This year's report on the Fira Mediterrània de Manresa finds me once again trying to capture the torrent of events and concerts that make up this city-wide festival. My last report was concert-centric, but this time around, I decided to cover a bit more of the culinary and street life.
Although it has its charming old section, Manresa's main attraction year round is the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, carved out of the mountain that overlooks the city, affording a remarkable vista of Catalonia. But I've yet to visit the monastery because the festival keeps me hopping; there is something interesting happening somewhere, all the time. With over 300 events to coordinate, I imagine that the staff of the Fira has only about two weeks rest after the dust settles before they are back to work for the next one.
That is not to say there is no time for a visitor to just sit and relax...I spent several pleasant hours at the Vermuteria, pictured above. With its broad avenues, quiet plazas and narrow side streets, Manresa is sprinkled with restaurants and wine bars, where one can always choose to slow down with something savory, be it liquid or solid. During the festival there is an entire avenue set aside for dining al fresco, and one can also stroll at a leisurely pace, sampling from the local food booths.
The festival brings in all kinds of talent -- for example Toumani and Sidiki Diabate of Mali were there to enchant with the rippling sounds of their kora duets -- but there is a definite emphasis on Catalan and Iberian culture. There is music, dance, theater, and all kinds of street entertainment. There was a beatbox concert with full orchestra backup, and a lyrical choreographed dance piece performed by elderly women. There were rides and entertainment just for kids, and I found myself consistently surprised and entertained by it all.
This is a not a festival set up in a field somewhere with tents and bandstands. The old town is the setting for this celebration, and the locals most definitely participate spiritedly. It is a civilized and happy efflorescence of culture and fellow-feeling, and with Barcelona only 50 kilometers away, it is an event worth planning a trip around.
To find out more about the Fira Mediterrània de Manresa, visit: http://www.firamediterrania.cat/en