, strengthen Catalonia’s position in negotiations with Madrid and the EU.

But what if CiU abuses your confidence and takes another route than what they are promising today? What if it turns out that Artur Mas has indeed been involved in corruption? Well, personally I do not think that this will happen, but I understand your concerns and would ask you not to underestimate the force of democracy here. Remember the messages which Catalans have recently managed to communicate to the world by taking to the streets: First, on September 11, a strong demand for “Catalonia – a new state in Europe” and then, on November 14, protests against the effects of austerity measures in the public welfare state and unacceptable unemployment levels. A people with this capacity to mobilize can force any government to step down.

These elections will change the way the world sees Catalonia. Why not opt for maximum impact?

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Regarding the rumours about corruption which has tainted the debate in Catalonia during the last few days, I fully agree with Toni Soler. Let us not listen to allegations made by a highly conservative, pro-centralization newspaper, but have confidence in Artur Mas and hope that CiU fully appreciates the value of our trust.

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Another reason I see for feeling confident about the health of Catalan democracy is the vitality of the party system. On Sunday - for the third time in a row - a new political party will enter the parliament of Catalonia – I am of course talking about CUP.

As a liberal I do not at all agree with CUP's anti-capitalist message, but for several years I have followed them on the municipal level here in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona) and that has given me a big respect for this movement. In Sweden, we do not have any political force working like this from the grass root level, by actively involving young people in politics and teaching them the processes and values of democratic decision making.

Never before in my life have I met a party with such a flat organization, where you easily can connect with its representatives, not only during election campaigns. If these people - “united, happy and prepared to fight” for what they believe in - can play a similar role for the scrutiny and transparency of Catalan politics as they do here in our town, then we all have a lot to win. So, although I would never vote for them, I confess that I admire their creative election campaign. Check out this video in German which they have made for Angela Merkel.

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The November 25 elections are not about a possible independence of Catalonia, but about whether Catalans should have the right to decide their own future or can only be allowed to do so together with the rest of Spain. I am firmly for Catalans’ right to decide and hope that a future referendum can finally clear the air in this low-intense conflict which I have always felt around me during the now eight years I have been living in Catalonia.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Santa Cecilia – Patron Saint of Musicians – Arrives in Penedès with Concerts

November 18 the Catholic world celebrates Santa Cecilia and since she is the patron saint of musicians that will set the tone – xist! ;) – for the whole weekend, November 16-18. Find here full events calendars in English: Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia.

The most vivid Santa Cecilia traditions can be found in Igualada (Anoia) and are centered around a so called missa cantata – a full religious mass sung by the choirs of the town. There will also be concerts in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès), Sitges (Garraf), Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) but the town which I think deserve a special mention is Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), where the local chamber orchestra Camerata Eduard Toldrà presents its first concerts under its new name.

Cava and wine tourists can look forward to a winery tour with a tasting in Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf), but might also be interested in sampling freshly pressed olive oil at the festival in Piera (Anoia).

Visitors who focus on shopping – and above all outlet bargains – should go to Igualada and take a stroll among the pop-up stores of Rec.06.

Those interested in Catalan culture will be sad to hear that from now, and up to about the April Sant Jordi celebrations next year, we will not see many human towers (castells) neither in Penedès, nor in the rest of Catalonia. However, in Vilafranca del Penedès as well as in Vilanova i la Geltrú you will be able to see the national dance, la Sardana.

If you want to experience the feelings which sports can provoke among the fans, then there is a roller hockey Penedès derby in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès).

And, finally, if you need to find activities for your children, you can chose between an interesting historical workshop in El Vendrell, a magic performance in La Gornal (Castellet i la Gornal, Alt Penedès) or story telling in English in Cunit (Baix Penedès).

Our beaches are almost empty, the wine harvest season is just about to end, but as you see: Penedès has a lot to offer!

Friday, 9 November 2012

European Day of Cava & Wine Tourism + Surprigingly Many Other Events in Penedès!

