This post is a continuation of the trip to Spain which started May 12/2017
Date; May 17/2021
Place: Departing Cuenca at midday for Valencia.
Half way driving East was as boring and monotonous, as the one we were on, going the opposite direction, just 2 days ago.
Then in the second half, the scenery started changing. The hilly landscape turned reddish Terra-cotta color, with green field patches far and between.
Instead of the famous orange Valencia trees I was expecting to encounter, as we were approaching the town, groves of Almonds trees, many in beautiful full white bloom.
welcomed our entrance into town mid afternoon.
Not being aware, we dreadfully realized, that the Police started blocking, earlier in the day, many main streets, around the city center, were the first day's festivities of the Valencia local Fallas Festival had, already started.
Lass Fallas - Fire Fest
The Fallas fiesta which takes place in Valencia from 15th to the 19th of March every year is undoubtedly one of those ‘super-festivals’ - a 5-day long street party with spectacular fireworks and light shows, attracting many foreign visitors as well as Spanish tourists from all over the country..Las Fallas is the biggest festival in Valencia, and its importance is such that it has been added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list.
Herd of people were pouring into the main town's square by the municipality,
Bands parade were drumming in full blast, and firecrackers were exploding at every corner.
There was no way we could reach our city center hotel, by car and it was impossible for us to shlap, on our own, all the luggage we had in the car, which needed to be returned to the rental company. .
The Police denied us entrance with the car to the hotel location, and could not care less, about our luggage challenge. Nor was the hotel staff more sympathetic or helpful when we called for assistance.
So there was no choice, but to park the car as closest as permitted, which was about 3 blocks away, from the hotel, and roll our carry-on, when David, suddenly, spotted a local guy, walking with a dolly in the street.
The guy was easily persuaded to load all our luggage onto his dolly and roll it over, to the hotel, for some decent tip...
Saved by a stranger... we made it to our room with all the luggage, and felt very relieved upon returning the car, back to the rental agency.
Since the town was mobbed, and most hotels were fully booked, we were lucky to get a room we reserved months ahead, at this modest but right in the center of the festivities,
AC Marriote Colon Valencia hotel.
And we were even luckier to get off the street, into this great fish restaurant, near by the hotel without reservation, as all other near by restaurants were all solid booked.
Civera - Fish Restaurant
Date: March 18 - 19 /2021
Place : Valencia - Las Fallas Fire Fest
Following a visit to the Mercado Central, mid Saturday morning, and after loosing sight of David, I almost drowned in the deluge of incoming crowd.
My average height was. defiantly a disadvantage, among this frightening but joyous mob tsunami, that came to celebrate the biggest fiesta of the year.
The human endless wave was proceeding in all directions, at the same time, through the wider and narrower allies of the historic city center. Even David's tallness could not overcome the human strangling ring, which within its arms , we each, but separately were caught battling, our way out, back to the hotel.
It seemed like Spaniards from all over the entire country, converged in this one city, to celebrate for peak days this loudest most popular awe inspiring and significant Las Fallas fiesta, that also brought us to town, along with also other foreign visitors.
It is officially a week long celebration however, the planning process and work that goes into each yearly spectacle, takes an entire year!
Planning the Fest
The day after the final celebration is over, the planning starts again for next year's fest in earnest!
“Community spirit" in action motivates the coordination and organization of the events by the city's, each individual neighborhood (or "Barrio"), which forms it's own fiesta committee called a "Casal".
These clubs compete with each other, and are normally funded by private subscriptions of each members families, plus very often by local business which contribute as well. Everyone works together, making dresses and costumes, painting statues and collecting funds to finance the expenses.
The Mayor of the city awards a grand prize for the winners.
The religious aspect of the Phallas
San José (Saint Joseph), the patron saint of carpenters, is the official focus for the festival.
The fest started back in the Middle Ages when in the winter, carpenters used to hang up, planks of wood called ‘parots’ to support their candles while working.
At the onset of spring these pieces of wood would be burned as a way of celebrating the end of dark, winter working days. After a while they began to put clothing on the ‘parot’ and then started to try to make it identifiable with a well-known local personality.
These became the forerunners of the contemporary ‘ninots’, the expensive enormous amazing figures sculpture in cartoon form, typically depicting and lampooning local or national politicians/bankers of today.
