While I was staying in Valencia the city held its big annual festival, Las Fallas (or Las Falles in Valencian). Valencia was realtively quiet over winter, but as the weather warmed the city became increasingly noisy and busy as the locals prepared for Las Fallas. The festival takes place over a week long public holiday in mid-March, but offical events start from March 1st.
Unoffically, the city began to prepare in mid February. Street stalls started appearing, selling churros and pumpkin buñuelos or alcohol. Fireworks became increasingly popular anytime and anywhere in the high density city. One probably ignited the recycling bin outside my apartment. It was as if the whole city was waking up from a winter slumber and then staying up late. Increasing numbers of people in the gym looked tired with dark patches under their eyes.
After the stalls came the Fallas. Large scupltures made from wood and fireworks (a bit of foreshadowing there). Each barrio built one of these and there was a competition to see whose was best. Near the centre of town, there was a Falla every few hundred meteres. Most were very well made, although in a common style. Some made overtly political points. All were supposed to have some meaning, which I mostly didn’t understand. Walking around town looking at the Fallas was clearly a major local activity, and something I did for a few weekends (while munching churros).
For the last fortnight there were daily Mascletàs in the town square. This is like a fireworks display, but done during the day for the sonic effects rather than the visual. It looked like a load of firecrackers and smoke, but was extremely loud. The closest I could get to one was about 500 meters away, but I could hear them clearly at my apartment at a distance of 5 kilometers. There were also regular bands walking around town starting near daybreak, and kids setting of little firecrackers constantly. An incredible amount of constant noise.
During the festival proper, regular marches in traditional costume occurred shutting down all the major streets in town. Many of those, including the 6 lane road outside the main train station, were turned into multi-day street parties. A pyramid structure built from flowers was constructed near the central cathedral. There were nightly largescale firework shows. Then came the crescendo, known as La Crema. On the final night, all the Fallas and the flower pyramid are burnt in turn throughout the city. It is quite an impressive sight to see these highly flammable structures burn. However, the fire department must have been very busy. At the Falla nearest to me we had a firetruck constantly hosing down nearby buildings.
Some photos from the festival are in a short slideshow available here.