Culture Vulture

Hola!

Being on my year abroad I simply wasn’t going to stay put in Salamanca (despite how amazing it is) because this is a once in a life time opportunity! Therefore I joined Salamanca Erasmus Network which organises lots of trips at reduced rates. I would highly recommend joining a society such as this in order to get the most out of your study abroad experience and see and do as much as possible.

My first excursion was to Las Fallas de Valencia.

“Las Fallas is undoubtedly one of the most unique and crazy festivals in Spain. Then again, Spain is a country known for its unique and odd fiestas. What started as a feast day for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has evolved into a 5-day, multifaceted celebration involving fire. Valencia, a quiet city with a population of just over 1 million, swells to an estimated three million flame-loving revelers during Las Fallas celebrations.

Las Fallas literally means “the fires” in Valencian. The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”), which are huge cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues. The ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events. A popular theme is poking fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities. The labor intensive ninots are crafted by neighborhood organizations and take almost the entire year to construct. Many ninots are several stories tall and need to be moved into their final location of over 350 key intersections and parks around the city with the aid of cranes on the day of la plantà (the rising).

The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as La Cremá (the burning). Starting in the early evening, young men with axes chop cleverly-hidden holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks. The crowds start to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire at exactly 12 a.m. (midnight). Over the years, the local bomberos (firemen) have devised unique ways to protect the town’s buildings from being accidentally set on fire by the ninots: such as neatly covering storefronts with fireproof tarps. Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the ninot indultat (the pardoned puppet) and is exhibited in the local Museum of the Ninot along with the other favorites from years past.”

To sum it up it was a crazy 48hrs!

The streets were CRAMMED with people and everywhere you looked there was something going on – firecrackers, fireworks, live music, processions, offerings, markets you name it. We followed a map and saw all of the main ninots and then ate some paella and churros (how Spanish can a girl get?!)

The main fireworks began at 1am and they were 100x better than Glasgow Greens 15 minute show. After the fireworks ended at 2am the night was far from over. It’s the city that never sleeps: events were still going on or some were even just beginning. In the end we ended up back at our hotel at 6am! Therefore the next again day we just chilled at the beach, played frisbee and then visited the arts and science museum that’s known for it’s futuristic impressive architecture.

Overall it was a great trip and I really soaked up all the tradition and culture of Valencia plus I got to see the sea and palm trees which was nice 🙂

As-Salaam-Alaikum! ( peace be upon you in arabic)

My second trip was to another continent, Africa! More specifically Morocco!!

I’ve just returned from travelling to 5 different places in Northern Morocco and what a trip!

We drove all the way to the bottom of Spain and took a ferry across to Morocco, the trip was extremely long & border control was a pain but in the end it was all so worth it!

We visited Fez, Asilah, Tetuan, Chefchaouen and Cueta over 6 days. In Fez we explored markets, went on a guided tour of the Jewish quarter and saw some belly dancing & snake charming. In Asilah we saw camels, discovered the street art and sampled some Moroccan mint tea. In Chefchaouen we sampled the amazing Moroccan tagine and got lost in the blue city high in the mountains. In Tetuan we wandered down cat filled alleys, were shown how the people make their living off the land and tried on the traditional Moroccan dress.  Finally in Cueta we got a history tour and saw spectacular views from the top of a mountain of Gibraltar and Spain across the ocean. It was a great experience to submerge myself in another culture and learn about it’s history, food, religion and daily customs. Furthermore it was very cheap (70p for a coffee) and the weather was amazing! Would highly recommend a visit.

However I’ve now got to get back to reality with French and Italian presentations and a history essay due for this week.

Adios! xox17309324_10206518481801308_1482825735953222642_nLas Fallas

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V A L E N C I A

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