Sunday, 30 June 2013

Barcelona – Cursa Vila Olimpica de Barcelona 10km Run

For those of you who read my blog because they want to know more about Barcelona and/or Catalonia, a word of warning: this blog is about me and my run, not about the city.

I have never run 10km in my life! Well, apart from that fateful day when we went for a Sunday run in Richmond Park in London with my run club. We were given three different routes for three different distances. We picked the 6km route but we got lost so we ended up doing 11km instead! We kind of walked for a bit but then realised that at that pace we’ll never get to the end so we slowly jogged the rest.  

The thought of doing a 10km run first flashed through my mind when on one of the first weekends in Barcelona we went to watch the Nike 10km Fireman’s Race. Since then I have been running here and there, a bit more regularly in the last month. Then 3 weeks ago I checked the running timetable in the city and I found the perfect event. It was very close to our flat and part of the route was next to the sea. I signed up and started running more seriously. I knew it was not a race but just a run, I didn´t have to prove anything to anybody except to myself but sometimes that’s the hardest.

I was hoping there will be other Hungarians running as well. I asked on the ‘Hungarians in Barcelona’ Facebook group but nobody replied. I was the only Hungarian on the race as far as I know.

It all felt kind of like a dream until on Friday I had to go to pick up my chip that measures my time, my T-shirt and other stuff. I queued to get it and the lady who checked my passport only could pronounce my name with great difficulty. When I apologised for the trouble (how very British of me) she said ‘No, no, don’t worry, welcome to Barcelona!’.

The bag was really heavy, all these were in there. Check out the colour of my top!

This morning I woke up early. I felt light, ready and very excited. I put my horrible coloured top on, my chip on my shoe, a ribbon around my wrist with Hungarian colours in case I see another Hungarian, put my name tag on the back of my top then we set off to the run.

When we got there we saw a sea of yellow, people getting ready, warming up, trying to find their place. They all had their names on the front so we changed mine as well. 

I just followed everybody, got in the line, asked if I was in the right place for the 10km then waited for the start. They got Antonio Rebollo, the archer who lit the fire in the ’92 Barcelona Olympic Games to start the race by shooting an arrow. As soon as the arrow touched the floor the flood of runners took over the street. On the side drummers beat the rhythm for us.

That’s me just before the arch wearing blue shorts and white shoes.

I started off trying to keep up with everybody but soon found my own rhythm and calmed down. People kept steadily taking me over together with a guy holding up the time for the 50 minutes (those who run 10km under 50 min). Ooops, I was in the wrong group! There were so many people taking me over that at some point I looked back to see if there’s anybody left. After about 3km I took over the first person (I won’t be the last one to get in!), then from then on slowly but steadily took over more and more.

And then I ran. The sun was shining, there was a lovely breeze cooling us down, music was pumping in my ears, heads were bobbing up and down all around me running, breathing together, it was such an amazing feeling! I looked left and I saw the greenery of the Parc de Poblenou, in front of me a sea of people running in yellow, and on my right was the sea, blue, vast and sparkling. I was flying through the streets with the others around me.

After about 4km things had slowed down around me and I started running together with others, like the girl who was wearing an orange top. She was running at exactly the same rhythm as me on the other side of the road but after about 10 min she took off and I didn’t follow. Later I noticed a guy running in front of me wearing a green running top. I ran after him for a while as the colour was such a relief to my eyes but unfortunately not long after he gave up and stopped running. There was a group of dads wearing the same orange top and one of them was pushing a buggy with a baby in it. I wandered how they keep the baby asleep for an hour but then I slowly took them over. At the end of the run I followed a guy whose name was actually Pablo (it’s the Spanish version for Paul) and he had his name on his back!    

I managed to finish the run, did not stop at all and kept the same rhythm all throughout. I felt like I could have run all day long. I finished in good shape, was tired but otherwise fine. I was very happy with myself and seeing Paul’s face at the end made it all worthwhile.

Today was an incredible experience. I have so many lovely memories of Barcelona but running today with thousands of others is amongst the best ones. 

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0265903175EditRimoczi01:02:3601:01:19-Bernd Senf

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Barcelona - Sant Joan Festival

Sant Joan is the biggest, wildest and craziest party in Barcelona. It celebrates what is called the Summer Solstice in England, the shortest night/longest day of the year. This is a pagan festival that was celebrated for hundreds of years and even though the Christian Church tried to put a stop to it nowadays the tradition is alive again. It is one of the most important celebrations in Catalonia.

There is a certain pastry that people eat on the night of Sant Joan, called ‘coca’. It’s a big flat cake and you can have it either with fruit or with pine seeds on top. The shops were full of them and I simply had to try it!

The Catalans also call this festival the ‘Night of fire’ as it is all about fire and fireworks. There is no central firework show in the city but people just buy their own form the many stalls set up for this reason throughout the city.

