Barcelona: Scatological Festivities & Drug Dealers Bootlegging Fanta

Not just one, but two iconic festive characters in Barcelona are dedicated to taking a sh*t--especially at Christmas. I went to the Catalan to find out what the two poos one Christmas obsession and cocaine dealers selling fizzy pop on Las Ramblas is all about...
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Not just one, but two iconic festive characters in Barcelona are dedicated to taking a sh*t--especially at Christmas. I went to the Catalan to find out what the two poos one Christmas obsession and cocaine dealers selling fizzy pop on Las Ramblas is all about...

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The Catalan people like to interpret the nativity scene in a slightly different manner by having a squatting boy and a log with a smiling face somewhere in amongst the cows and Jesus.

Being as there was very little room in the barn anyway it seems impractical to want to put a lad having a poo in such close quarters to a newborn.

The first detail seemingly omitted from the bible is the Caga Tio, a log with a smiling face. Translated from Catalan it means 'shit log' a concise and scathing review of a piece of wood merely attempting to fulfil a role in the festive season. In Spanish it takes on a guise I feel I can empathize with being as I'm related to one. In the national tongue it translates as 'shit uncle'. The next time he doesn't send a birthday card I'm posting him a chipper twig. Myth dictates that children would flock to the woods and then beat the Caga log or throw it onto a fire and sing songs to entice it to crap out presents. The true spirit of Christmas, intimidate something or someone until it gives you what you want. What playful imagery, an abused timber squeezing out an X-Box.

Not content with one poo related traditional figure there is a number two...

The Caganer is a little porcelain gnome like figurine who has his trousers round his ankles and defecates somewhere in the nativity scene. Children enjoy spotting it beside the religious iconography. Surprisingly not invented by the post South Park generation, the Caganer has been offering up his unique 'gifts' since the middle of the 18th century although in recent years the Catalan government has failed to share the joke and banned him and his bottom from official nativity displays.

During the Feria de Santa Lucia a festive market is held in the shadows of the architectural gem that is the Sagrada Familia. You can find all manner of hand crafted gifts, intricate nativity scenes, the smiley log and an extensive range of Caganers. From permed Barca captain and defensive stalwart Carlos Puyol to sharp suited sex pot Silvio Berlusconi.

As well as the toilet humour traditions the Catalan capital has alot to offer during the festive months. It begs the question is Barcelona ever out of season?

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I'd say not. During my late Autumnal stay there were huge swathes of tourists descending upon a city which has so much to offer. Away from the usual touristy haunts there's El Born an up and coming old town tapas district where you can enjoy a range of Spanish delicacies such as marinated olives and the face of a pig. In one cafe adorned with heroic images of bullfighters from yesteryear I sat there sipping a locally brewed Estrella and dined on a hefty wedge of Spanish tortilla. Tasteful white Christmas lights hung overhead and a busker beside me sang What a Wonderful World in broken English. It was perfect up until an American tourist who sounded exactly like whiney Mel from Flight of the Conchords started for some reason shouting when she was attempting to speak. She described everything as being awesome, 'Oh the beer is awesome!' 'The way the streets are clean, awesome!' 'My limited adjective repertoire, awesome!'

If you don't a fancy a beer in the cold pop to a quaint teteria. Salterio which sits in the gothic area of the city just away from the La Rambla has a rather magical air to it. Mandolins hang from the rafters, exposed brickwork make up the walls and other customers sit in your pockets in the cozy alcoves. The water for your infusion is boiled on a camping stove and then is ushered over with a real reverence for what lies in the cup. A real celebration of something very simple but equally wonderful.

Being as Barcelona is so vast I used the prompt and punctual underground train network to get around. On one journey to Parc Guell, the computerized P.A system informed the passengers that it was edging towards another station, 'Proxima Prat'. It seemed more like a warning than a notification for the train's next stop, so I scanned the immediate vicinity, looking for a prat and to my horror there was an English chap adjacent to me reading a book about Michael McIntyre.

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Parc Guell can still thoroughly be enjoyed during the colder months. The park which was given to the city by its most influential architect Gaudi boasts breathtaking views of Barcelona and was a good way to utilize his clumsy habits whilst washing up. Many of the mosaics which are scattered round the park feature the remnants of smashed crockery. A soundtrack is provided by a troupe of hang drum players which creates a strange calypso yet synthy sound. A blend of Lee Scratch Perry and Kraftwerk.

Something sadly never out of season in Barcelona is pick pocketing. La Rambla at night is a particularly daunting place to be, it can be quite intimidating with a sense of impending bag snatch. It's an endemic problem and you struggle to fully immerse yourself in a good time knowing you have to be on constant guard. Within the street's bustling atmosphere, vendors will approach you, offering various drugs or beverages--drinks recently purchased at the local Spar which since falling into their hands have doubled in price. 'Hashish, cocaine, Fanta Limon?' Go in with the class B, ratchet it up to A and then take the edge off with a citrusy soft drink.

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The port offers up an escape from the fast paced nature of life in the centre as does taking a jolly up to the highest point of Barcelona, Tibidado, an old fashioned hillside theme park where you can ride a rusting plane which hangs off the side of a sheer cliff.

Barcelona is a city you can visit anytime during the year, there is no off peak time. There will always be a festival on and when I visited the weather was still very mild, at home I would have been wearing a t-shirt and Bermudas and I'm not a Geordie. A city so eclectic never gets boring and the changing of the seasons doesn't alter this.