As a foreigner, I still find the enthusiasm that the Valencian people have for noise and fire sort of hard to understand. I can’t deny that the festival made a big impression on me, though: I experienced it last year, and this year I decided to go again. The truth is thatI could have gone to Valencia at any other time, but I chose Fallas. I mean, it’s basically a continuous street party! Let me tell you a little bit about it and about why it’s so extraordinary.
Why, when and where?
Fallas (Falles in Valencian) is a traditional celebration in the Valencian Community that happens every year between the 15th and the 19th of March. The majority of the events take place in Valencia, while other towns and villages also hold similar celebrations, but on a smaller scale. The purpose of Fallas is supposed to be to commemorate Saint Joseph, even though their actual historical beginning didn’t have anything to do with religion. It started to develop in the Middle Ages when artisans burned broken artefacts and pieces of wood to celebrate the arrival of spring.
What actually happens during Fallas?
A quarter of the city’s population is supposedly actively involved in Fallas. Each neighbourhood in Valencia has a Casal faller, an organised group of people who meet throughout the year, plan and produce a falla. A falla is a construction made of paper and wax, a beautiful statue, a work of art…that they happily burn on the 19th. Artists make it, and it usually represents a satirical theme that’s previously agreed on. Each neighbourhood has a big and a smallfalla (fallainfantil) that doesn’t represent any satirical themes. The fallas are completed on the 15th and can be observed for four more days before they’re burned.
The important elements of Fallas
Falleros and falleras
You can see people dressed in traditional clothing parading through the streets or hanging out at their Casal faller all the time. The dresses, especially for females, are beautiful and very expensive from what I’ve heard. The women wear their hair in a special way, and they always have perfect makeup. They look like they’ve spent days getting ready (they probably have).
All the Casal fallers have their own parties (mostly in tents), while there are some bigger open-air stages in the centre. People usually go there after the fireworks and stay until four when it all closes (pretty early for Spanish standards). The music is a mix of reggaeton and Spanish pop and rock, but you can hear electronic music as well. The crowds are absolutely huge.
The most important are the ones that sell churros, buñuelos and porras, traditional fried pastries that people usually dip in hot chocolate. You can also buy everything from sunflower seeds (pipas), of course, to various alcoholic drinks, jewellery, souvenirs and so on.
There are fireworks every night between the 15th and the 18th. They somehow get bigger, longer and more spectacular every night. The last one is on the 18th for La Nit del Foc (‘the night of fire’ in Valencian), is the best one. There are small fireworks next to every falla on the 19th too, not to mention the private fireworks that people set off pretty much everywhere. People of all ages also throw firecrackers constantly, and some literally make you deaf for a little while.
That’s fireworks too; it’s just that it takes place in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento during the day, at two in the afternoon. Why, you might ask yourself. Because they love noise here. Mascleta is basically a firecracker and fireworks display. It’s very loud and there’s a lot of smoke, People are casually drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds while the world seems to be ending right next to them.
If I had to choose the part of Fallas that makes the least sense, I’d have a hard time deciding between the Mascleta and the Desperta. The people of Valencia (as well as us, visitors) spend the majority of the day and night walking around, partying and in many cases drinking. Why would you want to wake us up at 8 in the morning? And why would anyone want to be the person doing it? The Desperta consists of brass bands marching down the streets, playing loud music. Falleros follow them, throwing large firecrackers. I could hear them through my earplugs.
The Crema is the climax of the whole Fallas. It’s the last day to admire the fallas before they burn them (but you might be too tired and hungover at this point, I know I was). At ten in the evening, they burn the small fallas. Then people gather around their preferred big falla to watch the main bonfire which takes place at midnight. Some of the fallas are between buildings which need to be protected. It’s a crazy thing to watch: first there are fireworks and meanwhile or right after the falla itself is lit. It burns quickly and the firemen control the fire by dousing the surrounding houses (and the falla itself) with their hoses. It’s hot, pieces of fallas are flying around, and people usually move away to protect themselves.
Final thoughts on Fallas
The locals, at least from what I’ve seen, see Fallas as a time to relax (as they don’t have to go to school/uni/work most of the days). They hang out, party, see the fireworks, throw firecrackers. Most of all, they seem completely unfazed by the seemingly endless noise, smoke and fire. The only thing that really bothers them is the crowd.
I felt in actual danger at times, or at least like I was gonna go deaf. Naturally, the annoying vegan that I am, I was also thinking of the state in which the animals must be. If it bothers me, someone who understands what’s happening, how must they feel, considering the fact that they don’t?
Otherwise, I enjoyed every minute. As tired as I was after all the walking, partying and the lack of sleep, it was amazing. The fallas were huge and extraordinary, the falleras beautiful, the fireworks entertaining. The best part was spending time with people I haven’t seen in months in a city as cool as Valencia. Fallas just made it better.
