Gustau Alegret’s most personal Tarragona; human and architectural cathedrals, and the Balcony of the Mediterranean

Gustau Alegret / ©Pere Toda-Vilaniu Comunicació

The word cathedral, in the vocabulary of castells, represents the so-called cinc de vuit (a human tower with 8 floors in high and 5 people per floor), considered, not that long ago, one of the castells with the most solid base of them all, due to the unique two-plus-three structure that defines it. On the ephemeral art of raising and erecting human towers then, building a category 5 castell has evoked, for centuries, the construction of a cathedral, probably due to the magnificence and complexity of this human structure. Gustau Alegret, a journalist born in Tarragona that lives now in Washington, where he works as a correspondent for both RAC1 and NTN24, chose Tarragona’s Cathedral and the monument to castells in Rambla Nova as two of his most favourite spots in the city. Alegret, who despite the distance keeps his bonds with the city and, among others, writes periodically for the local newspaper Diari de Tarragona, is the character chosen for this month’s edition of the #lamevatarragona project; that is, his most personal and private Tarragona.

We agree to meet Gustau at Pla de la Seu around Christmas time, since he’s back to his city in order to spend the holidays with his family. The morning is absolutely spectacular, and the sun is shinning brightly proving the point of those that believe Tarragona to be on a permanent springtime. Very timely and reliable, Gustau arrives with the homework spot on, and reveals the pictures of his most personal Tarragona.

Monument als castells / ©Gustau Alegret

On his way up the Rambla Nova, he stopped at the monument to castells to capture several photos with his mobile phone: “If there is one tradition that belongs to Tarragona that I like to tell people about when I travel, these are the castellers, for what they symbolise, for the concept of group, unity, construction, and even I’d dare say, of construction of a country; a proud country, built with effort, tenacity and putting always in mind the concepts of group and community above individualism”.


Then, following up the Rambla Nova, Gustau Alegret performs the tradition of tocar ferro (literally touching iron, the veranda at the Balcony of the Mediterranean) and grabs his phone once again to take new pictures. “Romans were very clever, because they knew how to place Tarragona in one of the spots where light has that very special magic”, he says. The Balcony of the Mediterranean is, probably, the place where one can more easily perceive the strategic placing of Tarragona, staring at the sea, a calm and quiet Mediterranean Sea. “Touching iron reminds me of when my father, when I was little, would take me for an ice-cream at La Rambla. It was a true tradition. We would get to the Balcony to see the boats and contemplate some unique views”.

Catedral de Tarragona / ©Gustau Alegret

The vicious circle of Alegret’s personal Tarragona makes to an end at Pla de la Seu, where we’ve previously met. Sitting on the stairs, the journalist explains that “If there is any cathedral in the world that is part of my life, this is Tarragona’s. It taught me the evolution from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. It is an unfinished cathedral, yet full of symbolism, which hides a deep history, not just of Catalonia, nor the Iberian Peninsula, but of Europe”. Besides its beauty, it also possesses mystical and introspective characteristics. “Walking inside the Cathedral brings a lot of peace to me, as well as many memories to my mind. To me, the rose window at the end of the main nave is a bucolic sight. It has a religious essence to it, which I find every time I go inside and wander around the side chapels“.

Text: Ivan Rodon (@irodon on Twitter)
Pictures: Pere Toda
Video and translation: Artur Santos (@artur_1983 on Twitter)

In March, #lamevatarragona will be brought to you by Juanjo Fuster, photographer and one of the main Instagramers in Catalonia and Spain.