On the evening of the festival you could see many people like this couple: one holds a bag full of the Coca of Sant Joan, and the other’s bag is full of firework.

After all this you can imagine how much I have been looking forward to the evening. Paul wasn’t around so it was all down to me to fully experience the event. To make sure I’m in the thick of it I wanted to ask all the expats about the best place to see it. When I asked the question on the ‘Hungarians in Barcelona’ Facebook site I was very surprised to see the two replies I got: ‘Everywhere but here’ and ‘there’s a nuclear bunker about 42km out of the city, that’s the most optimal.’ They both got lots of likes from others. You can imagine how puzzled I was. Then I asked a friend I know from school to come with me to the beach because apparently that’s where everything goes crazy. He flatly refused saying it’s too dangerous, he’s not going there and I shouldn’t either.

I really didn’t understand what’s going on but I decided that I would believe him so I gave up on that idea. We decided to go up on the side of Tibidabo mountain to watch the fireworks but it looked like it was going to rain in the evening so in the end we decided to stay in Grácia and wander around the streets.

From a few days before I could hear a firecrackers here and there but during the afternoon it became relentless. I walked to Grácia from my house to see what was happening on the street. Wow. I understood everything and I was suddenly very happy that I didn’t go to the beach. Firecrackers were banging everywhere, kids setting off fireworks in every corner while you can hear the ambulance wailing constantly in the background.

These kids are wearing the Catalan separatist flags and one of them carried a torch. They were running through the streets, they only stopped here because of the red light. (I mean a real torch with real fire in a kid’s hand who was just over 10 years old and running around the streets with it!!)Not sure what was the significance of it all.

I got to Grácia safe and sound. We wondered around for a while then we heard drums. We followed the drummers to a little square. On the way we found this little gathering. The neighbours set up tables, brought food and drinks and were celebrating together.

We finally got to the square where all hell broke loose. The drummers made this huge bonfire, there was food and wine served and everybody, I mean literally everybody set off fireworks and the kids were running around under the fireworks waving sparklers around. We were standing next to the wall trying to be far away from all the bits that can fall us from the fireworks.

This is a (very bad) photo of an 8 year old (he seemed to be) who is setting off a firework while his parents proudly watch him from the side. The firework ended up in the tree above and everybody had to run.

We wandered over to another square where a live band was playing and kids were dancing, even though it was after midnight. This was a bit more civilized so we stayed here for a while.

All throughout the night the firecrackers were going on in the background, one louder than the other. I just couldn’t understand! By the time I got home it was 2.30 in the morning and they were still setting them off! Luckily I was too tired and fell asleep despite the deafening noise.

The next day was a public holiday in most places. It was a holiday for the street cleaners for sure. I went for a walk and the city was full of the remnants of the fireworks/firecrackers.

I think Sant Joan is not my favourite festival. I might just be too old for this. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Barcelona – The Cervantes Rose Garden

After the very last stop on the green metro line, at the end of Avinguda Diagonal that cuts through the city, at the far end where you would think there’s surely nothing worth visiting there’s this beautiful place, the ‘Parc de Cervantes i Roserar’ or the Cervantes Park and Rose Garden.

You look at the two busy roads on the side of the garden and you still don’t expect much. But as you find it lush greenery welcomes you with a sea of colourful roses. You have to stop for a minute to take in the sight.

In its 9 hectares the garden contains an amazing variety of flowers in all the shapes, sizes and colours that you can possibly think of from the four corners of the world. It boasts a collection of a staggering 10000 roses with just under 250 varieties that include wild roses,  old roses, modern hybrids, climbers and a special area that is called the ‘Jardí dels Perfums’ or the Perfume Garden.

Due to the warm weather in Barcelona the grass in most of the parks is treated as a national treasure and it is frowned upon to lie down or even step on it. This is one of the few green places where you are not only allowed but actually encouraged to step on the manicured paths and have a look at the cute little labels of the roses that tell you all you need to know about each certain bush.

The Rose Garden was landscaped on an area that leads you uphill so when you come down you can enjoy not only the garden itself but also the amazing view it offers over the city. There are many grassy bits to put your blanket on or you can choose from one of the well positioned benches to enjoy the peaceful silence, the smell and the vista.

Unfortunately my visit was timed badly for many reasons. The sky looked like it was going to start crying in any minute (it held out until the evening) and, being the end of June, most of the roses had already flowered. The garden however was designed to contain blooming roses throughout the summer so I still had plenty of flowers to admire. I’ll let you enjoy them from my photos.

I have learnt that since 2000, every year at the beginning of May the city hosts a flower competition here, the Barcelona Competition for New Roses. This event attracts participants from all over the world and the winner gets a special place in the garden to display the prized flower for everybody to admire.

The Rose Garden is on the Avinguda Diagonal, 706, after the Zona Universitat metro stop. The entrance is free. It is part of the Cervantes Park that contains a huge grassy area to roll around on.