Mini trips are great: they’re an escape from everyday life but at the same time they don’t take that much time or money. You don’t have to leave your routine for a long time, but when you return, you’re somehow refreshed and happier. This blog post is a little recap of a trip to Torino my friend and I took last winter. We visited another friend who was doing an Erasmus exchange in Torino, or Turin in English.
It’s pretty easy to do mini trips if you live where we live: on the coast of Slovenia. We’re basically trapped between Italy and Croatia which makes crossing the border something very quick and simple. We took a train from Trieste, the first proper city you encounter after crossing the border. We had a direct Freccia Rossa to Torino; each paid about a hundred euros for the return ticket. It would’ve been cheaper had we bought the tickets sooner. I’ve travelled around Italy quite a lot (not as much as I could have and intend to), but I’ve never been that far to the West. I was pretty excited, wondering what this city, with something less than nine hundred thousand residents and surrounded by mountains, had to offer.
My mum took us to the train station in Trieste, where we took the train, obviously. It was supposed to take five hours but it had some delay, which is not out of the ordinary with Trenitalia. We got to my friend’s flat at about 12. It was located in a neighbourhood as dodgy as mine in London (do they do that to all Erasmus students?). We spent the rest of the day walking around, and we managed to see quite a bit of the centre.
We wandered around Via Roma, stopped in Piazza San Carlo and looked at Caval ‘d Brons. Then we visited Piazza Castello, where the Palazzo Reale, so royal palace, is located. We took a look at the most famous building in Torino as well: the Mole Antonelliana. It’s the National Musem of Cinema and supposedly also the tallest museum in the world. We had coffee in a bar, the name of which I don’t remember, but I was positively surprised because literally every bar I went to had plant-based milk.
We spent the second day walking by the river Po and through a park called Parco del Valentino, right next to the river. The views were spectacular because it was very sunny, and we saw different kinds of birds, as well as squirrels. Then we entered the Borgo Medievale, an open-air museum which looks like a medieval castle. It was built in 1884 for an exhibition, which slightly spoild the whole medieval vibe, but it was the higlight of the day nonetheless. It was completely free to enter and we even visited a shop where they still make swords. They were incredibly kind, showed us the workshop and explained how everything works. There are lots of shops inside the castle, selling different ornaments and jewellery. More importantly, they offer lots of things that have something to do with either Harry Potter, LOTR or GOT.
We had lunch in the centre, in a somewhat pricey vegan restaurant called Coox. The food was really good but the portions were quite small; probably because we all ordered starters as we were too broke for anything else. So, we naturally looked for dessert, and I ended up regretting not having it in Coox. They had amazing looking vegan chocolate cheesecake there, while after an hour of search around the centre I ended up having vegan ice cream, despite the cold.
In the evening, my friend’s Indian roommates made us a traditional Indian dish called Aloo Paratha. It was basically fried flatbread that they stuffed with mashed potatoes and spices. Poeple traditionally eat it with butter and yogurt. It’s really really strong and greasy, especially because I didn’t have it with yogurt, but it was interesting and it was also just good to feel a bit of the exchange life again. It’s always about trying different things and learning stuff about other cultures; that’s literally the best part of it.
On the third day, we only had time until 6, which is when our train was leaving. One of my friends met up with some relatives of hers who live in Torino, while my other friend and I climbed a hill called Superga. It took a bit more than an hour, and the path wasn’t particularly nice because you are basically walking on the road (almost no cars, though). The bus drivers stopped by, and asked whether we’d like a ride. We refused and walked till the top, the sporty people that we are. There’s an enormous beautiful church up there, the Basilica di Superga. It was foggy as hell, though, so I’ll definitely redo this hike if I ever happen to wander back to Torino.
All in all, I liked Torino. It’s a beautiful city, magically surrounded by mountains, and the architecture is amazing. I must admit, though, that it didn’t hit me in the way Rome, Verona or Florence did. I think it’s just because it’s so far up in the north, and the aspect of the city is somehow different to what I’m used to in Italy. It’s also colder and often has foggy days. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think it’s worth visiting. I would probably just have to spend some more time there as this always changes my perspective.
Writing this piece about Torino made me daydream of other mini trips I could take. There are so many places in Italy, Croatia and Austria that I haven’t been to yet. Also, my friends keep going on exchange, and I really wish I could visit them all! I just don’t have enough time and money, unfortunately. I do have a trip to Valencia planned in March, but to be honest, Valencia doesn’t even feel like abroad anymore at this point.
I’m happy to say (well, write) that my blog, Nikecream, has been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award 2018, a blogger-to-blogger award searching for inspiring blogs. This is a great opportunity to discover interesting blogs and new content. In order to accept the nomination I have a few tasks to complete, so let’s get into it!
Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog
I was nominated by the lovely Andrea who runs the blog called Faraway Horizons. She’s from Ohio, and she inspires people to travel and go on adventures with her own amazing stories. She accompanies her posts with beautiful pictures.
My Answers to Faraway Horizons’ questions
If the police caught you doing something that landed you in jail, what would you have been doing?
Saving animals from a slaughterhouse, probably.
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to the child version of yourself?
Calm down. You can’t influence what happens to the people around you, it’s not in your power.
You’re travelling to a remote area (without phone or internet) of your choosing. What is the first thing you plan on bringing (living or inanimate)?
Is my boyfriend a legit answer?
Beach or mountains? Explain.
Beach. I grew up by the sea, and I’ll never like a mountain more than a beach.
What is one inspirational song that everyone should have on their playlist?
The Show Must Go On by Queen.
What is your favourite lucky number? Why?
3. Because it’s my mum’s favourite, because I was born in 1993, and because I live on the 3. floor.
What profession did you dream of doing as a child?
I wanted to be a singer, then an actress, then a writer. I still want to be a writer.
Are you doing what you had dreamed of doing? If not, why not?
Yes and no. I’m still finishing uni, so I’m technically not working yet. I’m translating occasionally, and that’s also something I had wanted to do. And I’m writing this blog, as well as working on my first book, so you could say I’m a writer too, an amateur one. I wouldn’t call any of this a dream come true, though. Not yet.
What’s your philosophy towards life/living?
You never have it as bad as you think you do. You have people and things someone out there can only dream of. Suck it up, open your eyes to things in your life that are beautiful, and enjoy them to the fullest. Life’s too short not to.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who had started a blog, but is now thinking of giving up on it?
If you think it’s not for you, then by all means give up, and start doing something you enjoy more. If you just feel like you don’t have time, try to make time for it at least every couple of weeks. In the end, it’s a matter of priorities. If you’re lacking inspiration, get out there and do something. Then write about it.
It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon at home. What are you doing?
Ideally, I’m making a vegan dessert and writing a blog post, then reading a good book or watching something with my mum. Or skyping with the boyfriend. It’s more likely that I’m either studying or working, though. Sad times.
Questions for my Sunshine Blogger Award nominees to answer
What do you love about writing?
Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts?
If the world ended tomorrow, what would be the last meal you’d have?
What’s the next place you plan on visiting?
What was the best destination you’ve been to so far and why?
If you had to spend a week without internet, which three books would you read?
Summer or winter? Explain.
What do you love about your country (and which one is it)?
A blog about healthy cooking and travelling, run by a lovely Slovenian girl who’s in love with adventures and has un undeniable sweet tooth. Accompanied by exciting videos from her travels and pictures of her recipes. The blog is in Slovenian and in English.
Anna writes about vegan food, health, and she posts some cool vegan recipes. She also has an Instagram account where she shares pictures of her food.
The Sunshine Blogger Award 2018 is an amazing way for bloggers to connect, for people to discover new blogs, and for amazing content to be shared. I really enjoyed writing this post and checking my nominees’ blogs, whether it was for the first or the fifteenth time. I realise that almost all my nominees write either about travel, veganism or both. What can I say, you like what you like. Thank you for reading! I hope it was as interesting for you as it was for me.
The places that influenced me the most: Koper, Ljubljana, London, Valencia
I’ve been thinking about this scary thing called future quite a lot lately. I know why that is. It’s because I’m finally finishing my studies. This is my last year as I’ve got four subjects and the thesis left. Once that’ll be done, I’ll have to put my life together, as they say. The location is just one of the things that come with adulting, but it’s the one I want to focus on today. So, here are some thoughts about the four cities/towns that influenced me the most.
Koper, my home
Before I went on exchange, home was a simple and clear notion for me. It was the small coastal town I was born in, Koper. It lies on the coast of Slovenia, near the border with Italy, as well as the one with Croatia. I spent the first nineteen years of my life living here. It’s where I went to primary school, to high school, where I made friends, where I had my first kiss and my first party. I’ve always loved it: the weather that is better than anywhere else in the country, the proximity of the sea, its smallness and simplicity. Most of all, I probably loved the fact that basically anyone I had ever cared for lived here.
Koper is very small and there isn’t much going on, especially during the winter. A consequence of its size is also the amount and diversity of options when it comes to studies and work. I wonder how I’d feel about it had I stayed here to study, without trying to live on my own and without experiencing a city with an actual student life. Would I have been bored? Probably.
