Correfoc, Barcelona

Monday, August 04, 2014

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At a loose end near Barcelona this September? Might I suggest you cover yourself head to toe in swathes of fabric and run fearfully through the crowded cobbled streets, pursued by family men dressed up as devils and swinging Catherine wheels with the kind of vigour you might see in the Olympic discus event?

If that sounds like fun to you, I've got just the right misadventure up my sleeve for ya.

Correfoc [Fire Run] is a Catalan tradition which takes places in various different forms all over Catalonia towards the end of August and early September. It ranges from tame firework shows to the kind of antics I described above. Strictly not for scaredy cats.

Unfortunately, I am a huge scaredy cat. I practically get a nose bleed going down a big slide and I have a particularly nervous disposition when it comes to fireworks, having lived through 3 weeks of Las Fallas in Valencia.

So how did I wind up running for my life (or at least my skin) in a tiny little town near Girona? It all started with my super summer job on the coast near Girona...

Everyone who was on their second season was raving about last year's Correfoc and how they couldn't wait for this year's. They said it was the biggest adrenaline rush and only a "bit burny", which was comforting. We were all given permission to finish work slightly early, covered up from head to toe in as many clothes as we could find and set off for Toroella de Montgri, the nearest town.

The little town's square was filled to the rafters with people, eyes staring out of slits in their carefully wound makeshift balaclavas. There was a definite nervous energy in the area mixed in with the excitement. A huge beacon was sounded and all of a sudden we were running. Running under an archway of spitting Catherine wheels as fireworks exploded all around the floor, spinning in all directions.

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Emerging from this unscathed, I hurried along with the crowd, only half conscious that there were a number of people dressed as devils carrying huge sticks moving along with us. A moment later, the devils all raised their sticks in the air alight, and spinning sparks flew off in all directions as people ran to avoid the spray. I stayed way back, but the adrenaline hunters ran straight into the sparks, dancing beneath the spray unharmed.

I quickly learned that hanging back doesn't work - the devils follow you and make you do a little jig to avoid burnt toes. A while later, everyone spills out of the narrow streets into the square and regroups with their lost comrades. On top of the buildings surrounding the square, firemen stand by and release the hoses on the unsuspecting crowd as the whole town is soaked to the bone. This is your opportunity to dance in the rain...get good and wet because you're going to need it for the journey back to the finish!


Whether Correfoc scares the absolute bejeebus out of you, like it did for me, or you think it is the best adrenaline fueled fun you can ever imagine,  it is an experience you would struggle to forget. It's worth noting that none of our group had even a single tiny burn and even I let out a few nervous giggles from time to time. If you go, make sure you're covered from head to toe, bare skin and fireworks don't go too good together.

So what do you think? Fun or folly?

UPDATE: Dates have been posted for this year's events in Barcelona, the 19th - 24th September. Find out more here http://merce.bcn.cat/en.

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