I remember the day I stumbled upon the Caganer store in Barcelona like it was yesterday. Actually, it was yesterday. I was wandering around the city, taking in all the sights and sounds, when I saw a small, unassuming shop tucked away in a side street in the Gothic Quarter. The name above the door read "El Caganer," which I later found out translates to "The Pooper" in English. As Naughty Gnome's chief gnome hunter, these little people take the cake in the naughty department.
As I stepped inside, I was greeted by a plethora of little figurines all squatting. Upon closer inspection, I realized that these figurines were all pooping - yes, you read that right, pooping. I was initially taken aback, but my curiosity got the better of me, and I couldn't resist asking the store owner what these figurines were all about.
She explained to me that the caganer is a traditional Catalan Christmas decoration, and it has been a part of their culture since the 18th century. One of the most common explanations for the existence of the caganer is that this humble peasant did not have an expensive gift for the Christ child. His gift was of fertilizer, which would help to nourish the earth and allow crops to grow. In some parts of Catalonia, it is believed that the presence of the caganer in the nativity scene will bring good luck and ensure a bountiful harvest in the coming year. The Christmas Caganer is meant to represent equality and humility. This traditional figurine is usually depicted as a peasant man, wearing a traditional red hat, pipe and then pants pulled down to his ankles, in the act of defecating. The Christmas Caganer is usually hidden in the nativity scene, and finding it is considered a game for children. It however is never ever placed in the front of the creche.
I was both shocked (oh sure - anyone want to but the Brooklyn Bridge?) and fascinated by this bizarre tradition. The store owner showed me the different caganer figurines they had in stock - there were ones dressed as celebrities, superheros, famous politicians, movie stars, the Pope, sports figures, and even members of the royal family. I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all, but at the same time, I was intrigued by the cultural significance of the caganer.
I was amazed at how this seemingly crude and taboo subject was embraced and celebrated in the Catalan culture. By depicting even the most respected figures in society in a vulnerable position, the caganer reminds us that we are all human and that we all have bodily functions.
The experience left me with yet another newfound appreciation for different cultural traditions and the unique ways they express themselves. The caganer may be shocking to some, but to the Catalan people, it is an integral part of their heritage and identity. The caganer tradition may be unconventional, but it serves as a reminder that even in our differences, we all share a common humanity. It is a tradition that celebrates our flaws and our vulnerabilities and reminds us that it's okay to let our guard down every once in a while.
As I left the store, I couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of a pooping figurine nestled amongst the traditional nativity scene. It was a memorable experience that I will never forget and an excellent reminder that there is always something new and surprising to discover when exploring different cultures.
Enough about pooping people. Here's the poop on a dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis that boasts a unique blend of modernity and tradition. It is a city that is steeped in history and culture, with stunning architecture that spans several centuries, from the Gothic Quarter to the iconic works of Gaudi.
Since the pandemic this is my first return to Barcelona. Yay!
Barcelona has always been a city that I can count on to get my design juices flowing.
Here are some reasons why:
Art and architecture: Barcelona is home to some of the world's most famous architectural works, including those of Antoni Gaudi, such as La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló.
For the trendiest of art museums make a stop at the MOCO and discover famous works by Banksy, Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Lachapelle, Dali, Kaws, and more .Barcelona is a city that is also renowned for its vibrant arts scene. My all time favorite museums are the Picasso Museum and the Joan Miró Foundation.
Food: Oh the culinary offerings! You can barely take five steps without being tempted by another cafe, bakery, or restaurant. In the Catalonia region of Spain, there is a diverse culinary scene that features a variety of traditional Catalan dishes, as well as international cuisine. Catalan cuisine not to be missed is known for its use of fresh and seasonal ingredients, with a focus on seafood, vegetables, and meats such as lamb and pork.
Some popular traditional Catalan dishes include:
Pa amb tomàquet: a simple yet delicious dish of bread rubbed with tomato and drizzled with olive oil.
Escalivada: roasted vegetables, usually eggplant, peppers, and onions, served with olive oil and bread.
Fideuà: a seafood dish similar to paella, but made with noodles instead of rice.
Botifarra amb mongetes: grilled sausage served with white beans.
In addition to traditional Catalan cuisine, there are also many international options available in Catalonia. You can find restaurants serving Italian, French, Japanese, and other cuisines. Some popular options include:
Pizzerias: serving wood-fired pizzas with a variety of toppings.
Sushi restaurants: offering fresh and delicious sushi and sashimi.
Brasseries: serving French-inspired cuisines such as escargots and steak frites.
Tapas bars: serving small plates of Spanish and international dishes.
Overall, when in Barcelona you can enjoy a diverse culinary scene that offers something for everyone.
La Boqueria market is a world-renowned food market located in the heart of Barcelona. As you walk into its vibrant atmosphere you'll find a diverse range of fresh local produce, seafood, meats, and other delicacies. When entering this market I always remind myself that people have been frequenting these stalls for over 800 years. The market also is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Barcelona. For foodies and culinary enthusiasts, a visit to La Boqueria market is a must-do experience. The market is home to hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to cured meats, cheeses, and seafood. Then, there is a hugely tempting variety of prepared foods, such as tapas, sandwiches, and other traditional Catalan dishes. For me, the highlight of La Boqueria market is the wide selection of local delicacies. These include the famous Iberian ham, a type of cured ham made from acorn-fed pigs, which is considered a Spanish culinary treasure. Another must-try delicacy is the Spanish omelet, or tortilla española, which is a traditional dish made with potatoes, onions, and eggs. Self-control please kick in. It's like where do I begin? How do I choose? Where will it end? What will my scale read?
La Boqueria market is also a feast for the senses, with its colorful displays of fresh produce and the sounds and smells of the bustling marketplace. The market is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, and it is an ideal place to experience the vibrant culture and culinary traditions of Barcelona.
History and culture: Barcelona has a rich history and culture, with a number of museums and historic sites, such as the Gothic Quarter, the Roman walls, and a short trip the Montserrat Monastery. Barcelona's history dates back over 2,000 years. It was founded as a Roman colony in 15 BC. Throughout the centuries, the city has been influenced by various cultures, including the Visigoths, Moors, and Catalans, which has contributed to its unique blend of architecture, art, and cuisine. Barcelona flourished during the middle ages as a commercial and cultural center. My favorite area is the Gothic Quarter, with its narrow streets and medieval buildings. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Barcelona underwent a period of modernization and expansion, with the construction of new neighborhoods and landmark buildings, such as the Eixample district and the Palau de la Música Catalana where you might find the Gran Gala Flamenco.
In addition to the Primavera Sound festival, which takes place in late May or early June and attracts music lovers from all over the world, there are several other music festivals that are held throughout the year. One of the most popular festivals is the Barcelona Jazz Festival, which takes place in the fall and features both local and international jazz artists. Another notable event is the Sónar festival, which is dedicated to electronic music and is held in June.
Barcelona is also home to several other cultural events, such as the Mercè Festival, which is a celebration of the city's patron saint and features concerts, fireworks, and street performers.
The Grec Festival, which takes place during the summer months, is another popular event that features music, dance, and theater performances.
Sports: Barcelona is home to one of the world's most famous football clubs, FC Barcelona, and the city's love of sport can be seen throughout the city, with a number of sports museums and venues.
Overall, Barcelona is a city that offers visitors a rich cultural experience, with something to suit every taste and interest.
P.S. Out little Sven Stinky Gnome is among good company.