The figures, which we spectated, along with the rest of visitors, when wondering throughout the various neighborhoods of the historic center, just before they were all put up in smoke were made of:
cardboard, wooden, polyurethane, Styrofoam, cork, plaster and paper-maché
They were all burnt down on fire, on the final night of the fest, to the delights pyromaniac lovers,
This is known as the "cremà" (the burning)
My own Reflection
One would think that auctioning to cultural institutes, these spectacular large and exuberant artistic statues, into which so much effort, work and funds are invested, would be so much more sensible.
Small symbolic burning, would also prevent a hazardous mass burning and prevent pollution of the city. Not to forget that it would be much more economically and culturally smarter. If the city gets to be reimbursed for its investment, its citizens can further benefit, while the fantastic art, if preserved, can be exposed to the wider public's enjoyment for longer.
But since Spain had expelled its Jews…its economic creative thinking, had dwindled so did its lead and its unsurprising decline ...
In addition to the giant spectacular characters, stationed in the streets and plazas, and the hordes of people flocking endlessly, general out-doors merriment took place in the form of consuming vast amounts of beer, dinning and parting everywhere.
The noise never stopped. Traditional Fallas parades music called "El Fallero" marched throughout the day, and fire crackers were thrown by children in every corner.
Fireworks display was held around 2pm each day in the "Plaza del Ayuntamiento" (Town Hall Square).
The Falleras ladies paraded the streets in their elaborate old-fashioned amazing multi layered, hand made dresses, and stole the limelight with their traditional clothing, complemented by elaborate spiral hair extensions, at the side of the head, wearing special earrings, hair clips and other beautiful jewellery.
The men got a look-in too as Falleros, and wore a black smock and a "mocador" (a neckerchief in English)
The entire city was gripped by sleepless fervent fiesta, Plenty of parting, dressing up and parading in fancy outfits, with many streets cafes and businesses closed.
Valencia beyond the Fallas - City of Arts and Sciences,
This most vibrant charming old port city, Valencia, the country’s third-largest urban center, lies on Spain’s southeastern coast, where the Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s known for the City of Arts and Sciences, with futuristic structures including a planetarium, an oceanarium and an interactive museum.
Originally founded as a Roman colony. In the 15th c, Valencia witnessed its golden age, when political autonomy was granted by the Aragonese king, James I.
Trade boomed in the region and became a center for writers and poets.
It is also the birthplace of Paella, offers several attractive beaches and a host numerous festivals throughout the year as well as known for its oranges.
Valencia orange trees. which we did not find in the surroundings, when entering the city, were hanging plenty on the trees in the old city center trees
Valencia contains loads of gorgeous historical buildings, charming plazas, traditional shops, fish restaurants, lively bars and cafes as well as active nightlife, which attracts young weekend travelers from around the country and from abroad.
City of Arts and Sciences Complex
One of the city’s highlight, which unfortunately we missed on this trip and only saw the exterior of it is:
A massive most impressive architectural complex designed largely by the international renown architect -Santiago Calatrava, (who designed the shopping center on the 9/11 location and which I mentioned before)
Puente de Calatrava
Valencia's historic Central Market
It a great modernist building beautifully decorated and a feast for the eye. We stocked there on more special products for David’s upcoming birthday party
While David, for the first time, entertained himself with spectating a traditional Bull Fight ceremony, at Valencia famous Arena, I visited instead, the Ceramics Museum and wondered throughout the city's bustling streets, avoiding the very congested ones as much as possible.
David shared that watching the bull fight is a family affair, with half the 11,000 people stadium women. The bull fight has 5 matadors, three skirt protected blindfolded horse riding matadors that the bulls ram . These rider matadors fight off the bull which is ramming their horse with gauntlets. At the end of the fight , if the bull is worthy, it is killed with a sword, and there are two strong horses that carry the bull after he is killed dragging the carcass boisterously, very fast across the ring.
Matador is a familial profession, and they were once the national heroes, only to be replaced by soccer players .
Though this entertainment is considered culturally respectable and favorite national sport in Spain, I refused to take part in this animal torturous and murderous spectacle.
