On the road, again…..

Packing again! Tomorrow I head to Pamplona by train. My 3 friends and I will begin the Camino on Friday, April Fools Day (appropriate, no?). It’s roughly 500 miles, but we sleep in hostels each night and can eat at restaurants much of the way. And there’s lots of red wine and ham sandwiches!
 
Unfortunately, I’ll have to go to Madrid this week. I need to get a work visa at the Russian Embassy. Tried to set an appointment but the offices are closed for Holy Week. Who said they were godless commies?

Holy frickin week

I didn't even bother to take photos until the FOURTH band came by.
I didn’t even bother to take photos until the FOURTH band came by.

This is Semana Santa, or Holy week. The week leading up to Easter is celebrated by Christians around the world to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

It may be sacrilegious, but I just want to get some sleep.

In Spain, Holy Week appears to be celebrated with drums and marching bands accompanied by hooded figures, reminiscent of the KKK. Oh, and then more drums. The worst part is that all of the city of Valencia seem to be taking turns processing in front of my apartment. The bands start about 8am and seem to appear any time of day, but prefer early morning, late evening or anytime I am about to drift off to sleep. Last night they were drumming well past 11pm. The night before it was past midnight. This evening they’ve been pounding and processing for 3 solid hours.

This could put me off marching bands forever.

I don’t understand and find the hooded figures kinda creepy. And how on earth is it “Christian” to keep me from my sleep?

For more see here and here.

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There was briefly a traffic jam when three bands all tried to march from different directions into this park across the street.
There was briefly a traffic jam when three bands all tried to march from different directions into this park across the street.

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Sleepless in Valencia

I can't imagine how much money is spend on both fireworks and the huge fallas displays. This is taken from my balcony on the 7th floor (6th floor in Europe).
I can’t imagine how much money is spend on both fireworks and the huge fallas displays. This is taken from my balcony on the 7th floor (6th floor in Europe).

I do really like Valencia, but it may be the noisiest place I’ve ever been to. It started with the Fallas celebration. Fallas means “torch” and it seems to be an excuse for lots of fireworks, explosions and fire. Huge, towering monuments, also called Fallas, are erected in the streets of every neighborhood and plaza. On the last night they are burned. The celebrations go on all night. Every morning, a “wake up” band goes through the streets at 8am.

Clearly, I didn’t come here to sleep.

The Fallas celebration went on well into the night. There were four large fireworks displays in my neighborhood alone on the final Saturday night.The bands and fireworks were still going off at 4am. I wasn't worried because I was sure I could sleep in the next morning, since it was Sunday.
The Fallas celebration went on well into the night. There were four large fireworks displays in my neighborhood alone on the final Saturday night.The bands and fireworks were still going at 4am. I wasn’t worried because I was sure I could sleep in the next morning, since it was Sunday.
This was the small children's presentation in front of my building, as pictured by day. This was the first one in my neighborhood to be burned.
This was the small children’s presentation in front of my building, as pictured by day. This was the first one in my neighborhood to be burned.
At about 10:30p on Saturday, they began burning the first and smallest of the monuments. As you can see, it was in the street directly below my balcony. A minute after this photo was taken they lite the fire. What I didn't know what that the fallas is made of paper, wax and FIREWORKS! Some of them headed straight for my head! I had to duck inside to avoid being blinded.
At about 10:30p on Saturday, they began burning the first and smallest of the fallas monuments. As you can see, it was in the street directly below my balcony. A minute after this photo was taken they lit the fire. What I didn’t know what that the fallas is made of paper, wax and more FIREWORKS! Some of them were headed straight for my head! I had to duck inside to avoid being blinded.
Unfortunately Sunday was the beginning of Samanas santos--Holy week. Each church had a band and processes through the streets LOUDLY, beginning at 8am. Every hour all the church bells would ring. The circular spot in the middle of the street is from one of the burned monuments (falles). This is taken from my balcony.
Unfortunately Sunday was the beginning of Samanas santos–Holy week. Each church had a band and processed through the streets LOUDLY, beginning at 8am. Every hour, all the church bells would ring. The circular spot in the middle of the street is from the same fallas monument above.  This is taken from my balcony.
One of the many bands nosily parading through the streets at the start of Holy week.
One of the many bands nosily parading through the streets at the start of Holy week.

