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Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Trip to Alicante/Valencia: Day 2 - Las Fallas - Valencia, Spain

Saturday morning I woke up around 7 am and got ready to meet Reegis at the train station around 9 for a two hour ride on the slow train up to Valencia. We were heading to Valencia for "Las Fallas de San José" which is a festival taking place inside the city from the 12th of March to the 19th. The whole week is filled with fireworks, music, street vendors, all day/night drinking and parades. They top it off at the end of the week burning huge statues in the city streets at midnight on the 19th. 

Las Fallas is a festival in praise of Saint James. The Fallas themselves are large sculptures made of wood, papier mache and other chemicals which probably are not the best to be inhaling. There are over 2 million visitors to Valencia during the week to celebrate the occasion. Some of the statues reach 40+ feet and cost nearly 200,000 Euros. There are hundreds of statues of all sizes around the city which are voted on for best prize in a number of categories. The statues range from style and usually relate to current affairs and local customs. 

After midnight on the final day, the day which we were in town, they ignite every single statue in the city and watch them burn to ashes back by fireworks and explosions. I had no idea what to expect when I first walked into the city but by the end of the night my mind was thoroughly blown. 

We got there before noon and decided to start walking around the city center for a bit checking out some of the pieces of art that they would be destroying in the approaching hours. The statues were impressive. Massive, colorful and well made. Standing close to them you could see how much time and effort was put into each statue. 

This won first prize

One artist really had a stick up his ass with the United States. Now I don't know what his actual image or message was, but the statues made it seem he wasn't too fond of our culture. The center of the Statue was a large sprinkled donut where the Mcdonald's logo as a top hat and sporting Mickey Mouse and Uncle Sam bursting out the sides. There was also a large bust of Uncle Sam pointing a very large index finger out into the crowd.  Surrounding his top hat was a native American, a cowboy and a rocket ship heading into space. 

Around the main statue was a number of smaller statues which included: Homer Simpson eating a donut; a large fat nude sculpture eating a hotdog with a large stick in his ass supporting him up; a large dragon eating a American business man with his patriotic red shorts in the mouth of the dragon; A large fat man at an airport security scanner machine completely naked with a security officer near by. I spent the most time looking at this statue trying to figure out if there was any love for our culture or country. No luck. 

After walking around for a little while we headed over to a main plaza to see the "Mascaleta"a which is an explosive display of ear ringing proportions. At 2pm every day there is a coridinated firecracker and firworkes show. The last day is supposed to be the most intense and I believe it. There was a solid 5 minutes of loud firecrackers with smoke billowing into the crowds. Shortly after fireworks accompanied the loud bands for another few minutes. By the end of the show the sun was hidden behind a large thick cloud of smoke. We were advised to keep our mouths open during the show since we were so close so you could let the sound and vibrations pass through you easier. The video below had the event pretty well documented. I couldn't belive how loud and the amount of time it lasted.

She is a dirty one
2pm during the Mascleta
Goodbye sun
Shortly after the Mascleta
I met up with a few more friends from Sevilla and we walked around the streets for a while. They had a couchsurfer who lived outside of Sevilla with her parents. Needless to say they had it made. Paella parties, rides into town and a really nice house to stay in. They headed back around 5 pm and my buddy Reegis and I found a grassy park area to try and get some rest. We had no place to stay for the night and planned on being out until the next day when our train was heading back to Valencia. The attempt to rest was crippled by the deafening sound of fireworks going off all around the town.

Main drag with shops
Since I couldn't get any rest I kept looking over at a big round about with a large monument in the center. I noticed there was metal gates lining the whole road and people were gathering. We got up and made our way to the barrier and found out a parade was going to take place. It finally reached us around 8 pm. It had traditional Valencian music, dancing and costumes followed by men in red jumpsuits with horns running around swinging ropes with fireworks and flares attached. They also pushed around metal bulls that shot sparks from its mouth and nostrels. After about an hour of people swinging around fire the whole plaza lit up with explosions and a firework show started. Below is another good video of parts of the parade.

The smoke from the fireworks and the parade were so bad. Luckily we had the knowledge to buy some scarfs to cover our faces while we were being blasted with sparks and smoke.


After the parade we met up with our friend Ted who was there with some cousins and his uncle. We walked around and checked out some more statues and then left to meet back up with my friends Hannah and Laura and the girl they were staying with.

As we walked around some of the smaller statues were being burned. We made our way to a large statue about 30 minutes before midnight to watch burn .

It was one of the most insane things I have ever witnessed. I didn't picture the festival to play out this way. I imagined large statues that they had in town and moved outside of town in a large field to burn safely, away from humans and buildings. Spain doesn't roll like that. They had these 40 foot statues smack dab in the middle of the intersections surrounded by firemen who drenched the buildings with water as the statues burned. We were a solid 100 feet back and could feel the heat. I would highly recommend watching the video below to see how massive this burn was.

I would love to see this event from a helicopter. I imagine it looks like a city under terror. There are hundreds of statues in all the intersections that get burned at once.

To make things even better we ended up finding a place to stay. The girl who my friends were staying with offered to let us go stay at her house. It was going on 2 am and we didn't leave on the train until 5 pm the next day. We gladly accepted and even got a nice bed to sleep in. I would learn in the morning how extremely kind and hospitable the family was. We hung out with the mother and the girl for a bit and then headed to bed. 

Valencia dubs themselves the firework capital of the world and after that night I agree 100%. This was one of the most interesting and spectacular things I have witnessed. The best part to me is during all this chaos everyone is so happy and friendly, drinking away and enjoying the party. Great weekend and if you ever have the chance to see Las Fallas I would say do it. It is worth it. 

1 comment:

  1. OMG!! What amazing pictures and videos, what great memories for you!