One of the great things about traveling around Europe is that no matter what time of year it is there always seem to be some big festival going on, especially when you are traveling around Southern Europe. One of the reason that Southern Europe has a copious amount of celebrations is that the majority of the countries are Catholic and if you know anything about the Catholics it’s that we love to celebrate. What is so great about these religious festivals you may ask? Well like any good Catholic we like to celebrate with drinking and eating. Every Spring my favorite festival goes on in Valencia, the third largest city of Spain. Valencia is the host of Las Fallas, one of the greatest springtime festivals in my opinion. I will admit though, that I am not a big supporter of going to cities when large festivals are going on. The reason is that I hate being bogged down by a city full of tourists. The prices go up, the crowds can tend to over populate the locals, and I lose the feeling that I am in a different country and instead am in some giant adult theme park. I had to eat my words though when I went to Valencia for the Las Fallas festival.
Las Fallas commonly referred to as the fire festival is a celebration in the honor of St. Joseph, who is the patron Saint of craftsmen or carpenters. Las Fallas does not translate to fire festival but actually refers to the large wooden monuments that are constructed throughout the year for the festival. Now I know what you are thinking why would people then refer to it the fire festival. Well I have your answer! After these massive 20 foot plus monuments are constructed they are then lit on fire at the end of the festival and you get to watch the city go up in flames. Do I have your attention now? What could be better than watching fire engulf gigantic wooden masterpieces as you drink beer and sangria.
I got off the Stoke Travel bus with Ashley, her friend from college and the many other people who were on the trip with us. (As a side note if you can go on the trip with a bunch of Aussie’s I would highly recommend it.) We had been hanging out at the beach, eating and drinking for the last few days and now it was time for the main event, the final day of the festival. We could not have asked for better weather as we drove into the city. The first thing we did was to enjoy little tapas and and some beer before we started to explore the festivities. As we sat and ate we did a bit of people watching. The streets were packed with young and old Spaniards already a few beers deep. Music was playing all along the streets and everybody was in the spirit to celebrate.
After lunch we decided to take a look around at the large wooden monuments scattered across the city. They seemed to be on every corner of the street looming over you as you walked by. The craftsmanship was amazing and I could not believe that after all this hard work they were just going to light them up and watch them burn. After seeing all the statues that we could, we decided to choose a favorite so we could camp out with a buckets of beer and wait for the festivities to begin. Before we settled down however, I had to dive into another bag of freshly made Churros. I think I spent more of my travel budget on Churros than anything else on that trip. They have vendors all around selling bags of these amazing treats. After I grabbed myself a bag we found a spot along the sidewalk to settle down. Then Ashley and her friend went off to buy of a couple of buckets of beer and a few sandwiches from a local deli shop.
Around 10:30 pm the show started, it all began with a few fireworks off in the distance, slowly building up and then we saw large flames off in the distance, then more fireworks started going off down the street going from one sculpture to the next. We saw the fireworks begin at the end of our street and then head towards us and hit the statue with an explosion and then it was engulfed in flames.
It was amazing, everybody in our area started dancing and chanting and passing around beers and sangria watching a beautiful work of art burn. I know it sounds cheesy but there was something romantic watching the statue burn. I looked around and saw the glows of fire all around the city.
It was a beautiful sight to see people from all around the world of all different ages celebrating together.The statues that burned around the city brought everybody together and for a moment made all of us as equals. I just stood there with a beer in my hand watching it burn and I felt as if I was in a dream. I snapped out of it and began to dance around and shout and cheer. As the flames of our statue burned down a bit we started to walk around and all the beautiful statues were nothing more than smouldering ash or bonfires for people to sit around and drink. The festival reminded me of my Catholic upbringing and this kept coming to mind as I watched the flames die out. “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” I was glad I had to eat my words and came to celebrate Las Fallas.
We found out about this festival through a company called Stoke Travel. We booked our trip through them at there site http://stoketravel.com/. They are a great group of people who know how to have fun. (Just so you know I am not getting paid for promoting them. I just believe that they offer a great product that I feel other people will enjoy.) Remember though it’s run by a bunch of Aussie’s out of Barcelona, they like to party. They also have many other trips around the world that are worth checking out like Andorra which Ashley wrote about, check her article out! Also even if you can’t make it to Las Fallas but are headed to Valencia be sure to check out the Museo Fallero where they have some of the beautiful statues because every year they vote and save the best from the fire, so it will give you a taste of how beautiful these pieces are.