Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia in Barcelona

I had meant to meet up with Mariona, whom I met in my german class in Berlin, earlier in my short trip to Barcelona, but, as it happened, it was my last day in Barcelona and we hadn’t had a chance to hook up. She had invited me to check out her castelling practice and, due to a mix up of street names between Spanish and Catalan, I arrived just as they were finishing. Mariona is a part of Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia, a group that builds human castles in the Catalan tradition. The photo I took at their practice shows a castle 3 stories high but they go as high as 8 with the top two levels being children.

Afterwards we hung out in a piazza and talked about bike touring. Mariona had started a tour from Berlin heading West with the hopes of getting all the way to Ireland however she had to stop while in Germany because of really bad weather. I give her a lot of respect for her effort and courage in what she completed. While James and I stayed in BnBs, hotels, and hostels, Mariona went alone with a tent and relied on couchsurfing for accommodation, and while James and I had +$1000 touring bikes, Mariona had a 40€ bike she bought from Kottbusser Damm bridge (read stolen) that didn’t even have gears! OK, it had gears but the derailleur was stuck in 1 gear.

I also have to give her respect for adhering to the principles of the travel weasel (see Will Ferguson’s Hitching Rides with Buddha). The travel weasel always accepts offers of hospitality, no matter how generous they might be, and is happy to depend on the kindness of strangers for just about anything. Mariona was able to finagle free accommodation and meals from couchsurfing, including some packed lunches for the day ahead, and was able to trade smiles for bike repairs on a couple occassions. Well done!

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