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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Easter in Spain, not to be missed.
19 March 2018

                    

Spain is completely transformed during Easter week. Everybody, everywhere, turns out to experience one of Spain's most traditional events to the full. Don't miss the chance to visit this event: you'll be able to share some very special moments in an atmosphere unlike anything you've ever known.

                There are many different ways to discover Spain: enjoying its coast and beaches, following a route around its various monuments, exploring the countryside, playing sports like golf... However, if you've never visited Spain during Easter week, then you simply have to come. And even if you already know this famous fiesta, it's well worth making another trip, as each region of Spain has its own way of celebrating the event.

In Spain, Easter week is celebrated with a great deal of emotion. People take an active role in its events and traditions. All day and night the streets are filled with the beat of the drums, masses of colourful flowers, and the consummate art of religious sculpture, all combining to produce a highly moving atmosphere.

Easter week is celebrated in every city, town and village in Spain. Nevertheless, there are some fiestas that are especially well known for their uniqueness and beauty, and have received the International Tourist Interest designation.

During Easter week in Seville you'll see how the “cofradías” (religious brotherhoods) manage to withstand the colossal weight of elaborately decorated statues of the Virgin Mary as they parade through the narrow streets of the old town. Easter week in Malaga includes the ritual privilege of the freeing of a prisoner, and one of the most moving moments of all is when the figure of Jesus Christ blesses the convict. During the Easter week celebrations in Cuenca you can also enjoy the concerts in the Religious Music Week festival, which take place in historic buildings such as the cathedral.

If you go to León in Easter week, you'll find one of the highlights is the encounter between Saint John and the Virgin Mary in the Plaza Mayor square, which marks the end of the Easter processions. During Easter week in Zamora, the sound of Gregorian chant provides an incredible atmosphere for the nocturnal processions. During the Easter week processions in Valladolid, make sure to look closely at the religious statues –they are priceless works of Baroque art. Easter week in Salamanca is spectacular on account of the backdrop formed by the city's stunning monuments.

The Palm Sunday procession in Elche features the customary palm leaves and is one of the most beautiful of any held in Spain. In Cartagena the culmination of the processions is especially moving, with thousands of people joining their voices in song to intone the Salve Maria to the Virgin Mary. Lorca is especially original – the processions include figures and scenes from the bible and from ancient civilisations. In the province of Albacete, the crowning moment in Easter week in Hellín is “the tamborada”, when the sound of up to 20,000 drums invades the town. Easter week in Cáceres is unique for its cofradías dating from the 15th century, and Eater week in Murcia has moments of breathtaking emotion such as on Easter Saturday, when the procession of 'Cristo Yacente' passes beneath the Santo Domingo arch .

However of all these celebrations the most renowned and publicised is that of Seville. These celebrations are famous for their statues of the Virgin Mary with canopies: they are Baroque statues with silver and gold crowns, embroidered cloaks and velvet tunics, which only reveal face and hands.

 

 

Seville has been holding its Easter week celebrations since the 16th century, and they have become universally famous. Some 50,000 people put on traditional robes to parade in the 58 organised processions, while the "costaleros" carry the “pasos” (religious statues) on their shoulders. There are processions in the evening and at night every day. Each brotherhood sets out from its church and has an established route, although they must all pass the so-called “official section”, which starts in Calle Campana and finishes passing by the Cathedral. Once each procession has left the Cathedral, it returns to its church on a different route to that followed on the way out. The “saetas” are very emotional moments of the processions: these are solemn flamenco songs, recited “a cappella” from the balconies in honour of the statues.

The early hours of Good Friday constitute the most important time of the Seville Easter week celebrations. That night, some of the most venerated statues make their way through the streets, such as Jesús del Gran Poder, la Macarena, la Esperanza de Triana and el Cristo de los Gitanos. The streets of the city fill with people and with emotion all night and well into the following morning. However one needs to be patient because the waits to admire these beautiful statues tend to be long.

You can see processions by heading for any point on their routes, except in the “official section”. Here there are seats and stands from which to admire the passing processions, which must be reserved by contacting the Consejo Superior de Hermandades y Cofradías (Brotherhoods’ Association).

Easter week is one of the most spectacular and emotional fiestas in Spain. Religious devotion, art, colour and music combine in acts to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.

 Palm Sunday as we know is the celebration that commemorates Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem and always sees large crowds of people in attendance.

