The never-ending sounds of far-off explosions echo off the surrounding buildings, while firecrackers shoot across the street bouncing off curbs and nearby cars, leaving a trail of sparks and screams that whizzes through the crowd scurrying to get out of the projectile’s path.
This is the scene that confronts the traveller upon arrival in Valencia, Spain, in mid-March. If you didn’t know, you could think a protest had gotten out of hand giving way to riots in the streets (which isn’t a ridiculous guess in Spain). Instead, this is the annual Las Fallas Festival, a week of fireworks, firecrackers, music, beach, admiring beautifully crafted gigantic wooden papier-mâché structures, and then burning these structures to the ground in one night.
Over the course of a year, each suburb in Valencia designs and builds a Falla, a colourful wooden papier-mâché structure almost as tall as the apartment blocks in the streets (you can see some photos here). The fallas are inspected over the week and out of the dozens built, one is awarded first prize. The rest are doused in fuel and spectacularly set alight on the final night of the festival.
The festival is also characterised by eye-popping nightly fireworks, marching bands, traditional costumes, and firecrackers.
It was some of the best fun I’ve had on exchange with a group of English, Swedish, and Aussie friends, and would recommend it to everyone.
My current walks through Madrid just don’t feel the same without having to leap out of the paths of incoming firecrackers.