Monday, August 24, 2009

Las Fiestas de Siguenza

Ah, las fiestas de Siguenza. I have never in my life seen anything that compares to the fiestas in Siguenza, and nor do I expect to experience anything that could compare (or survive anything similar for that matter). Siguenza is a small town north of Madrid, with about 5,000 permanent residents, and many visitors during the summer- especially during the fiestas. I spent the first two weeks of my time in Spain in Siguenza with my friend Pablo (Nacho), who I met in Yemen. I’ve come to realize that the life of the town revolves around the fiestas; it was all that people spoke about in the week before it all began, and during the 5 days of celebration, the town took on a special party schedule. Banks and stores were only open half of the day, people went to bed at 8am and awoke at 2pm, alcohol flowed like water, and there were always small marching bands playing music on the streets. A bit too much alcohol (and for that reason I don‘t think I could have survived more of the fiestas than I did), but if we think of alcohol as a social lubricant, then the good vibes were flowing like honey on warm toast. Honestly, it was awesome. Everybody was down and ready to dance and drink the day into the night, and into the next day.

The way it works is that everybody belongs to a club, called a peña. Each person pays a certain amount of money to the peña for food and drink during the 5 days of the fiestas. The peñas are set up in various parts of the town, but are mostly in places like abandoned lots filled with rubble and dirt. One of the peñas that I went to was a bit more established, it was the peña for young parents and their small children. It was in a real building, with a roof and a tiled bar, an oven and a fireplace. The look of the peña doesn’t really matter, however, they all serve the same purpose: a place to congregate and drink and eat and talk and get ready for the town’s festivities. And it is really nice that you don’t have to think about money, that you can just go to the bar and serve yourself, or get something to eat if you want. Also, by paying a single peña, you can go to any of the other peñas. It works on some inter-peña system that I don’t quite understand.

I will always remember the fiestas of Siguenza by the the Txarangas, or the small marching bands that are dispersed throughout the street in the perfect concentration so that you can always hear the band in the distance, are never overwhelmed by the music, but can always find the band if you want to, and when you do, you are so pleasantly surprised that you feel as if the party were just getting started again. I loved hearing the music, the trumpets and trombones, drums and symbols. YES. I danced the streets of Siguenza for nights into mornings, to see the sun rise and hear the last distant chords of music finally stop.

So I only survived three days of the fiestas de Siguenza, which officially last five days, and unofficially six. After two days of the party, Pablo (Nacho) and I went with two of his friends from Madrid on a two day, 200km tour on mountain bikes through the small towns of a region called Alcarria in the province of Guadalajara (all near Siguenza). We returned for the last day of festivities, and went out strong. It was the perfect mix, however, because I really don’t think that I could have lasted the full five days. But I got the chance to experience the beginning and the end of the fiestas, and also the opportunity to take an amazing trip throughout the countryside of central Spain….

1 comment:

  1. Max! We are so proud of you! Partly for the amazing swims around the world but more so because you started a blog! Love, Brad and the Team