The Palm Sunday Procession is held on the Sunday before Easter week. This fiesta has special importance in Elche. Its origins date back to the end of the 14th century. Hundreds of people take part by carrying figures hand-crafted in the town from palm branches, a truly beautiful spectacle.

 

 

Elche is the only place in the world where the tradition of crafting white palm fronds lives on. This town has been exporting palm frond creations to other countries for centuries. Palm branches are used, which, after being treated, are plaited into beautiful, creative forms and figures. Not to be missed at this fiesta is the palm-figures competition organised by the Religious Brotherhoods of Easter Association. The works presented for the competition are exhibited over the course of the weekend in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall. It is free of charge and you can admire, from up close, these beautiful, complex images created by hand.

 

  



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A Legendary River
14 March 2018

 

Found in the middle of the forest in Campanet, Spain, the Ses Fonts Ufanes is a unique hydrological wonder that only appears after heavy rainfall, like some sort of mythical natural legend. 

Asingular natural hydrogeological phenomenon in the Balearic Islands, Les fonts Ufanes are powerful intermittent water surges that come up suddenly and in a diffused manner, once enough rainwater has accumulated in the Puig Tomir massif and its surrounding areas.

These springs get their water from the rain that falls on the mountains and filters into the subsoil. Once it filters in, the water accumulates in an aquifer that sits over relatively impermeable materials. After several days of intense and constant rainfall, the aquifer overflows, and the water rushes up to the surface violently through the springs below the Gabellí Petit Estate.

The currents of these springs can go from 0 to 3 m³ /second in a matter of minutes under normal circumstances, reaching 100 m³/second in the case of exceptional surges. On average, these springs spew out an annual volume of 10 / 12 hm³. All of this water runs through the stream known as Torrent de Teló, comes together with that of other springs in the area and spills into another stream, the Torrent de Sant Miquel. From this point, the water placidly makes its way down to the flatlands of Sa Pobla, crossing the cultivation fields until it reaches S’Albufera. Here, in a radically different landscape marked by reeds and canals, the water virtually seems to stop in the final section of its course, before it flows into the sea.

 


 
The site can only be reached after a 20 minute walk through the woods, making it a well hidden marvel.
However the phenomenon is not completely unknown. In fact it has been marked as a contemporary UNESCO site, earning all the protections that affords. In addition, the property that the disappearing water flow sits on was purchased by the government in 2005, so that it could keep a better eye on it. At least when it hasn't vanished completely. 



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The Home of Witchcraft
08 March 2018

The town of Zugarramurdi on the Basque border in northern Spain may be small but during the 17th century Spanish Inquisition the rural settlement was the focus of one of the largest witch trials in history which ended in the deaths of countless innocents and it is the folk beliefs and lives of these victims that is remembered in the Zugarramurdi Witch Museum.

During the Spanish Inquisition, a wide variety of non-believers and accused heretics were punished and one of the centers of this persecution was the small town of Zugarramurdi which contains a large series of caves said to be home to all manner of witchcraft and sorcery. The caves themselves were carved by the Olabidea stream which is said to originate in Hell itself, which may be where the stories of witchcraft began. However the haunting space could easily be taken for a hotbed of black magic via its atmosphere alone.

According to popular belief, during the 17th century (and before) these wide rock enclosures were witness to bonfires, wild parties, and other generally pagan festivities staged by the town locals.  Whether true or not, the caves and the town of Zugarramurdi caught the attention of the Spanish Inquisition's witch hunters who investigated the area. After identifying the area to be rife with supposed witches, the Inquisition rounded up the accused and tried them in nearby Logroño in the largest trial of its kind in history. In the end, over 7,000 individual cases were tried, mainly focusing on female accused, although a great deal of men and children were included as well.

Ever since the trials, Zugarramurdi has been associated with witchcraft and today the town embraces their pagan heritage with such sites as the witch museum. The museum, which is housed in the town's former hospital, was established in 2007 and features a number of displays illustrating both the reality and myth surrounding the local witches. There are "floating" dresses and cauldrons and goats heads on display, giving the proper due to the folk beliefs of the area and also the misconceptions of the witches. In contrast there are also displays exploring the role of the female herbalist which was most often associated with witchcraft. There is also a film explaining the process behind the 1610 trials.

 

The Zugarramurdi Witch Museum also takes part in the annual celebration of the summer solstice held in the nearby caves. The town seems to have taken back its identity not by distancing itself from its historic tragedy, but by embracing its legacy, warts and all.  

 

 



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