Baptism of Fire

Baptism of Fire
The dancing devil by La Vella Gracia.

~ how NOT to prepare for an adventure ~

A new beginning

Image of Park Güell mosaics.

The outer battlements of Park Güell in the early morning, tourists are already streaming in.

The morning broke, as it always does, with the ringing of the clock reminding me of the fact that I should have made the appointment with my bed sooner. Already, one could tell that insanity was afoot in the neighbourhood since the ringing of the clock was accompanied by gunfire. Attributing those to the holiday, the bed was calling again…

With the sun shining through the slits in the blinds, warning that I have to make haste to get a few nice pictures of my destination – Park Güell, I thus abandoned my attempt to go back to sleep.

An aside on Park Güell

One of the better maintained parks of Barcelona, thanks to it being a major tourist attraction. The lower part of the park is taken up by the monument area, with the Gaudi museum and the iconic terrace amongst them.
On the upper levels, a beautiful view of the central part of the city opens up to those who make the journey. Since it is one of the major tourist attractions, I recommend visiting the place in off-peak hours: very early or very late in the day. Those who come in before sunrise will have a treat of an enjoyable wandering and a nice view of Barcelona waking up. The evening, of course, will greet you with fiery hilltops and – if you’re lucky and the weather is not perfect, with fiery skies.
Additional benefit for the early birds: the visit to the monument area is free until 0800. Afterward the park becomes saturated with tourists fast.


The morning tour of the park was short – 0830 is, after all, a tad late. The sun shows its merciless nature and the tourists are starting to swarm the premises. Having made a mental note of coming back at 0700, with a fresh mind I was off to the office – the local holiday be damned.

PhD comics - debugging

A typical day in the life at BSC. (Image due to PhD comics Jorge Cham

Bad news were waiting at the office, for due to errors in a matrix-conversion routine I’ve been using, my numerical experiments did not even get going. The menu for the day was thus set to “Debugging”.

Off the clock

After a day’s work – a few hours, really – as a pest exterminator of the digital kind, off we went back to the barracks, to catch the parade in our part of Barcelona.

This year, this week, the Grácia quarter of Barcelona is celebrating its 200th anniversary. Meaning: Where once you had trouble strolling along due to tourists, you now have trouble strolling due to colorful stalls.

Note to self: Explore that one further.

Before going off to the parade I figured I’d change into something more comfortable to move around, since I expected to run around a lot taking pictures. Thus I changed into a pair of lightweight shorts and shoes I bought specifically for sports. As anyone will know, those are basically purely synthetic – we shall return to this point later. With this done it was time to go, for

A participant showering a bystander in sparks at close range.

The dangers (or joy) of participating in “Festa Mejor” – this is the moment I should’ve noticed that I chose the wrong clothes for this festival!

we didn’t want to miss the beginning of the parade.

La Festa Mejor de Gràcia.

The week is then filled with minor and major events taking place all over the Barri de Gràcia.
According to a current exhibition on the major festivals in Spain at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge the FM Gràcia is based entirely upon
popular contributions. The work going on in the workshops in the evenings leading up to the festival is
what has originally alerted me to its presence. Spoiler alert: Most (if not all) of the spectacular decorations
to be found throughout the quarter are made from reused plastic bottles, papier-mâché and a lot of sellotape.
The creative process made me actually want to join, perhaps I should seek a PhD position in Barcelona…


For starters, we situated ourselves not far from the start of the parade, at Pl. Trilla – a nice and open space to watch the festivities. When the procession rolled by, the sparks of insanity already started to show themselves. Noise and fireworks, sweets and a lot of jumping around – also: children screaming. And the people participating in the parade apparently thoroughly enjoying chasing bystanders with fireworks. The fireworks clearly weren’t approved by the German TÜV since their firepower was quite something. The first burns were nursed by the harvest of sweets and after the procession rolled by my conclusion was:

“Well.. That wasn’t all that great. Each group was more or less the same.”

Being good scientists, Aleksander and I decided to ascertain our findings by doing a second observation run.

Devil costume with fireworks.

The dancing devil by La Vella Gracia.

Dance with the devil

And so we cut through Gracia and went meandering to Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla where we rendezvous-ed with the head of the parade. Here, it was now obvious, that the procession was just revving up at the beginning, for now the noise was deafening! So, with our blood boiling (what else would it do in the heat of Barcelona?) we rejoined “La Festa” at the corner to Carrer del Diluvi.

By this time, I was sick of the ground level and the local garbage bins were looking increasingly enticing.

Long story short: up we go to get a better view! It was worth it.

Alas, I got more than I bargained for, for I bought myself a standoff with the devil himself. Now a stand-off with the leader of hell seldom works out in favor of the mortals and fair enough, I soon had my ass on fire and took flight to hide behind the walking wall called Aleksander.

Apparently loosing clothes and sustaining burns is par for the course at a Spanish festival.

Casualty report

PRACE shirt and shorts after fireworks

The casualties
PRACE T-Shirt: Fireproof!(note the white spots, that’s fireworks residue)
My favorite shorts: not so much.
Not shown: Me, sports shoes.

Back home, dead-tired and with a strange ringing in the ears the casualty list was composed to contain: a. Shorts, b. Sports shoes, c. Myself

Note to self: It’s not a good idea to wear anything synthetic when there’s a possibility of playing with fire, unless you need an excuse to go shopping for new clothes.

The remainder of the week will probably pass before the infernal ringing will stop. The PRACE T-shirt provided a nice surprise, though. For apart from a few discoloured places, where the fireworks hit, the shirt was fine!

Conclusion: PRACE wear – fireproof!


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  1. […] I last wrote for this blog we were having a good time at “La Festa” – mild injuries […]

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