November 11 is the European Day of Wine Tourism and that makes Penedès offer even more events for the weekend November 9-11 than we usually see during the most intensive weeks of the summer. Focused around Alt Penedès there will open house visits at numerous wineries and cava producers, the International Cava and Wine Film Festival Most in Vilafranca del Penedès, guided tours related to grapes, vineyards and wine in Vilafranca, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Gelida plus a wine harvest festival in La Ràpita (Santa Margarida i els Monjos).

However, at the same time Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) celebrates its biggest autumn event: Fira de Novembre – an annual trade fair which comes with a Saturday Shoppping Night plus, as always, several cultural activities. This year the program is especially rich for tourists interested in Catalan culture: on top of a xató salad festival (xatonada popular – the best xató comes from Vilanova!) and sardana dancing, the town will host the last major human tower (castells) exhibition of the season 2012. The local team Bordegassos de Vilanova celebrate their 40th anniversary and have invited all teams older than themselves to take part. This means that the Catalan top teams Castellers de Vilafranca and Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls will both be present, but also Nens del Vendrell and Minyons de l’Arboç.

Human towers can also be seen in Sant Martí de Tous, which as far as I can see will be the last exhibition in Anoia this year. Those who prefer more modern cultural expressions will have a contemporary dance performance in Igualada (Anoia) and a jazz concert in Vilafranca del Penedès.

Tourist interested in sports, finally, might want to check out the organized bicycle tour Barcelona-Sitges (Garraf), the mountain duathlon in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) or a taekwondo competition in Sitges.

Full Penedès event calendars in English can be found here. As you will see, Penedès is cava and wine but also a lot more!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Penedès is wine, cava, human towers, rink hockey and the liqueur ratafia

Only a few days ago it seemed as if the weekend would again come with rain – something we are not used to here in Penedès. Now the forecast for November 2-4 looks more promising, but be prepared for cloudy skies and bring an umbrella, just in case. Below are a few tips about things to do, while my full event calendars in English can be found here.

Cava and wine tourists will be happy to learn that there is a grape harvest festival in La Ràpita (Santa Margarida i Els Monjos, Alt Penedès) and a cava market in Les Roquetes (Sant Pere de Ribes, Garraf). For those of you who prefer stronger drinks, Igualada (Anoia) holds a fair where they present and sell a typical Mediterranean liqueur called ratafia.

If you want to experience Catalan culture, some of the last human tower exhibition (castells) this year can be found in Igualada and in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès). In El Vendrell there will also be a parade with folk dances and devils dancing under fire, related to an event called Correllengua – an initiative which moves from one town to another and aims at strengthening the position of the Catalan language. In Cunit (Baix Penedès) you will be able to see children performing the Catalan national dance, Sardana.

If you want to watch a sport with a local flavour, I would recommend rink hockey, since teams from Penedès and the rest of Catalonia totally dominate the Spanish premier leage (OK liga). In Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) there is an international U15 rink hockey tournament with teams from seven countries and in Igualada there is a derby between local Igualada H.C. and C.P. Calafell Tot l’Any. If this sounds too calm for you, there is also a muay thai (Thai kick boxing) competition in Calafell (Baix Penedès).

If on the other hand, you are a calm person who prefers to learn more about our Penedès history, architecture and landscapes, there are several guided tours, for example in Vilafranca del Penedès, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Olèrdola (all three in Alt Penedès) as well as in Sitges.

Welcome to Penedès!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Penedès is Cava, Wine, Human Towers, Sardana and… Faraday Independent Music Festival

When I write this, it is raining heavily in Vilanova i la Geltrú, in the coastal parts of Penedès, but according to the forecast, we will have a quite nice weather this weekend, October 26-28. True, it seems it will be better here along the coast than in the inland and, true, temperatures are expected to drop quite dramatically from Saturday to Sunday. But still, it is autumn so what did we expect, after all?

Below are a few tips on things to do while full events calendars in English can be found here.

