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Hiking and Las Fallas in Valencia (GT Ambassador: Zak S.)

After going to Morocco I was ready for some more trips, but wanted to stay local. The University of Alicante has several affiliate travel programs that do day trips for adventure and to other cities for festivals and tours. A group of friends and I decided to take advantage of these reasonably priced tours to go hiking and to Las Fallas in Valencia.

One Saturday, on Saint Patrick’s Day, we went to La Sierra de Bèrnia that extends to the Mediterranean coast in the province of Alicante, and also includes ruins of Felipe II. The highest peak in the Sierra de Bèrnia is located in the district of Jalón, and
measures 1,128 meters above sea level. During the hike we started at one side of the range and hiked all the way around, passing through ruins and vineyards with some stunning almonds trees. Once we arrived at the other side of the mountain the hike was more strenuous, had many more rocks and climbs, but finished with a tunnel (El Forat) to the other side. Que guay! This was definitely the highlight of the hiking trip and once you made it to the other side there were killer views overlooking the sea. We stopped here with the group for some time to have a snack and soak it all in.   A little bit longer of walking we arrived back to the vans where all the girls passed  out in the backseat for the half hour ride to Alicante.

The very next day was another adventure of senderismo, but this time with my host family. My host mom, host sister, her boyfriend, and Luna y Lola (two of our little cocker spaniels) went near the pueblo of Elda for some hiking. We made a few stops for snacks, saw many bikers, some ATVers, and set up my Grand Trunk Double hammock during lunch. My host mom absolutely loved the hammock and kept on saying it was very “chulo,” or very cool! I might leave it with her as a gift since she is very into hiking and even did parts of El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

Once we all arrived back to our apartment, siestas or naps were needed across the board…and I normally never siesta. After, we all rallied and went out for some tapas to complete the day full of family.

The month of March consisted of a lot of senderismo but I needed to stream live games of March Maddess as well, one of the best times of the year for college sports.  Although my bracket ended up being horrendous…the sweet sixteen was extra sweet when four Ohio teams and two Wisconsin teams were playing. Unfortunately the Badgers and Buckeyes couldn’t pull a championship march madness run together and I lost much sleep watching the games with the time difference. There’s always next year.

The last part of March was the most crazy: Las Fallas. Some friends and I took a bus early in the morning to Valencia and returned to Alicante around 5 in the morning the next day. To say the least the say was very eventful and also very long and tiring. We ate some paella, enjoyed much street art that Valencia offered, and were in awe of all the structures created for this festival. Las Fallas is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. The term Fallas refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration. During the week leading up to March 19, each group takes its “ninot” out for a grand parade, and then mounts it, each on its own elaborate firecracker-filled cardboard and paper-mâché artistic monument in a neighborhood street. This whole assembly is what is called a “falla.”

In la Plaza de la Virgen there is also the offering of flowers. There is a wooden silhouette of the Virgin Mary that is filled in with bouquets of carnations. It is a whole ceremony where people dress up in their best and most colorful traditional costumes and pass by the Virgin bringing the flowers, which are then arranged by the crew on site.

The five days and nights of Fallas are a continuous party. There are a multitude of processions: historical processions, religious processions, and comedic processions.  The Mascletà, an explosive barrage of firecracker and fireworks displays, takes place
in each neighbourhood at 2:00 pm every day of the festival, and we saw the main  event at la Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Picture your ordinary 4th of July show, but only with the fireworks that make the loudest of noise and display no colors. This went
on for a good half hour! Smaller neighbourhoods often hold their own mascletà for saint’s days, weddings and other celebrations.

Around midnight is when La Cremà happens and the Fallas are burnt as huge bonfires. This is known as the burning and the climax of the whole event, and the reason why the constructions are called fallas or “torches”. Traditionally, the falla
in the la Plaza del Ayuntamiento is burned last. There are also many little fallas that are constructed and earlier in the night burnt. This festival was so awesome because I never could image an event like it! So much fire, people, vendors, fireworks, for
completely the whole day. In Alicante in late June there is a very similar event called Las Hogueras, which is basically the same thing with more partying in the streets since it is much warmer weather.

March was a little more relaxing and went out with a bang for Fallas, but will go out even bigger once my family comes to visit me in Alicante! Only 2 weeks until spring break begins and I truly start travelling the world.

-Zak S.

 

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