Please forgive the hurried tone of these notes. It’s 01.30 in the morning and Tarragona is still filled with the sound of voices, music, clapping, intoxicating echoes that bounce from walls to sea. So much is happening that there is barely time to sleep.
This is the first night of Santa Tecla which started at daylight, less officially last morning, more officially at 7.30 in the afternoon from the balcony of the town hall, on which the start of Santa Tecla was officially announced. It was the signal for the fireworks and the daylight sky became acrid with smoke and overwhelmed by explosions – welcome to the parallel universe, welcome to Santa Tecla.
A portal opens up and in you fall like Alice in Wonderland, landing in to a square where people queue up for the Mamadeta served in a plastic cocktail shaker, filled with lemon slush and a shot or three of Chartreuse.
Heady from the mix you move on, only to end up at Placa de Rey where human castles are being build mostly by children. It’s the Nova Muixeranga d’ Alsgamesi’ made up of red and green stripy castellers climbing on top of each other.
On the same square Roman soldiers have been resized and are posing with big grins with their mothers for a family shot.
Back on the Rambla and the view opens further up to large chunks of meat are sizzling away and the night is getting heady.
Salsa dancers are in full swing and you could be anywhere – Tarragona has moved south of the Equator.
One heads back and it’s straight in to the surreal parade of giant Asses, the Mulasses de Festa – each has its own entourage with small orchestra and they heading up the windy hill, towards the square underneath the Cathedral.
The asses are angry and little tamed, when they break loose they are pushed back in to place by their keepers; yet still they leap in fits of pride and rebellion. But the Crowd cheers them on relentless and it’s a dark medieval night.
We leave, walk down in to Placa de la Font where a great stage has been erected for the performance of traditional Catalan dances, absorbing, straight from another century – Tarragona, this great lady, has come to life.
Note: these are only snapshots, but there is no time to edit all the images which I hope to post on Monday in their full glory. It’s Sunday now and shortly I will be making my way back in to the heart of the old city for some ‘espineta amb caragolins’ tuna and snail stew to the uniciated, the quintessential food of Santa Tecla.