21 March 2013

Cuanto tiempo...

... ¡que no nos hemos visto!

I keep meaning to write a post because it's been TWO LONG MONTHS since my last one, which is not good at all. I'm sorry about that, I will try harder in future (promise). Since two months is an extremely long time and I have done a LOT of amazing things since then, I'll give a brief overview in another post very soon with a giant photo dump. I will, however, begin with this:

I've just got back from a long weekend in Valencia for Las Fallas, which is basically just a fire-wine-and-churros-fuelled firework festival with giant, 60ft cartoon-esque statues on every corner and entire streets adorned with Christmas lights making you feel like you're simultaneously strolling down Main Street, Disneyland and attending some sort of tacky, kitschy church service (a good one though, where the congregation is salsa-ing down the aisle and the high priest is throwing firecrackers about the place to make you dance, suckas).

I have just realised that I still don't know much about Las Fallas (probably should have learned what it was all about before I went, eh?) and what it all stands for, except for the fact that they pick the best Falla (the 60ft statues) at the end of the five-day long festival and... burn it. They burn everything. Burn burn burn burn burn. BUT WHY?! Entire streets within the different neighbourhoods are cordoned off for months at a time for the Fallas artists to work on their pieces, and at the end of the day they just burn them?! Let's find out why.

Wikipedia says:
There are six different events featured during the Las Fallas festival which are as follows:-
  • La despertà - Literally "the awakening". Each day begins at 8am with brass bands walking through their respective neighbourhoods, essentially letting everybody know that the day and the party has begun (just in case they had forgotten in the couple of hours between getting to bed at around 5am and the call of la despertà at 8am - much like our group).
  • La mascletà - Basically day-time fireworks (starting at 2pm every day). "But what's the point in that?" I hear you say, "You won't be able to see them!" It's not all about the visuals for the Spanish. It's also about the aural! We were lucky enough to experience one of these and the noise is just mind blowing. We could even hear them when we visited Oceanografic on our final day, which is 3km outside of the city!
  • La plantà - The day during which all Fallas must be completed, or else they face disqualification.
  • L'ofrena floral - Each falla casal (group of people from each neighbourhood) takes an offering of flowers to a statue of Saint Mary, which is then dressed with the flowers (and then, presumably, burned like everything else).
  • Els castells and la nit del foc - There are firework displays on the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th down in the old river bed, each night getting louder and more flamboyant. Wikipedia says nothing about els castells but I'm presuming it's something to do with people drumming and dancing in the archways of the castle towers surrounding the old town.
  • La cremà - Unfortunately we didn't get to witness this, but this is essentially the burning of the Fallas statues at the end of the festival. They all get set alight at the same time so the city itself appears to be burning to the ground. Cool (but dangerous - alas, that's Spanish health and safety laws for ya.)
So why do they burn them? Apparently Fallas didn't start life out as gigantic cartoon foam impressions of Steve Jobs and Andy Warhol, but were in fact wooden planks used by medieval carpenters to hang their candles from in the dark (the festival's come a bit of a long way then, eh?) The townsfolk then decided to dress the planks up to make it look like a person and the children would knock around the houses of the neighbourhood asking for una estoreta velleta, which is an old rug. It's a bit like the children of England knocking around their neighbours asking for a "penny for the guy" on Bonfire Night. So from then on, it became a sort of competition between neighbourhoods and Fallas got bigger and better and finally ended up a little something like this:

She was a really tall one (and I apologise for the semi-nudity but this is the only good shot I got of any of the Fallas, which is a bit of a shame. But she's a bodacious babe, so who cares?)

So there we have it! A rough written representation of what Las Fallas is about, but I highly recommend going to experience it for yourself if you ever get the chance to do so because there's nothing else quite like living through the adrenaline-filled fear of the possibility of being set alight at any given moment. Enjoy some photos! (Mostly of street art...)

NOTE: all photos in this post have been taken by me. Please do not redistribute without my permission. If you would like to redistribute an image, comment and ask and I'll (more than likely) say yes. Additionally, some of these photos can also be found on my Flickr.


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