Ljubljana, my second home
When I had to go to university, there wasn’t much choice in my small town. So, I went to the capital, like almost everyone did. I have friends who come from the same town as me, and who grew to love Ljubljana, who will probably move there permanently at some point. Personally, I never liked it there. I think the old centre is very pretty, and it’s a fact that there’s much more going on in the capital than in Koper. But that’s just not enough for me. I hate the weather, which is colder and rainier than in my hometown, even though they are only 100 kilometres apart. Waking up to the fog isn’t out of the ordinary either. You often don’t know what the weather’s really like until midday.
I could go on with listing the things that made me a Ljubljana-hater: the accent of its residents, how everyone’s rushing all the time, the public transport that never works like it should, the traffic jams. But I also have to acknowledge the fact that I’m stressed whenever I’m there, as it’s always all about uni and uni-related work. It’s not like I’m suffering, though. I’m not. I have many friends there, and especially during bachelor’s we used to go out often. The various events made my student years interesting, which they probably wouldn’t have been had I stayed in Koper. They just weren’t enough to make me want to live there.
London, my Erasmus home
Perhaps I’ll sound like a paradox now. I, on the contrary, absolutely loved living in a city that is also famous for rushing, traffic jams, rain, cold and fog. But it’s London; its level of coolness makes up for all of that, including the fact that it’s not a coastal city. London’s night life, the number of concerts, festivals, various other events, restaurants, bars and shops can’t compete with anything you can get in Slovenia. We’re just too small. I love its internationality, its architecture, the fact that it’s a city that never sleeps, the New York of Europe. I’ll stop here because I’ve expressed my love for this city enough in the previous posts.
The coolness of London also has its negatives sides, though. Its size makes it hard to meet anyone. As good as the transport system is, going somewhere can take ages. Then there are the crazy prices of accommodation, transport and everything in general, and the lack of any real nature. Luckily, London’s parks are amazing, and they make for a great escape. They’re huge, and you can really pretend that you’re not in a city anymore. When I lived there, I felt great whenever we took a trip, though. When we went to Dover, and I saw the sea after months, I felt relief, somehow.
Just when I was enjoying my life in London to the point of becoming confused about where I’d like to live, the only thing that could have made me more of a mess happened: I fell in love with a Spanish guy. And that’s how Valencia came into my life. I’ve travelled there many times and spent last summer working and living there. Valencia has its disadvantages, of course. It’s too hot in the summer months, huge cockroaches taking walks on its streets (or in your kitchen) is a regular thing, and life’s a bit slower than in most of Europe, probably. The jobs situation isn’t ideal either.
Otherwise, Valencia is pretty much perfect. It’s next to the sea, but it’s a proper city with many interesting things going on. It’s still small enough to be manageable, and you don’t have to waste your life in a metro or in a bus. The weather’s perfect if you can handle the heath in the summer and the absence of snow in the winter. Spanish people are lovely: open, friendly, direct and funny.
And now what?
I’ve always been into travelling, but London was the first city that made me think that I’d perhaps like to live somewhere else than in my hometown. That it’s possible to have different homes in one life. Valencia did just the same.
I guess the normal thing for a person like me, who’s from a coastal town and dislikes the capital, would be to try to find work in the hometown first. And if that didn’t work, to suck it up, move to the capital and find work there. To continue the student life and come home every weekend. Or perhaps drive there and back every day and be tired all the time. It would make sense because it would allow me to spend more time with my family and friends.
But as much as I love them, I wouldn’t stay, at least not right now. Koper’s too small, I’ve explained Ljubljana, and I’d never consider living anywhere else in Slovenia. Of course, a big reason is the boyfriend abroad, and the fact that long distance relationships aren’t meant to be long distance forever. But it’s also the fact that there’s too much left to see and experience out there, and not just by travelling. I want to spend a couple of months living in Italy, some time in Russia, and a part of me wants to return to London, or at least to somewhere in England. And then there’s Valencia where I definitely want to return.
If living abroad has taught me anything, it taught me that it’s possible to find home somewhere else. That I enjoy it, that it’s possible to make friends anywhere, as it is to survive without being physically close to my loved ones. As long as there’s Wi-Fi at least. The very real possibility of moving away makes me feel guilty and worried whenever I think about it. How do I leave everything behind, even when I know I want to go? I keep telling myself that I wouldn’t go that far, that Europe is small, that nowadays it’s easy to stay in touch and to visit. That they’ll survive without me being there all the time and I’ll survive without them. That I’ll do my best to come back often and that Koper will always be my home.
Writing this didn’t make me figure out where I want to spend my life, or what the “right” decision would be. I still don’t know which city I’ll call home in the future. It did help me understand that it doesn’t matter, though, that I don’t need to have that figured out just yet. As for you, if you actually managed to get through this post which probably turned into a rather confused diary entry at some point, I hope it was somehow useful to you. 😊