What’s great about Bog Tour is that, even after Israel Tour and Kayitz, you are still able to attend events abroad with LJY and re-enter that ‘LJY-bubble’ in another country. So after what seemed like months, the 22nd June finally arrived and 13 LJY-nicks along with 2 Movement Workers (Bethany and Graham) landed in Spain with much excitement to begin this years’ Bog Tour, B’Barcelona. The tour properly began that very evening with the famous light show on Montjuic. The perfect blend of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics was the perfect way to begin Bog Tour in typical LJY-style.
Our first day consisted of much walking. So much walking. Firstly, we walked from our hostel to the old town of Barcelona for lunch. This was later followed by a walking tour of the Jewish quarter, a walk to the Sagrada Familia and after climbing down the Sagrada Familia, a final walk to Gaudi’s House. All of these activities were extremely interesting as they were all so different and diverse. The day was mixed with not only Jewish sites of importance but also with Spanish art history. It’s crazy to think that on the same day, we visited the oldest synagogue in Barcelona and travelled up to the viewing point at the top of Gaudi’s spectacular Sagrada Familia. However, the highlight of this day, for me, was when some of us started playing the pony game in the streets of the old town of Barcelona. The local residents obviously didn’t like this so proceeded to throw buckets of water out of their window to make us stop.
Oddly enough, we actually happened to be in Barcelona in the midst of their San Juan Bonfire festival, a festival dedicated to the summer solstice. This included firecrackers (which explained all the gun-like sounds we have been hearing all day), bonfires, fireworks and street party celebrations. It was exhilarating to witness, as it was different to any kind of festival in England, even The 5th November. Fireworks were literally being set off right in front of you, so close that you had to run away to avoid them. There were many of these celebrations all over the city. Some of us went to the one on the beach whereas others simply observed the one going on right outside our hostel.
The rest of the days were pretty similar, involving of a mixture of Jewish and non-Jewish ports of call. Hence, on our second day, we boarded a coach and sang our way to the old Jewish town of Besalu where, the oldest Mikvah found in Spain is located. Obviously, Besalu was a common point of tourism for many Hebrew-speaking people as those of us who were wearing Netzer t-shirts with Netzer written in Hebrew on, kept getting stopped by Israelis asking us about Netzer. This was a pretty cool and kind of surreal experience: that in the middle of the Catalonian countryside, we were being asked about Netzer. Subsequently, we then moved on to Girona where there was an extensive amount of Jewish history as there was a major Jewish community there in the 12th century. Unfortunately the Jewish museum was closed so Bethany and Graham sent us on a scavenger hunt to find all the significant places of Jewish heritage. Girona was a very beautiful and quaint town so although we didn’t find all the places on Bethany and Grahams scavenger hunt, we still got to explore the town and eat yet another ice cream as we walked around.
As well as having many educational and cultural tourist sights, Barcelona is also well known for its beaches so our last day was pretty much spent relaxing on the suitably named Bogatell beach. With the sea sparkling, the sun shining and the sand glistening, we enjoyed a spiritual Ma’Amad followed by loads of beach kef and it was great. The last activity of that day was a visit to the museum at Camp Nou, the iconic Barcelona football stadium. This was surprisingly fun, even for those who were not fans of football as most of it was spent taking photos pretending to be the new Barcelona football team.
Later that evening, we were invited to dinner with Netzer-Barcelona. This was exciting for everyone and one of the things many of us found uplifting about the Barcelona trip. It reminded us that, no matter how many times the Spanish had tried to expel all the Jews from Spain, they seemed to have failed. As LJY-Netzer, we were still standing there in Spain, as proud liberal Jews. Meeting Netzer-Barcelona really highlighted and emphasised this as we witnessed a strong branch of Netzer in a country that has had such a negative history towards Jewish people. It was cool to think that no matter how hard they had tried, they could never really get rid of the Jewish people there. We also found it ironic how translated, Mountjuic actually means Mount of Jews. It was another way in which we noticed the Jewish people of Spain were able to subtly make their mark despite how much persecution they faced from the Spanish monarchy.
Bog Tour is a great way to bond with your fellow Bogrim, not only from your Shikvah but from other Shikvah’s too. And, as a result, it was great experience that I am so glad I was able to participate in. So if any Bogrim have the opportunity to take part next year, I would strongly advise them to go for it. It’s also a great way to kick-start your LJY summer!