Saturday, March 17, 2007
My street has a Falla of the female mayor of Valencia. I don’t read Valenciano so I don’t really understand any of the Fallas as everything is written in the local dialect. Some of the Fallas are rather modest while others are up to ten stories high and occupy entire city blocks. How they are able to burn these massive structures without torching the adjacent buildings should be interesting to watch this Monday evening when they will all go up in flames.
You see lots of people walking around in colorful traditional garb. I was in the market yesterday buying a chicken when a procession of people in Valencian dress paraded through the stalls accompanied by a brass band. Something you don’t see every day. Almost everyone else at least wears a scarf around their necks to honor the celebration.
This is, without a doubt, the loudest week of my life. Every afternoon in the central plaza there is an event called the Mascletà which is a daytime fireworks display of loud explosions. On the last four nights of Fallas there is a huge night fireworks display in the Turia Gardens Park. These begin at midnight or 1 a.m. After the fireworks there are huge block parties in every neighborhood complete with loud live music or DJs. These go on until four in the morning or later. I had to go to the airport this morning at six o’clock and I had a hell of a time getting a cab as the streets were still full of people all looking to get home. I took the subway home and it was full of very tired-looking kids who had been at it all night long.
The party in my neighborhood is right beneath my window so trying to go to sleep any earlier than 4 a.m. is futile for this light sleeper. I figure I only have three more nights of this and then I can get some sleep. Sleeping during the day is not any easier because there are little kids everywhere setting off firecrackers. These little terrorists pretty much control the streets during daylight hours. I will walk around the block rather than take a shortcut through and alley if there are little kids in my path. My ears can only take so much punishment.
I have been riding my bike all over the city checking out all of the crazy Fallas each neighborhood offers. I have tried but they are difficult to photograph because some of them are very big and crammed claustrophobically into narrow little streets. They are so beautiful that it seems like such a shame to burn them. There are also smaller, children’s Fallas called infantiles which have children’s themes but are equally mysterious to the outsider.
Because this is Valencia, a lot of the festival seems to revolve around food and drink. There are stands set up all over town that sell churros and buñuelos which are like donuts. I have also noticed a lot of walk-up booths that sell beer and wine. All of the block parties have concessions for food and booze. Most of the kids just bring their own bottles booze and mixer.
In addition to all of this craziness, Valencia has a home football game this evening. I will head over to watch the game at my favorite sports bar after which I will try to take a nap before the 1 a.m. fireworks and ensuing street parties. As I said, it’s futile to go to sleep before 3 a.m. with so much going on.
Valencia is a city of 800,000 and I have heard that there are as many 2 million visitors during this festival. I have no reason to doubt this as there are hordes of people everywhere you go. I would estimate that at least 80,000 people show up every day for the ear assault in the main square and afterwards every table in every downtown restaurant will be filled. The block parties are all slightly controlled riots. The buses and metro are packed from morning until night. The entire city gets practically destroyed every day, is cleaned and scrubbed in the morning, and the whole process begins all over again. There was a brief period at around 7 a.m. today when I was walking around and it seemed almost peaceful. It didn’t last very long.
Labels: Valencia Spain