Saturday, 21 May 2005

Els castellers

This evening we wandered over to the town square for a children's party and a castles exhibition from two teams from Vilanova (a nearby larger town).

This is a Catalan team sport in which people try to get as high as possible by climbing onto each other's shoulders. It seems to be non-competitive, and quite often a display is given by only one team. Unfortunately we forgot to take a camera on this occasion.

It provides a role for most family members: the heaviest at the bottom, the lightest at the top. Typically, the first level is taken by older men, the second by younger men, the third by boys or girls in their late teens, and subsequent levels by boys or girls in their early teens or pre-teens.

Often the display is accompanied by the shrilling of the gralla, a traditional Catalan wind instrument.

A simple display features just one person at each level: an older man supporting a younger man supporting a teenage girl supporting a pre-teenage girl (who stands up straight and waves at the crowd before descending).

The most ambitious we saw today featured three people at most levels and reached a total of six levels, a height attained rather precariously by a girl perhaps eight or nine years old, who waved very briefly from a crouching position before descending.

The whole team is quite numerous and not all of them form part of the castle: some just cluster around closely to act as human cushions in case the castle collapses.

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