Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ferias y Fiestas 2014

This weekend one of the biggest festivals of the year in Salamanca kicks off on Sunday. This week is a week full of parties, music and great food, with the first day of festivities being dedicated to 'Virgen de la Vega' (Our Lady of the Valley) one of the Salamanca's' patron saints. On the first say of the festival (Sunday 7th September) almost everyone in the city flocks to the Old Cathedral, where a bronze statue of the saint is placed in front of the alter. After a floral offering there is a procession through the city to celebrate the Saint and the start of the week of festivities.

After this first religious day, the people of Salamanca spend the rest of the week generally celebrating being from Salamanca, with things going on day and night through the whole week. You can find traditional and modern concerts spread about the squares of the city, and the Plaza mayor sees a constant string of performances throughout the day. During the days you can find loads of food and drink stalls selling authentic and traditional Spanish fair. There are parades almost every day and bullfights take place in the bullring every afternoon. If you head down to the river you'll find small artisan stalls selling local goods, or the San Francisco park in which you can sample different types of food from all over Spain. If you're looking to try some traditional Spanish wines, head to the Plaza de los Bandos for some wine tasting events.

In the evenings the festivities move up a couple of notches. Together with general street parties, live music fills the streets from almost every corner, and fireworks light up the night sky. They also have a traditional style fair, complete with Ferris wheel and an array of fairground games to try your luck at. The festivities draw people in from other parts of Spain, as well as tourists, so you can bank on there being lots of full bars and plenty of people about!

The fair started as an agricultural and livestock fair down by the Roman bridge. At the time Salamanca's economy was heavily based around these two sectors, and farmers from around the area used to come to buy and sell produce here. As time went on and the importance of agriculture began to die down, the fair became more of an occasion for the entire city to get together and celebrate. As I'm sure you'll know, the Spanish love an excuse for a party!

The festival was originally a pagan celebration, though as Spain quickly became heavily catholic over the years, many festivals ended up with a religious figure or saint added to their name. 'Our Lady of the Valley' was declared Salamanca's patron saint in 1618, though the celebration did not take on its religious undertones until 1706, when allegedly the Virgin de la Vega helped protect the city against the attack of an invading army. Now the first day of the festival is dedicated to the saint in order to help welcome the week of eating, drinking and entertainment that follows.

So if you are here in Salamanca for the week between the 7th and 15th of September, you are bound to come across some elements of the festival! Why not check out some of the stalls and try some traditional Spanish food and drink, or head to the Plaza Mayor each night for concerts from both local and national bands! For a programme of what's going on and when, click here.

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