Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spain's Traditional Festivals.

My first trip to Europe was in 2008. I can prove that I was in London, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Florence, Venice... because I have photos of me in front of all the major attractions. "I was here." The fact that I had a personal photo that I took, of whatever monument it was, just wasn't enough. 

Well, fast-forward to 2014. My photography outlook has changed. I'd rather take an incredible shot that I could put on a wall someday. Framed. One that becomes a conversational piece when friends come over. "Yeah, I took that when I was in Venice." "This is a beautiful monastery in Bulgaria that we took a taxi to... 7 hours by taxi and we only had to pay 60 euro!" That's my new outlook. It's not bragging. It's about the experience of having been THERE. 

Travel: the only thing you buy, that makes you richer.

The longer I spend time in Europe, the more I want to explore it's hidden gems. I've seen the big picture. Now, I want to understand the little pieces that make it a whole. I want to take in everything I can, even if it's a rushed trip I have to fit into a weekend. Even a small taste of a place can help you understand it -- and most likely it will leave you wanting more.

Tradition. Something that we see in America in family recipes, high school rivalry, and holidays. While tradition in Spain is also based on food culture and holidays, it's the tiny town festivals that really captivate me. 

Some Spanish festivals would be banned in the USA. Like, where would it be justified to throw turnips at someone? Where would it be acceptable to hit people with burning brooms? Where do you find an old medieval town holding a medieval festival with costumes, rides and food to match - and we'll throw in a castle too? Where do you find people running with bulls? Spain is different.

I'm lucky to have been able to experience these cool traditional festivals! 

JARRAMPLAS: A traditional turnip throwing festival.
Holy turnips!
Look at the turnips flying through the air!!
You're probably thinking that it's a prison sentence to have to be inside the suit. But, people actually sign up for this years in advance. They say the list is full until 2030... you must also be from the village of Piornal to have the priviledge to be the Jarramplas, the man inside the suit. While turnips are thrown at the Jarramplas, depending on where you're standing could mean a turnip is coming toward you! You have to be on-guard at all times as the Jarramplas quickly changes directions, people go scattering and the turnips come from every direction! 

I was so full of energy to be there - and to be in the front - getting a wonderful view of everything. I didn't get hurt by any turnips, but a few brushed by legs. The whole town smelled of turnips... there was turnip mush everywhere. It was definitely an adventure and I'm so happy to have been a part of this year's festival.  

More info here:
This was just crazy! I'll probably never see anything like it again!
Turnips as big as our faces! Me - Rachel - Mamen

MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL: Let's play dress up in Oropesa de Toledo!

Just this past weekend, in the neighbor community, Castilla la Mancha, I was able to experience my first Medieval festival in an old Medieval city! While I felt like I was on the set of Tristan and Isolde or Role Models, it was really a cool experience. People were fully dressed up - swords, armor, crowns, masks, etc. I mean, there were camel rides. An Arabic zoco complete with kebabs and falafel. Headbands to make you look like a woman from the times. Roasting pigs and sausages that filled the air with "ganas de comer" right then! And, there were crepes which had absolutely nothing to do with Medieval times but they were so good. 

Not to mention, Oropesa de Toledo is a fantastic little city. I can't believe I had never been there... it's just 15 minutes away from Navalmoral. Well, I'm glad I went and what great timing to see it as it was in its past! Three cheers for Oropesa's Medieval Festival! Ole! 
Streets lined with banners and people in costume!
Camel rides, people suntanning, a castle...
What's for lunch? It was such a beautiful day!
Watch out!
LOS ESCOBAZOS: A Fiery Festival in Jarandilla de la Vera!

This festival takes place in early December. I went during my first year in Spain when I taught in Jarandilla. It's too good to leave out of the blog post... 

But, basically, kids are taught to play with fire in Jarandilla. They are taught to hit people with their burning broom (waist down) - and when you are a teacher, you can only imagine your chances of being hit increase drastically. I know from experience. 

While singing traditional songs, people march through the streets lighting bonfires in the plazas until they reach the final plaza next to a small church. The final fire's flames actually surpass the church! I don't think anyone was nervous but me... I was so scared the town was going to catch fire - and/or myself. But, clearly, I've survived to talk about it!

Throwback photos to my experience at los Escobazos
Grab your broom...
Fire taller than the church. I saw this going wrong in so many ways...
San Fermin: Running of the Bulls!

When people think of Spain, I think it's a given that they think of flamenco dancers... Siesta & Fiesta. And, of course, the most typical: BULLS. The famous party of "Running of the Bulls", where crazy, drunk people run in front of bulls down the narrow streets of Pamplona, Spain.

I went in 2012 with my friend Zach. Wine festival. Red & White clothes. Sleeping in a park. No showers. Thousands of people... sleeping everywhere. Crowded buses. The whole lot. I can happily say: Been there; Done that. Would I repeat... maybe....!?!

The whole "running of the bulls" part lasts literally just a few minutes, once a day for six days. If you're not running with the bulls, you're packing behind 6 foot tall, wooden barricades, double stacked... with 100,000s of people... but still, it's tradition and I again, I was happy to be part of it! 

Throwback photos to 2012: Running of the Bulls!
Lucky are those who have friends with balconies!
Sleep where you can... park or bus station... your call. Want privacy? Cover your face with your scarf.

Spain is different. Long live traditional festivals.
Here's to discovering more of Spain's uniqueness...
and photographing more conversational pieces.
What will I experience next?