La Merce Festival in Barcelona happens every year near the end of September and there’s a lot going on during this four day event.
There’s the groups of Castellers, or human towers, that compete with each other. There are concerts, giants, parades, and light shows offering entertainment for everyone.
But in my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than the Correfocs, literally “Fire Run.”
We had looked online at the line up and start time of various events and activities that were going on during the festival so we knew when the Fire Run started but only a vague idea of what it was about. It had a catchy name so we planned on checking it out when it started on the last night of the festival. We decided to start that day off attending the Exhibition of Wine and Cava of Catalonia festival happening near our apartment, on the Passeig Lluís Companys by the Arc de Triomf. We had a fun, relaxing day of sampling cava from 66 wineries before we worked our way over to see the Fire Run.
So, there we stood, intoxicated and somewhat unaware of what was about to happen.
It had just gotten dark and Via Laietana, the street where the Fire Run was taking place, was crowded with people. Many of the people around us were wrapped in more clothing than what the weather called for but we didn’t think anything of it. To our right was a massive theatrically ominous looking door bathed in red light, that spanned the entire four lanes of the street. It looked like something King Kong was about to come bursting through. We’ve lived in New Orleans and have been to many Mardi Gras. We’ve been to Carnival in Cologne, Germany. This wasn’t like either. Imagine Mardi Gras mixed with Mad Max on New Year’s Eve. It was kind of like that but crazier
The Fire Run had Begun
Torches flared and fireworks started to explode in the air above the door. The rhythmic sounds of tribal drums began to be heard, pounding out a deep frantic beat. As the fireworks reached its climax and the last explosions echoed throughout the area, the doors slowly crept open. Devils holding long poles, with spinning umbrella shaped shower of sparks at the tip, began to pour through the door. The crowded street began to part as the devils advanced, followed by troops of drummers pounding out their hypnotic beats. Sparks flew everywhere as the devils waved their poles around and bathed the crowd with fiery light.
Creatures, demons, and dragons emerged through the door one after one.
They were large artistic creations that spewed large fountains of sparks at the crowd. Each one was accompanied by more devils and drummers as Via Laietana was thrown into a frenzy. Some of us danced in the street with the devils allowing ourselves to be bathed in the sparks. Others pressed themselves against the relative safety of the buildings along the road and tried to stay out of the way of the flying sparks. But no one could look away. It’s a scene that we will never forget.
Any description I could give would only fall short of the experience. It’s complete incredible madness. Words become feeble when trying to describe what can only be appreciated by being there and seeing it for yourself. Go to Barcelona and dance with the devils. You’ll always remember it.