Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Diada de Sant Jordi

Yesterday, April 23, was St. George’s Day, the Diada de Sant Jordi, the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day. The day marked an anniversary: I arrived in Barcelona on St. George’s Day last year, ready to begin my Barcelona adventure. It’s been exactly one year, more or less, since Barcelona has been home.

The Catalan tradition for Sant Jordi is for men to buy women a rose bundled with a palm or stalk of wheat, and for women to buy men a book. This year, Andrew bought me a beautiful bouquet of red roses, orchids, palms, and small purple flowers; I bought Andrew Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. The whole city filled with books and flowers. On La Rambla, roses and wheat stalks wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon in the colors of the Catalan flag filled plastic buckets, and stacks of books—mostly in Catalan—spilled over on tables. Andrew learned during his internship last summer that 30% of Catalonia’s book sales occur on the Diada de Sant Jordi.

We strolled through the city yesterday and were pleasantly surprised to find that there was a small exhibition in the bottom floor of the Casa Amatller—the step-roofed house designed by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, right next to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo—consisting of photographs of the Amatller family and lots of detailed photos of some of the stonework on the building’s façade. I’ve always liked the building, but never paid it much particular attention, grouping it into the generally pleasing landscape of the “Block of Discordia”—of which this, Casa Batllo, and another, equally wild building are a part. But the photos revealed so many fabulous secrets of Casa Amatller that it now ranks as one of my favorite buildings in Barcelona. The stonework, unremarkable from a distance, is actually a series of artistic animals: glass-blowing frogs, donkey writers, dog photographers, iron-pouring mice. A carving of St. George slaying the dragon lies just above the entryway. The whole façade is a fairytale landscape of anthropomorphic wildlife and symbolic figures, but the details are all but impossible to see from the street if you don’t know what to look for. A little more of the city, suddenly revealed.

Early yesterday evening, we were sitting idly in the apartment, casually discussing what we wanted to do that night. Suddenly, Andrew jumped up—“We have a concert,” he yelled, and indeed, both of us had forgotten we’d bought the tickets, just as we’d feared we would. We had no idea what time the concert started, and Andrew couldn’t seem to find any mention of it online. I was throwing on clothes; it was a scene of chaos. (To say we have a lot going on right now—graduation this week, many major plans to get in order, big changes to figure out—is an understatement.) Fortunately, there was over an hour until the concert, and we made it right on time to the Gran Palau de Liceu—Barcelona’s opera house—to hear the singer/guitarist Paco Ibáñez. The concert began at 9:30pm. Paco Ibáñez’s singing and playing were lovely; but at 12:30am, he was showing no signs of stopping, introducing more and more guest musicians. Andrew and I were famished, so we quietly made our exit—marveling, as we hurried to the nearest Maoz falafel stand, that this concert could very well go on all night.

We walked home at 1am, the remnants of the Diada de Sant Jordi littering the streets—bits of ribbon, discarded stems, trimmings of leaves and wheat.

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