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Living in Berga – Six Month Update

At the end of my post about me moving to the heart of the Catalonian countryside I said I was going to post an update after being here for a month. Yet, I didn’t do it, because sometimes “life throws at you unexpected stones” that you must avoid or let them hit you and heal from the wound caused, like the death of father just to name one.

Still, let’s talk about the town I moved to six months ago.

As every place on earth nothing is perfect and the idillic town or village exist only in fiction or fantasy stories. Berga is not different from any other town, but for the eyes of you, the reader, and who perhaps does not live in Spain, Berga has its specific characteristics like any other place on earth.

After six months I guess I am in a much better position to share with the world what it means to move here. 

If you’ve read my blog or followed me on instagram you will notice that I have a fascination for being in natural environments, even though I was born and raised in a big and chaotic capital city like Caracas. The thing with Caracas is that despite its chaos it is surrounded by high and lush mountains covered in some of the deepest rainforest you can imagine, and that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Likewise, Berga offers me exactly the same with some pros and cons. When I say cons it doesn’t mean that they are bad in general, this is my opinion towards that particular nuisance. It doesn’t mean that which affects me can affects others in the same way. 

Noise

Before I mention the problem of noise I must mention that when I moved to Berga, Spain, or rather Catalonia still had a curfew in place and from 22:00 to 6:00 people could not leave their houses unless a valid reason could be given to the authorities. Many people could work from home so there wasn’t any reason for anyone to leave home unless strictly necessary. This created the perfect scenario for tranquility and quietness that I was so much looking for before moving to Berga. Yet, and after living in Malta as well as Barcelona I can finally acknowledge a hard truth: 

Noise is a constant Mediterranean element hard to avoid regardless of where you move to.

The end of the curfew meant people started going out to enjoy “life” and there’s nothing wrong with that, except when you are affected by the collateral effect of noise creation, and hence end of quietness. People were asked to come back to their jobs and some people started leaving home at 5:15 to get to their jobs.

Another and perhaps the most important element of this noise problem is the street I live in. Like I mentioned earlier when I moved into the flat we had a curfew in place and when I asked the landlord about the street noise, he told me it was a quiet street. Of course, no landlord would have said the truth because they want to rent it out to a suitable tenant as soon as possible. Perhaps for him and his wife the noise level is low according to their noise tolerance. But I think the main reason they didn’t or know is because they haven’t ever lived in the flat I’m renting because they live in a nearby smaller village. 

As the curfew ended and the town commercial activity came back to normal pre-covid times the street became louder and louder. There are many reasons for that loudness but the main one is the echo effect from the near buildings creating a valley effect and my flat’s height in relation to the ground floor.

50cc motorbikes

50cc motorbike used by the kids

Among the many noise generator elements there is one that generates the worst noise of all, and that’s the 50CC 2 stroke motorbikes youngsters ride all day long (except when it rains, I wish it’d rain more as well) . Those motorbikes produce the worst noise you can imagine. If you’ve ever been to a motocross or enduro event you will know what I talking about. I love motorbikes, but these bikes haven’t been used in big cities for a long time, because they don’t meet the emission rules, however in small towns like Berga this rule is completely overlooked.

It is such a contradiction that I love motorbikes, and that I am very happy seeing these kids riding a motorbike (not scooter) instead of an electrical scooter, but the noise they make is very annoying and has affected my sleep since the curfew was lifted. Like I said, there’s no perfect place.

On other hand, the street I live in literally connects the northern part of the town with the southern part and the constant flow of cars is unimaginable. If to that you add a variable call speed hump, which makes cars break and accelerate (yes it’s a two way street) making the engine sound louder, and of course the unexpected amount of tuned cars, as well as old diesel 4×4, although that was somehow expected.  All these also raise another problem and that’s pollution which now I am facing and which I didn’t have to deal with in Barcelona. If only I would move to the street around the corner all these noise related issues would be gone. But who knows perhaps my neighbours would play reggaeton at full blast, so like I said, it is what it is and there’s no perfect place. It is more a matter of acceptance and live with it.

Yes, I have been moaning a lot about the noise so far and that’s because it is the only problem I have had so far in Berga. Ok, sure you have the amount of dogs per sq2 but that’s a general problem in Spain not just in Berga.

Bergadanes (people from Berga)

People are nice, quiet, friendly and always willing to help if you ask them nicely. However, I have been faced with almost the same social barrier I faced when I moved to Malta. Back then (over 10 years now) it was really hard for me to get into the Maltese society, simply because for them foreigners come and go and they know it so they don’t see the need to meet foreigners. Of course this is not everyone, but in my experience only those who travelled outside of Malta were willing to meet and maintain a friendship with a foreigner even if this one (like in my case) moved out of Malta. Indeed, I shouldn’t compare people from different nations because we’re all different, but I am comparing them based on my personal experience.