IMG_0887 This is a short clip of one of the many light displays. Sorry it’s sideways.

The metro system here is quite good and makes it possible for me to see most of the city easily. I prefer the underground trains, but trams and buses are also very nice, clean and in good repair. But the "M" symbol of the metro always makes me want chocolate M&M's.
The metro system here is quite good and makes it possible for me to see most of the city easily. I prefer the underground trains, but trams and buses are also very nice, clean and in good repair. But the “M” symbol of the metro always makes me want chocolate M&M’s.

 

Fallas in Valencia!

No, I don't want to pay their electric bill. This huge canopy is the length of a city block and 4-5 stories high. There was music and a light show.
No, I don’t want to pay their electric bill. This huge canopy is the length of a city block and 4-5 stories high. There was music and a light show.

As long as sleep is not important to you, this could be my favorite festival of all time. I admit the all the super powered firecrackers do get me a tad jumpy, this is a very happy, family event. And remember, the body eventually collapses, despite loud bands and sonic booms. I slept 11 straight hours, rising at noon today, so I feel refreshed. Since we still have many festivities and some huge bonfires to come, that’s good.

Falles is a Valencian word for “torch” and it’s an apt one. Incidentally, Google Translate keeps saying the word is Spanish and means “failures” so I was quite confused for the first few days.  The Falles or Fallas is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. For a full year, the casal faller (Each neighbourhood Fallas organization) raise money and prepare the ninots (Valencian for puppets or dolls). These “dolls” can be five stories tall, made of paper mache, wax, wood and polystyrene foam. They are set up in neighborhoods and even paraded through the streets. At the end of the celebration all the monuments are burnt in huge bonfires. It’s like Marti Gras in New Orleans, except it’s got more fire and less booze.

OK, not a lot less booze.

My new teacher friends: Siho, Rida and Symone. Here, we attempt to eat our weight in grilled meat. Why is no one surprised that I ordered pork ribs?
My new teacher friends: Siho, Rida and Symone. Here, we attempt to eat our weight in grilled meat. Why is no one surprised that I ordered pork ribs?
This is a huge light display and we stood inside it!
This is a huge light display and we stood inside it!
This is on the street, taken from my balcony. The display will eventually burn, but for now there's a band and lovely young girls in traditional costumes parading through the area. It goes on 24 hours a day. No, I'm not getting much sleep, but what can you do?
This is on the street, taken from my balcony. The display will eventually burn, but for now there’s a band and lovely young girls in traditional costumes parading through the area. It goes on 24 hours a day. No, I’m not getting much sleep, but what can you do?
This is the 1am fireworks that went on for 20 minutes. I jumped in a cab five minutes before the end and was in the shower before my roommates got home.
This is the 1am fireworks that went on for 20 minutes. I jumped in a cab five minutes before the end and was in the shower before my roommates got home.
This wooden structure is about 7 stories tall and in the evenings a light show is projected on it and from inside it. It has a glowing heart inside the chest. It's hard to imagine that this will be just burned.
This wooden structure is about 7 stories tall and in the evenings a light show is projected on it and from inside it. It has a glowing heart inside the chest. It’s hard to imagine that this will be just burned.
The structures are arranged in the intersections and traffic is closed to about every third street.  Driving is almost impossible.
The structures are arranged in the intersections and traffic is closed to about every third street. Driving is almost impossible.
A quiet moment, a few hours before the fireworks will start from this bridge. Valencia used to have a river that ran through it, but flooding was a constant issue. The river was diverted and the wide riverbed turned into a park that runs east and west through the entire city. Several ornate and beautiful bridges span it, all with pedestrian walkways and stairs down to the park. There are metro stops just below this bridge on the far side.
A quiet moment, a few hours before the fireworks will start from this bridge. Valencia used to have a river that ran through it, but flooding was a constant issue. The river was diverted and the wide riverbed turned into a park that runs east and west through the entire city. Several ornate and beautiful bridges span it, all with pedestrian walkways and stairs down to the park. There are metro stops just below this bridge on the far side.
It's all paper, wax and foam.
It’s all paper, wax and foam.
At 2pm every day, there's a fireworks display. It seems odd to do this in the middle of the day, but you soon realize that the Valencians enjoy the "bloom" as much as the explosion. The smoke from the fireworks blotted out the sun for several minutes. I stuffed paper into my ears and wished for noise canceling earphones.
At 2pm every day, there’s a fireworks display. It seems odd to do this in the middle of the day, but you soon realize that the Valencians enjoy the “bloom” as much as the explosion. The smoke from the fireworks blotted out the sun for several minutes. I stuffed paper into my ears and wished for noise canceling earphones.
These lovely fallares in their traditional costumes are everywhere. The hairstyle is ornate and looks painful. The corsets do too. I'm glad it was them and not me!
These lovely fallares in their traditional costumes are everywhere. The hairstyle is ornate and looks painful. The corsets do too. I’m glad it was them and not me!

