Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Medieval Festival of Alcalá de Henares (or Alcalá for short)

Alcalá de Henares is a small city in the east of the community of Madrid, halfway between Madrid and Guadalajara. It was founded by the Romans, and it is famous for two things. The first, is the old University de Complutense, which was founded in 1496. The second, is that it is the birthplace of the most famous Spanish writer in history: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of the 'The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha.', or in short, just Don Quixote.
It is also where our dear friends, Francisco (Paco) and Susi Serrano live.

The main facade of the 2nd oldest University in Spain, founded by Cardinal Cisneros.  3 symbolic levels of learning; as students enter schooling (1st floor) fewer windows, less light (knowledge), with advancement to each higher level of learning, more windows & light (knowledge). God is in the center of the top arch, and torches of light (revelation from the Holy Ghost) adorn the top of the building.

Statue of Cardinal Cisneros.  Reputed to have been both an excellent administrator AND minister to the people

Entrance into inner courtyard of University, where the King of Spain comes each year to award the Cervantes prize in literature.
Inner Courtyard of the University

Miguel Cervantes was born in Alcalá in 1547, although not a lot is known about the young Cervantas, and it's not likely that he spend a lot of time in Alcalá de Henares, he is honoured by this town, in a number of ways.
Posing in front of the House of Cervantes with Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza

Semana Cervantina

During the first two weeks of October, a huge outdoor medieval festival takes place in Alcalá. It coincides with Cervantes birthday, and also with the arrival of new students to the University. During the festivities, the historic center is turned into a medieval village, with parades, acrobats, jugglers, magicians, and artisans from all over Europe.  The Serranos invited us to come visit them and stroll through the town on the first day of the festival, which was yesterday, October 8.  Today is the big party because, not knowing the exact date of Cervantes' birth they actually celebrate the date of his baptism which IS known (October 9).
This festival is really spectacular; hopefully these few pictures will give you a flavor for the event, but trust me, they don't do it justice.  In the states so many times these fairs are just over-commercialized gimmicks to sell cheap junk, trinkets, bad food and carnival rides.  This was different.  We loved it.

One of the many street bakers

One of several outdoor grills of all kinds of meats.  Michelle, this is a "real" outdoor barbecue

A medieval oriental restaurant

A craftsman of medieval musical instruments

One of several street spice vendors.  Every kind of herb and spice.  It smelled incredible

Lots of streets just like this one.  The town looks like a Disney set, but it's real; the people actually live here as well

A little plaza of rides for children.  The other rides, were all hand-made, non-electrical.

A display of falconry, or birds of prey, including among many magnificent birds, this beautiful eagle.

Another shot of the birds of prey.  These are the owls, which made Vivienne think it was Hogwarts.

Notice the "automatic" timer at this children's ride.

Behind the baker's oven.  This guy looked like he walked out of some history book, tattoos and all.

In front of the baker's oven.  The smell of the breads......ah, it was mouth-watering.

Maybe my favorite booth.  There were quite a few like this one.
This video might give you the best feel for the festival.  The satyr, or faun below was a real showman.  Note the eagle and large snake in the first shots of the parade.  After the faun stole my hat he put on a show.  I think the medieval musical instruments really added to the fun of this event.  Hope you enjoy.  If you like it, come see us next October; we'll take you with us.

1 comment:

  1. This looks amazing! I think both Ben and I would love it!