Berga, is no different in that sense. People in Berga are friendly but are really hard to meet up and to mingle with them. I have tried forums, Facebook groups even tinder with no success. Indeed, there’s also the fact that we have gone through a pandemic and people are still reluctant to meet up new people in fear of getting the Delta strain, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated and the risk of death is lower than at the start of the pandemic.

People in this city are nice but shielded in pretty much any social way.

Language Barrier

The importance of Català as a language in Berga cannot be stressed enough. Pretty much everyone speaks it on a daily basis and even though they know Castillian (Spanish) they don’t use it simply because there’s no need to. It has come to a point that when I go to Barcelona and I hear Spanish it is odd, sounds foreigner. I don’t take it as offensive as many do. In any case, it is me who has to make an effort and learn some Catalan.

I tried to join the free Catalan classes but the moment they told me they were going to me online I completely abandoned the idea. But, I try to adapt and let them talk and sadly reply back in Castillian, and if they want to reply in Castillian they will do, if they don’t feel confident speaking in Castillian they will understand that you understand Catalan and they will continue chatting with you in Catalan. That’s what I have been doing and honestly no problem with that whatever. And yes I’ve noticed that there’s a difference in the way the pronounce Catalan here and Barcelona, the accent is stronger, but if you make an effort it can be understood. 

Nature 

As you know nature is perhaps the most important, and yes I decided to leave this to the end because it is the most important part of moving to Berga and for keeping me so far. The noise problem has been so bad that I have really considered moving out to another town but Berga has something that other towns cannot offer. I am talking about its surrounding nature offering me the very best of the Pre-Pyrenees. I can get to a mountain to start a very beautiful hike in just 20 mins (and that’s walking). I don’t have to use neither the car or the motorbike to get to a beautiful place. Sure I can, but that’s not necessary. Having this advantage is priceless and honestly when I go for a hike or a walk along the hills nearby, all my street noise problems are gone.

Remember when I mentioned the word pollution a few paragraphs back? In reality Berga, is perhaps the place with the purest air I have ever lived. Wait what? Yes, despite my street problem, once you walk outside the town (it takes me just 7 minutes to do it) I can already smell the fields, the fresh air, the plants, the trees, the pollen, the sudden change in air current temperatures, it is such a priceless thing to have in life. I wonder in people from Berga has realised how lucky they are in that sense?

Rapeseed Plantations – The Silent Allergenic

How can such a beautiful yellow mantle kill me silently?

One of the worst thing I went through right after moving to Berga was the exposure to pollen, specifically rapeseed pollen. I’ve always been allergic to dust, since I was a little boy and I remember taking pills to ease my allergy. However, I always thought that was something from the big cities and the pollution, but to my surprise I couldn’t be more wrong from the sad true that the countryside has even more pollen than the big cities. It is even worse when you consider that the kind of pollen you can find in the countryside is something I have not been exposed to for a long period but on weekends.

Still, this year it was terrible, perhaps the worst allergy period of my life ever. I cannot recall a time when I could simply not breath in or out, and I could only inhale through my mouth and exhale pushing the air out through my nose or simply through my mouth again. On top of that the allergy disabled my smell completely and I had a constant running nose that was driving me insane. Yet, the worst was the lack of concentration at work, sudden headaches and not been able to sleep at night.

It wasn’t until I went to visit the otorhinolaryngologist that the doctor humbly and jokingly said: “So you moved to Berga and you are allergic to pollen? Epic fail my friend”. Luckily and happily the doctor’s recommended pills and spray helped me and eventually I my nose was working as it is supposed it.

Summer fruits

Honestly I didn’t know that during summer you could literally just go for a walk in the fields and find delicious plums or pears. You might wonder whether I sneaked into somebody’s garden, but no I did not. There are many plum trees available along the many trails near Berga and you can enjoy the delicious fruit and trust me they taste so much better than the ones from the supermarkets.

Hand picked plum
Deliciously tasty and juicy plums

Skies in Berga

Even though I sadly cannot see the horizon from my balcony whenever I go for a walk I can almost always experience a beautiful and sometimes dramatic sky. Sometimes the clouds can conveniently cover the sun so the rest of the background can be seen; some other times the sky simply shows how much water the clouds can carry; and sometimes it can simply amaze me with its gradient colours during a nice sunset. Skies in Berga are something special because of its height (sitting at 700mts above the sea level) you can see the lower plains and hills on the horizon. Trust me it is something that makes Berga special.

Such a playful cloud
This was such a dramatic sky showing the downpour over Manresa
Some fully loaded clouds releasing their rains over Montseny
A typical sunset over Berga

The Future

Will I stay here for the rest of my life? No, but for the time being I am happy living here. I am living in a place that has exactly what I had been looking for for so many years and I want to enjoy it.

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