Beats me why one can enjoy making an innocent bull mad, risk one life’s by overpowering the raging beast, and then stab-butcher it to death, for the sake of getting crowd’s cheering and adulation???
The more males, in a certain cultures are preoccupied/insecure with their sexual organ’s size, function and control, combined with lapses of internal cultural awareness and shortfall in verbalizing and articulating the inadequacies, the more external acting out and manifestation of these shortcomings, are evident, through erecting tall humongous phallic structures, (Torre) fascination with pyromaniac ceremonials like the Falls Fest, and by blood thirst Bull Fighting ceremony.. but the extreme worse... is the lust for wars…
Torre Agbar, the 466-foot-high home of Aguas de Barcelona in Spain,
The National Ceramics Museum Gonzalez Marti
Gorgeous alabaster covered structure the, Palace museum with ornate 18th-century exterior, houses vast collections of ceramics & artworks.
The palace that dates from the 15th century was refurbished in 1740 on rococo style with a magnificent landmark entrance. The palace belonged to the Rabassa de Perellós, title-holders of the marquisette of Dos Aguas.
Inside, it contains 18th century carriages, splendor of the 19th century luxurious rooms, an important collection of ceramics, with prehistoric, Roman, Greek and Arab items. Medieval ceramics, and an important collection of tiles made in the Royal Ceramics Factory in Alcora and other traditional ceramics from the towns of Manises, Paterna.
There is even a fully equipped typical Valencian kitchen made 100% of ceramics from top to bottom, and a porcelain room. The the age of luxurious interior of the salons, Orientalism and ballroom dancing. Plenty of contemporary works, some by Picasso.
Torres de Serrano -Serrans Towers
It was the main entrance to the city and it was originally built with a defensive function.
Climbing the Serrano Tower, an important landmark and one of the city’s best preserved monuments, was a great exercise on our third stay day and an escapist relief from the hordes of crowd and human jams.
It is known as one of the twelve gates that formed part of the ancient city Christian wall. It was built in Valencian Gothic style at the end of the 14th century (between 1392 and 1398). From 1586 until 1887 the towers were used as a prison for nobles.
Of the ancient city wall, which was pulled down in 1865 on the orders of the provincial governor Cirilio Amorós, only the Serrans Towers, the 15th century Quart Towers, and some other archaeological remains and ruins, such as those of the Jewish Gate (Puerta de los Judíos), have survived.
We kept returning to the same restaurant - Civera we found on the first night since it was close by our hotel. but mainly as the food was great.
We befriended the owner so we were lucky to get a sitting table each time we showed up, while most who tried to get there, had to hang up by the tapas bar.
There are a handful of mid-priced seafood restaurants in the world, in addition to the Valencian Civera, which David will eat night after night .
Other fish restaurants are Marius et Jeanette - Paris -France ; La Rosa Nautica in Lima - Peru , Assunte Madre in Rome- Italy ,Sheekeys in London -UK, in Beijing Da- Dong and Telegrapho in Madrid -Spain
And we enjoyed more chocolate drinking at another Cafe Valor
on the beautiful vibrant Reina Plaza
For monuments we missed on this trip.
Sightseeing Tours (36) Address: Plaza de la Virgen, 46001 Valencia, Spain
Plaza de la Virgen
L'Iber Museo de Los Soldaditos de Plomo
The biggest Toy soldiers Museum in the world, in an ancient Gothic and Renaissance .
Playa de la Malvarrosa
We were sad to depart Valencia on the 20th, as it is wonderful city, yet due to the sheer intensity of the Fest celebrations, and the throngs and crowds of the spectators, the chance of more sightseeing in this historic and culturally rich city, was limited.
We just touched its surface. We would love to have more time to explore, and will definitely come back to further taste its cultural and gastronomic delights.
In hindsight, as much as we enjoyed and wouldn’t miss visiting and staying at all the other towns we did: Segovia, Salamanca and Ceuca, we would have done better, planning touring them on another separate trip.
Preferably we would have spent our entire week stay, and before the start of the fest, at only Valencia as to take full advantage of this fantastic town, which we enjoyed so much visiting, for the first time but hopefully, will return sooner than later ,some other time in the future.
We are now happy to be back in Tel - Aviv and reunited with our girls .. until the next trip, in early April to … Japan..