It is said that Norwegians are born knowing how to ski and how to climb. Well, in Catalonia, Spain, there is also a tradition of climbing. But do you know if climbing a human tower nine levels high is the same feeling as climbing a mountain? No, not quite.
In this case, the Catalonians do not climb mountains but they have another way to climb. Yes, they climb human towers. This tradition is known as Castells, which means castles in Catalan. The Castells is a Catalonian tradition that consists of building the highest and most stable human towers as possible and this represents a rich cultural tradition for the Catalonian people. In 2010, UNESCO declared the Castells to be one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
They go up and then they come down the same way. They climb on the back of the other members and they go down the same way. Sometimes, it is possible that they have another way to unload down the towers: falling. However, they prefer not to try this because it is very dangerous for all of the people, especially for the children. The real success of this sport is to load and unload the tower without anyone falling.
The steps that must be followed to build a human tower are the following. First you need a big group of castellers: people at the base of the castle who act as the support for the whole structure. The tower is built to the rhythm of music that is marking the steps. In any colla there is a group of 5 or 6 musicians who play the drums and the gralles (a typical Catalonian flute). Finally, a child called anxaneta, is responsible to reach the top of the tower.
It is considered built when one of the children, called canalla climbs to the top and raises their hand. Hopefully the castellers wear special clothing and the young children wear helmets for protection. They perform in town squares in several places around the region. They can build towers up to ten levels high, made entirely of people! The castells are calculated by the floors of the tower and by the number of people on each floor. For example, tres de set – which means three of seven – consists of a tower with three people on each floor.
Nowadays, there are about 58 groups of castellers around Catalonia. The most famous is the Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls, which has already been in existence for two centuries. But the Catalonian culture has been exported around the world and now in different countries you can see new groups of castellers that are playing and enjoying this sport. Like in China. Yes, there is one colla of castellers there.
So if you are a good climber and can reach the top of different mountains, maybe it’s time to have a new experience and climb like the Catalonian people do. Maybe you too, can reach the sky with the beautiful sensation of climbing human towers.