Fallas–the fire festival

This is literally right outside my apartment complex door, in the street, which is blocked to traffic. Just on the other side is a park where people were singing, dancing and lighting fireworks until 4am. I am getting very little sleep.
This is literally right outside my apartment complex door, in the street, which is blocked to traffic. Just on the other side is a park where people were singing, dancing and lighting fireworks until 4am. I am getting very little sleep.

I’m only beginning to understand what a big deal Fallas is here in Valencia. I still have photos of Barcelona to post, but wanted to sneak in some information about this very festive holiday. As far as I can tell, there’s a lot of alcohol, explosives and fire. What more could you want in a celebration?

This website has a lot of info about last year’s event.  So far, I’ve attended one Mascletá, held every day at 2:00 PM in the city hall square, La Plaza de Ayuntamiento.  “LOUD” does not begin to cover it. And obviously the park in front of my apartment is a center of a LOT of celebrations in my neighborhood. The bands start at about 9:30 and are still going strong at 3am. I’m not getting much sleep, but I’ve decided to just go with it. I’ll take a siesta in the middle of the day like everyone else and enjoy the fun.

This is in the street in front of my apartment. Hard to imagine these huge displays are just for a week or so. These are plaster and must be stored, but the REALLY big displays are wooden and burned at the end of Fallas. Fireworks are everywhere--even young children are lighting explosives that would be illegal in most states in America. At 2pm, starting at the first of March, there is a HUGE fireworks display at 2pm every day in front of the town square. I went to one a few days ago and the noise was deafening--I can hear it 3km away at the beach. At one point, the smoke from the explosives blocked out the sun overhead. It seems odd to me to have this during the day, but tonight they have another at midnight.
This is in the street in front of my apartment. Hard to imagine these huge displays are just for a week or so. These are plaster and must be stored, but the REALLY big displays are wooden and burned at the end of Fallas. Fireworks are everywhere–even young children are lighting explosives that would be illegal in most states in America. At 2pm, starting at the first of March, there is a HUGE fireworks display at 2pm every day in front of the town square. I went to one a few days ago and the noise was deafening–I can hear it 3km away at the beach. At one point, the smoke from the explosives blocked out the sun overhead. It seems odd to me to have this during the day, but tonight they have another at midnight.
This is beside the school.  Some of the empty lots already have heaps of wood in them for future bonfires.
This is beside the school. Some of the empty lots already have heaps of wood in them for future bonfires. This weekend is the highlight, though clearly the Spanish start celebrating in anticipation at least a month before.
This has nothing to do with Fallas, but I'm pretty sure this is a marijuana growing store. One of my students said that growing it was legal, only selling the drug is an issue. Interesting.
This has nothing to do with Fallas, but I’m pretty sure this is a marijuana growing store. One of my students said that growing it was legal, only selling the drug is an issue. Interesting.