Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sant Jordi's Day

Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan) was named the patron saint of Catalunya in 1456.  April 23 is the day all of Catalunya celebrates their patron saint. I was told by many locals, it's one of the most beautiful holidays in Barcelona. We ended classes a few hours early on the 23rd so the whole school could watch traditional Catalan dances like the sardana put on by the elementary school kids.   Then afterwards, I walked down Passeig de Gracia to see the city's celebrations.  A little history, then a little photography...
This is what the Metropolitan, an Anglophone magazine produced monthly in Barcelona, says about Saint George:

Sant Jordi (or Saint George) was a Roman soldier in the third century CE, who was eventually killed for speaking out against the persecution of his fellow Christians. He has been adopted as the patron saint in many countries, regions and cities, which each give their own spin to his story. In England, his appearance at key moments of some of the Crusades in the Middle Ages apparently sparked his original popularity there, whereas it was in Eastern Orthodox portrayals of the man that dragons and maidens are thought to have originated. There is also the work, The Golden Legend, a 13th-century collection of saints’ lives, which set a story of George and the dragon in Libya. Here in Catalunya, both Jordi’s role in helping embattled soldiers and his legendary dragon-slaying have found their place in local tales. The story of a town besieged by a fearsome dragon that has to keep the creature’s threats at bay by sacrificing its own inhabitants (eventually ending up with the daughter of the king, which is the moment that Jordi steps up to the plate) is, according to the Catalan version of events, not set across the Mediterranean but rather took place in the country town of Montblanc. Nowadays, the town makes the most of its famous association with Sant Jordi with a special medieval fair each April.

In Barcelona on this day, rose vendors and book sellers line the major streets of Barcelona.  Roses are supposed to be given as gifts for girls, and boys receive books.  As early as the 15th century, nobility took part in a mass at the Sant Jordi chapel at the Palau de la Generalitat on April 23rd, coinciding with a romantic Rose Fair at the palace.  That's where the rose tradition comes from.  

The book tradition comes from a few other fun facts:

April 23rd is the day William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died in 1626, so Spain's Day of the Book was changed in 1930 to April 23 (from October 7).  When the Day of the Book was changed to April 23, books soon became part of the Sant Jordi's Day celebrations. In 1995, April 23rd was declared by UNESCO the World Book and Copyright Day.  Book sales on the day of Sant Jordi represent 5-8% of total annual book sales in Catalunya.  In 2011, 19 million Euros were made from book sales on this day.

Here's our school's celebration.  Little kids dressed up like knights and damsels.

This is our administration team wearing the traditional Sant Jordi's clothes:
The male teachers stocking up on roses for their sweethearts:

Botifarra con pa amb tomaquet (sausage and bread with tomato) = traditional Catalan food.
Walking along Passeig de Gracia. Rose venders and book sellers.

Eventually it got so crowded that I had to turn around and head home. Easily peopled-out, I am.  But I love the tradition of the books and the roses!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dali's Gift to Gala: A Castle in Pubol

Today, my roommate, Anke, and I took to train to Flaca, a small town between Girona and Figueres, to walk along country roads to a village called Pubol.   In 1970, Salvador Dali bought a small medieval castle in this village and restored it as a gift for his wife, Gala.  This is the last of the sights that makes up "the Dali Triangle" in Catalunya, and it was so nice to head out there on a day like today, with spring unfolding.  From the Flaca train station, it is a 4km walk to Pubol.  I don't know how we did it, as we both have pretty good senses of direction, but both to and from Pubol, we headed in the complete opposite direction of where we were supposed to have gone, and though had lovely long walks on country roads, we had to ask for rides from locals both times to our end destinations.  Aah, it all worked out in the end!

The wildflowers in the fields were breathtaking...
This is the town of Pubol:
This is the exterior of the castle. Very modest in size.

The courtyard:

After Gala died in 1982, Dali lived permanently at the castle until a fire broke out in 1984 and injured him in the middle of the night. He was hospitalized and moved back to Figueres where he was born (and is now buried).

Though not as wacky as his home in Port Lligat, it was still full of kitsch.

The kitchen was like a country home. In fact, the whole castle was so cozy, not what you'd expect from a castle. It was neither dark, vast, nor cold.  As a result of seeing this castle, I am now quite comfortable with the notion of someone giving me one as a present. Anyone?

Again, Dali's artwork left unfinished as he left so suddenly after the fire.

This is the crypt where Gala is buried.  Dali prepared a tomb next to hers for himself as you can see, and I have heard two different stories about the fact that he is not buried there, but in Figueres. One is that he changed his mind and wanted to be buried in his hometown, and the other is that he was buried in Figueres against his wishes.

On his Cadillac in the garage:
The view from the backyard:

The terrace:

Look at the height of those Plane Trees!
The entrance to the garden:

Every time I leave one of the Dali sights, I am left with an appreciation of how joy-filled, loving, fulfilled, and loyal Dali and Gala were.  I learned at this castle-museum that when Dali offered the castle as a gift to Gala, she accepted on the condition that he would not visit her unless he received a letter from her inviting him. Her reason for this was that passion wanes with familiarity, unless the courting rituals are withheld!

The water fountains were elephant sculptures, the same long-legged creatures featured as motifs in many of his paintings.

Their neighbors. Can you imagine being Salvador Dali's neighbors? "You'll never believe who moved in next door!"

The church of Pubol:

Leaving Pubol behind... walk along country roads for over an hour going the wrong direction but loving every minute of it!

Spring is not complete in my heart until I have me some red poppy time: