Cataluña is a region of Spain where the official language is Catalan, which is what the kids learn in the schools and for most of them, will be the first language at home too. It will be people that have moved to Cataluña from other parts of Spain who will be speaking Spanish at home. Everyone here is bilingual anyway, and be assured that it is not an accent or a dialect of Spanish, it is a different language.
Cataluña stretches from the South of France as far North as the Languedoc region, down as far as Valencia. Barcelona is the capital of Cataluña. The Catalan people are hardworking and Catalonia has a reputation of being a place that is good for business and getting things done.
Five Important Places in Cataluña.
La Sagrada Familia
A cathedral that is still being constructed in the centre of Barcelona. It was started by the famous architect Antonio Gaudi who died in 1926, he is famous for being a leading light of the modernist movement. The earliest parts of the building are of the style you would recognise as his, but later parts have adapted to the popular current art styles of the era. The natural influence in the design, the curves and the flow, make way for the bolder simpler design. Many visitors prefer the original style, but the changes being made as it grows over time, show that the design and construction of the cathedral is a living entity.
Gaudi’s work is always immediately recognisable as it uses nature as the main influence for the design of all parts of the structures. For example one building has a roof shaped like a dragons’ back – Casa Batlló (1904–1906). Another building which is close by, known as ‘La Pedrera’, which is open to tourists has a very interesting roof which you can visit also. Every part of that building is important in the design, as is demonstrated by the chimneys that are covered in decorative ceramic tiles and are twisting as they rise with a design on top that looks like medieval helmets.
Football Club Barcelona
Until you live in Catalonia you have no idea how important the football club is to Catalans. The motto at the moment when translated from Catalan is ‘More than just a Club’. Unlike football clubs elsewhere the club is owned by the supporters and not by some rich industrialist that have the money to purchase football clubs. Even the football shirts are different in that they give money to a charity and have the logo of it on the shirt, rather than the other way around where the football clubs get money from advertising business printed on the shirt. A young Catalan man explained to me that it is the bringing together of all ages of Catalans. His granddad will put on the shirt as will the eight year old grandson and they will all go to watch the game together. The stadium does guided tours and it is kind of impressive, and more so when full.
Salvador Dalí; the Surrealist Artist.
His work is based on dreams and visual tricks, and even after his death in 1989 his work is still celebrated for the weird and bizarre images he created. He not only drew, painted, and sculpted, but influenced film, architecture, sculpture, photography and even jewellery design. He was an eccentric and often did attention-seeking public displays of odd behaviour. If you go to the town of his birth, Figueres, you can visit the Dalí museum, to see the soft clocks and the extended or distended legs in strange landscapes. He was interested in intelligent concepts of art, and produced drawings that can only be viewed in a specialist stereoscopic viewer, or as a reflection in a flat mirror when the image is on a cylinder; Clever stuff indeed. The museum has bread roll sculptures all over the side of it and giant egg shapes on the roof. Much of the work is heavy with symbolism that you could spend a lifetime trying to decipher. Great to visit this UNESCO heritage site.
The Beaches of the Catalan Mediterranean Coast.
It is no surprise that tourism is a big part of the economy of the region. The coast is full of coves and also large beaches, that the sun seeking Europeans from all over Europe flock to, during the summer time. One such town is Platja d’Aro on the Costa Brava, which is a new town that grew from the 1960’s to be a huge tourist destination. It is full of shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and camping sites. There are plenty of amenities that keep people returning year after year, like the water park, which the kids just love to go to. Many people that live in Barcelona visit the town for a vacation during the summer and for just weekend visits also. Huge numbers of people come to celebrate St. Juan on the 23rd of June. Lots of parties all through the town.
Other beaches are popular too, one a little further north would be St. Pere Pescador, which hosts a world championships of Windsurfing every year. It is possible to do that because of a regular wind that comes from the north called the ‘Tramuntana’. It is also great for the kite surfing. The same area also has an airfield that is used for parachute jumping.
Gastronomy is also really important in the region with locally grown wines. The cooking uses the seasonal locally grown or reared produce in the local dishes. There are many internationally acclaimed chefs from Catalonia. Like the rest of Spain though, I can attest that it is not so good for vegetarians, just about every recipe is fish or meat based.
Catalans like to hold on to tradition, and there are festivals all through the region. Correfoc, Carnaval, Events with Giants in processions through the towns. St Jordi (St George) is the Patron Saint of Cataluña and this day; 23rd April, is a celebration of the slaying of the dragon and ladies are given a red rose while the men receive the gift of a book.
Particularly spectacular is making of the Human Castles. Watching this, your heart will be in your mouth as you see the small children climb to the top of a tower made of people. It can go as high as buildings. The teams that do this come from various towns in Cataluña and the tradition runs in families. Honestly it will take your breath away as you watch it, and it seems completely crazy