In case you come here as cava and wine tourists, then the wine harvest festival in Sant Pere de Riudebitlles (Alt Penedès) is the main event, but – in case you are interested in the Catalan language – you might also want to go to the presentation of wine related drinking songs in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès). As a contrast, in L’Espelt (Òdena, Anoia) there will be a craft beer fair.

For those who want to explore typical Catalan cultural expressions there will be human tower exhibitions (castells) in Sitges (Garraf) and L’Arboç (Baix Penedès), both visited by some of the best teams in Catalonia. In Piera (Anoia) you will be able to see a typical festival parade (cercavila) with giants, monsters spitting fire and devils dancing under it. The Catalan national dance – sardana – will be performed in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) as well as in Sitges.

For those of you who prefer contemporary culture, the autumn edition (taking place indoors) of the independent music festival Faraday in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) will be a warmly recommended alternative.

Fans of sports, finally, can find a roller hockey derby in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès) – that is, if you prefer to watch – and – in case you want to sweat a bit - a mountain running race in the areas around Capellades (Anoia), where the Neanderthals used to live some 55.000 years ago.

The summer is gone – but Garraf, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Anoia still havea lot to offer. Discover Penedès!

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Attention: Thursday, November 1, next week is a public holidayTots Sants.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Bacardí, Slot Cars or Autumn Food for Rainy Weekend in Wine Region Penedès (Catalonia)

After yet another sunny and warm autumn week in the cava and wine region Penedès, unfortunately we are expecting rain for the weekend October 19-21 when most cultural activities and festivals take place.

So, if worse comes to worst, let us be happy that there are a few indoor activities in the events calendars for this part of Catalonia.

In Canyelles (Garraf) you will be able to enjoy typical autumn food and music at the so called Dixiland-Tast and in Sitges (Garraf) there are guided tours in the museum dedicated to the founders of the liquor brand Bacardí. For those with a general interest in sports, there is a roller hockey derby between two teams from Penedès in Calafell (Baix Penedès).

If you happen to be interested in slot cars then you are especially fortunate since there will be races in an exhibition hall in Igualada (Anoia).

On top of this you can find a classic music concert in Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès), a dance performance in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), theatre in English in Sitges and a concert with Catholic religious music in Igualada.

Having said this, if the weather allows for it you can look forward to a lot more typically “Mediterranean” outdoor events.

There will be D.O. Penedès Wine Harvest Festivals in Avinyonet del Penedès, Castellví de la Marca and Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues (all three in Alt Penedès) and a running race through the rural landscapes of the “country of cava” – starting in Vilafranca del Penedès and finishing in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès).

Those of you interested in Catalan culture will – as I do – cross your fingers for a pause in the (expected) rain during the exhibitions of human towers (castells) in Sant Pere de Ribes (Garraf) and the gymnastic formations (falcons) in Vilanova i la Geltrú.

As a contrast, in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) there will be a performance of dances – including flamenco - from the Spanish autonomous community of Extremadura.

The Harley Davidson meeting in Segur de Calafell, finally, will most likely attract a few participants even if it rains, but let us be honest: Penedès is better during our, on average, 300 annual days of sunshine!

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And if you despair in the rain: Remember that the city centre of Barcelona – with all its fascinating museums, shopping and exhibition halls – is within reach. From most parts of Penedès it takes less than 45 minutes to reach the capital of Catalonia by car!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Zombies in Sitges, Special Olympics Barcelona-Vilanova and a lot more going on in Penedès!

October 12 is the National Day of Spain el día de la Hispanidad – but out in Penedès you will not see much other effects than shops and businesses being closed, since this is a public holiday. In some companies and institutions people might even work, in order to stress that they do not consider Catalonia a part of Spain.

If you come here during this long weekend - pont (bridge) in Catalan -, October 12-14, you might want to check out the following events and festivals.

In Sitges (Garraf) the International Film Festival of Catalonia has been going on for a week and will reach its end only coming Sunday. Friday night, the traditional Zombie Walk will take place in the town centre.

In Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf), Barcelona celebrates that 20 years have passed since the city hosted the official Paralympic Games 1992. For that reason, over a thousand sportsmen and women from Spain and beyond will compete in the disciplines selected for Special Olympics Barcelona-Vilanova i la Geltrú 2012.

Cava and wine tourists might want to visit Sant Cugat de Sesgarrigues, Font-Rubí and Castellví de la Marca (all three located in Alt Penedès) where they hold wine harvest festivals (festes del most) this weekend.

Shopping minded people might prefer to check out the multi-sectorial trade fair Fira de Santa Teresa in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) or the Medieveal Markt in Olesa de Bonesvalls (Alt Penedès).

Those of you who are interested in Catalan culture ought to go to El Vendrell or Vilafranca del Penedès (Alt Penedès) in case you want to see human towers (castells). The Catalan national dance sardana, on the other hand, will be performed in Calafell and Cunit (the two in Baix Penedès), Igualada (Anoia), and in El Vendrell and Vilafranca del Penedès. In Coma-Ruga (El Vendrell, Baix Penedès), finally, there will be a concert by people playing the wind instrument gralla.

Full event calendars for the wine region Penedès (Catalonia) can be found here. Welcome to Penedès!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Great Bordegassos at Catalan Human Tower Competition in Tarragona 2012

Bordegassos de Vilanova took the 12 place in the 2012 Concurs de Castells by completing the human towers 4d8, 3d8 and 2d8f.” Honestly, how many of us here in Vilanova i la Geltrú would have believed in such a headline only a year ago? I dare to answer nobody. Many of us who are active in the team would have answered that this would be our dream and that we would not rule it out, but the fantastic result we now have at hand would simply have seemed out of reach. 

Not only because, back then, we had just recuperated a certain stability with 2d7 and just completed our first 4d8 for many years. No, among us there was also a conviction that a big part of the team was still against participating in the bi-annual Concurs de Castells, with the argument that building human towers is a social activity in which you must not compete.

2d8f by Bordegassos de Vilanova: photo by Maite Gomà

Looking back I will admit that, to me, that always looked like an excuse from a bad loser. Those who used to say it were just as sad and obsessed with our lack of good results as those of us who admitted having a more competitive mindset. And that is not strange – we all wanted to for Bordegassos to a be a major ingredient in our pride of Vilanova i la Geltrú, but what was there to be proud of when we did not deliver?

Now this has all changed, thanks to our head coach (cap de collaEdgar Granados and the rest of his team. At the Festa Major in Vilanova last year, they challenged our confidence in ourselves by deciding that we were to build a 2d7 – which we at that point did not master – and surprised us by proving our own capability. That was the starting point of a positive spiral which only seem to be spinning faster and faster. The annual objectives we had set up for this year were  surpassed several weeks ago.

3d8 by Bordegassos de Vilanova: photo by Maite Gomà

Last weekend, for our day of the human tower competition, we managed to mobilize 300 people to join us in a performance away from home. By completing the human towers 4d8, 3d8 and our first 2d8f since 2002 we ended up as prelimary winners of the first day and took the 12th place in total! Amazing!

To our coaches, to those of my fellow team members who always come to our rehearsals and to all new friends who will hopefully continue to help us, I want to extend my warmest thanks for making all this possible.

Visca els Bordegassos de Vilanova!

4d8 by Bordegassos de Vilanova: photo by Maite Gomà

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Do you want to know more about Bordegassos de Vilanova? You find us in our club house in plaça de les Casernes, 2, where we practise on Mondays (20:00-21:00), Wednesdays (19:30-21:00) and Fridays (22:00-24:00). To watch or joins us building human towers is free of charge. Please, feel free to pass by to check if this something for you or for your children!

photo by Maite Gomà

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My strongest personal memories from the long Saturday I spent at Concurs de Castells?

… The silence in the base (pinya) when the second support ring (folre) climbed up on us for the 2d8f.  Compared to other teams, Bordegassos are exaggeratedly talkative human tower builders and when we have rehearsed the pinya amb folre the noise level of all unnecessary complaints have always been so high, that you have not been able to hear our coaches’ instructions. Not so during the competition – for a change we understood the importance of the situation and kept our mouths shut!

… The great support we received from fellow Penedès team Nens del Vendrell, who joined our pinyes, which we reciprocated by doing the same for them. (Personally, I made to loops to their part of in Tarraco Arena Plaça, most importantly for their splendid 2d8f.) This sportsmanship felt so absolutely natural there and then, but was observed and appreciated beyond the circles of our two teams. Just like my love for our neighbour town Vilafranca del Penedès has its origin in a deep admiration of Castellers de Vilafranca, thanks to Nens del Vendrell I am starting to warm up to the town of El Vendrell.

… And, of course, my own children who endured the five hours in the arena without complaining. They looked so cute dressed up as-if Bordegassos, although neither of them shows the slightest interest in trying to climb up on a human tower.

photo by Maite Gomà

Penedès Teams Dominate First Day of Human Tower Competition in Tarragona 2012

2d8f by Nens del Vendrell; photo by Maite Gomà

Castellers de Vilafranca, who won the 2012 edition of the human tower competition Concurs de Castells in Tarragona, was the only team representing Penedès on the main day, the Sunday. However, on the day before, the other teams from Penedès proved great strength.

Bordegassos de Vilanova (Vilanova i la Geltrú, Garraf) won the Saturday competition with 1.512 points and reached the 12th place in total. That, of course, merits a separate blog post.

2d8f (c) by Xicots de Vilafranca; photo by Maite Gomà

Xicots de Vilafranca (Vilafranca del Penedes, Alt Penedès) had been the favourites for the first day, but had to accept a third first day position and a 14th place in total. They reached 1.389 points based on 4d8, 3d8 and – most importantly - 2d8f which they (on two occasions!) managed to crown but not complete. (Read more in Catalan: Xicots de Vilafranca)

Nens del Vendrell (El Vendrell, Baix Penedès) achieved 1.233 points and a 17th place in total. However, the constructions they made – 7d7, 3d8 and – above all – 2d8f -, made this day their best performance since 1976. (Read more in Catalan: Nens del Vendrell)

Moixiganguers d’Igualada (Igualada, Anoia) made the best performance ever in history. They took the 18th place by reaching 1.080 points with 2d7, 9d7 and 4d8. (Read more in Catalan: Moixiganguers d'Igualada)

2d7 by Colla Jove Castellers de Sitges; photo by Maite Gomà

Colla Jove dels Castellers de Sitges (Sitges, Garraf) started the day with an unnecessary, partial fall of a 7d7 but got back on track and made their best total performance ever outside their home town. With 849 points, they took the 22 place based on 3d7ps, 7d7 and 2d7. (Read more in Catalan and find photo and video documentation: Colla Jove Castellers de Sitges)

Minyons de l’Arboç (L’Arboç, Baix Penedès), finally, reached 623 points with 5d7, 4d7a and 7d7. They ended up in the 28th place, but let us remember that they come from a small town with just over 5.000 inhabitants.

7d7 by Colla Jove Castellers de Sitges; photo by Maite Gomà

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Castellers de Vilafranca Win 2012 Human Tower Competition in Tarragona

Saturday and Sunday October 6-7, the bi-annual human tower competiton Concurs de Castells took place at Tarraco Arena Plaça in Tarragona, Catalonia. I will not be able to do full justice to the Sunday competition, since I could not go to the top fight this time. At the same time I want to comment on some of the many strong emotions I lived during the Saturday, when I was there with Bordegassos de Vilanova and feel that I cannot do so without first mentioning the overall winners. So here we go:

For the sixth time in a row, Castellers de Vilafranca from our neighbour town Vilafranca del Penedès won Concurs de Castells, this time with 15.197 points and after having built four constructions of the most difficult category, gamma extra: 4d9fa (c), 3d9fa (c), 2d8net and 4d9net. Only the latter three resulted in points (since only the best three castells count) and of these the last one caused the biggest celebration since it has never been completed by the green team before and, as I understand it, has not been completed by any team in the modern era of Catalan human towers.

