La Bisbal d’Empordà

La Bisbal d’Empordà is a center for ceramics and we visited a small workshop with 1 (2) workers. He had started at the age of 14 and he claimed “As long as it is round I can make it”. And he demonstrated bay making several pieces from one lump of clay.

He then showed us how he decorated the items before burning.

 

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Castells and castellers.

Building castells, human towers or pyramids, are a Catalonian specialty. It was not the season for shows, but we visited a group training.

We first got an introduction showing the different types of towers, from several stories up one on one and that must be really challenging. The base could be several people, we saw seven and must be of excactly same hights. And then they clinbed on top of each other.

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On top was always a little girl and the construction was done when she raised her hands. Then they could slide down again. The “top girls” were the only with safety items, a foam helmet.

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Some of the girls had their own training program.

I was able to take pictures of one girl from the floor and all the way up to the top av a castell.

It was clearly a tough job to form the base.

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It was a mixture og men and women, of very young and older ones, the activity is very including. The instructor was a woman with very clear voice, bur she giggled when I showed her this picture.

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We spent more than two hours with the castellers and that was great fun and may be the high point of the whole trip for me.

Sant Jordi celebration

Sant Jordi is the Catalanian patron saint. He is elsewhere known as St.George, the boy scout’s patron saint to be celebrated on April 23. I did that as a scout ages ago and it was quite special to celebrate him again in a complete new situation.

Part of the celebration is that men give roses to selected women, while women give a book to her significant other. I Girona it seemed that all the bookstores and flowwer shops had moved out on the streets.

In addition a lot of organizations had their places and the streets were full with people from school classes to housewives to retired people and everything went smoothly.

I found the difference between the gifts to be somewhat strange, so I asked a few people the following question; Men give roses to women, A rose will last one week. The women give a book to men. A book lasts forever. Is there a deeper meaning in that difference or are the mutual expectations so different? I got two different answers. From men: laughter, from women: “that is a really interesting point!”

Markets.

It seemed that any town had at least one market, the big cities had  many. We visited quite a few, my be too many as they look much alike.

Here is a selection of pictures from some markets.

How about living frogs tied together.

or living fish

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or chicken

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Some shops seemed to be quite chaotic and unorganized

others had more system with their merchandise

This group of laughing people sold me T-shirts, and they “love you so much” I got 20% discount! (not the one with “Brooklyn” on, but with Saigon)

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Handicrafts and craftsmen (and -women).

We visited many small workshops were various handicraft products were made. Most of the products were based on tradition. Often they were very detailed and demanded a lot of hours an professionalism.

Stone carving was clearly important with the background in religion, Angkor and purely decoration.

One village had silver as their specialty and again I was amazed by the details and the exactness in the work.

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Bracelets were sold in the workshops, but also in the streets. I had a nice talk with this salesperson, and yes, I also bought something from her.

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Another specialty was inlay of either mother of pearl or shells from geese. I think that was the most detailed work I have ever seen. and the products were stunning. These two are old in an old house where a Chinese family had lived.

But we visited a workshop that produced inlay items in the old style, but also more modern design. Paintings were also part of their products.

Traditional mats woven with straw were produced in what they called a factory. The definition of factory seemed to be if they had electric motors, but manhours were the main factor.

I was  really impressed by the quality of the products and the competence of the craftsmen. But I doubt if an inspection of Worker’s safety would come of favorable for the workshops.