In a shared second place we surprisingly saw Colla dels Joves Xiquets de Valls equaling the score of Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls. The two teams from Valls – the birthplace of the casteller culture – both reached 7.284 points with the same human towers, albeit not in the same order: 3d9f plus the two gamma extra constructions 9d8 and 5d9f.

In the fourth place with 5,178 points we found Colla Jove dels Castellers de Tarragona which completed 4d9f, 3d9f and one gamma extra construction, 9d8. The fifth place went to Capgrossos de Mataró who reached 4.913 points by completing 4d9f, 3d9f and crowned (but did not complete) the gamma extra construction 2d9fm.

To round off, I would like to highlight that the total score for Castellers de Vilafranca this time was the highest ever achieved in this competition and more than doubled those of the teams in the second place. On top of this, each and every one of the four green constructions was worth more points than the most advanced human tower performed by any other team on this day. That illustrates how completely this team dominates the world of Catalan human towers!

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British Mail Online wrote an article about Concurs de Castells where they used one of my videos of Bordegassos de Vilanova for a close up picture.

Friday, 5 October 2012

CavaTast, Sitges Film Festival, FIMPT or an Iberian Weekend?

A fast look at the events calendars for Penedès for this weekend, October 5-7, confirm that our local decision makers do not coordinate their event planning at all. For a short moment I considered being evil and ranking the events (that would certainly have made me loved by a few cava producers up in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, but hated by most of my neighbours…) but then I realized that I do not need to. Possibly, I am one of the few who want to go to all the four festivals we will have here now – most other people might have more specific preferences.

Cava and wine tourists in the D.O. Penedès simply have to pass by CavaTast, the cava week and market in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès) – a unique opportunity to sample and buy this “sparkling happiness”!

Fans of fantasy of horror movies will already be in Sitges (Garraf) where the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia has already begun and will continue throughout next week and weekend.

Music lovers – especially those interested in traditional Catalan music – will want to go to FIMPT – the world music festival of Vilanova i la Geltrú (Garraf) – from this year celebrated in the autumn, and not in the summer as earlier.

People interested in history, finally, will want to combine visits to the Citadel of Calafell (Baix Penedès) and the old fortress of Olèrdola (Alt Penedès) where they organize an Iberian Weekend.

So, these were the four big theme activities this weekend, but there is a lot more going on.

Those of you who are interested in sports should, above all, consider the roller hockey Penedès super-derby between C.P. Calafell Tot l’Any and Moritz C.E. Vendrell taking place in Calafell, but also the half marathon in El Vendrell (Baix Penedès) or the scenic swimming competition Marnaton along the coast of the nature reserve Garraf, starting in Sitges.

This time Penedès has too much to offer – please, interpret it as an invitation to come here now, and then come back again… and again... and again!

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You might wonder why there are not any human tower exhibitions this weekend. The answer is simple – precisely this weekend Tarragona (less than 45 minutes away from here) will see the biggest competition there is a Catalonia, the bi-annual Concurs de Castells in Tarraco Arena Plaça.

Among the 20 teams on the Saturday, Penedès is represented by Bordegassos de Vilanova, Colla Jove de Castellers de Sitges, Minyons de l’Arboç, Moixiganguers d’Igualada, Nens del Vendrell and Xicots de Vilafranca.

And on the Sunday, Castellers de Vilafranca are alone among 11 other teams from outside Penedès. In my heart, I will be there with them – in all honesty I was a fan of the green team (“els Verds”) long before I put on Bordegassos’ yellow shirt for the first time!

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By Erik Wirdheim – your guide to Catalan society and culture with a special focus on the cava and wine region Penedès.