Medieval Alicante







Medieval Alicante, Alicante Medieval

Alicante turns its centre into a medieval market and you feel like in a historical movie. The streets are full of craft stalls; the air is filled with the delightful smell of roasted pigs and in the squares you can watch a puppet theatre, a knight's duel or a seductive belly dancer performance.

In 1296 King James II of Aragon incorporated the Alicante region under his rule and granted Alicante permission to organize an annual fair. In 1996, when the capital of the province commemorated seven hundred years of this event, the City Council decided to organize an authentic medieval market. It was such a huge success that it has been held regularly since then. Today, however, it is not so much about shopping, it is a real festival of medieval culture, visited by almost half a million people.

I experienced it in May, but sometimes it takes place in other months.

I visited Alicante for the first time and I was impressed. It was like going back in time. The whole historical centre (casco antiguo) was festooned with flags and filled with market stalls. Artists and craftsmen, stylishly dressed in simple linen robes as wore in the past, were making and selling jewellery, candy flowers, wood and metal products, as well as swords, bows and knight helmets. Some had a leather coin pouch instead of a wallet.

The entertainment was provided by a great many street artists: actors, clowns, magicians, acrobats, fortune tellers, jugglers. On every corner, the musicians played ancient melodies; some even had original musical instruments. The squares were transformed into stages for puppet theatre, knight fights and troubadours (a troubadour was a composer and performer of lyric poetry; his songs were mostly about chivalry and courtly love). The Arabic history is omnipresent here - I also met a beautiful oriental belly dancer. While strolling through the city, she shook her breasts and twisted her hips so wildly that men gaped in amazement.

I almost got a heart attack when a nasty green monster jumped on me from behind the corner - but he liked the kids, and they fearlessly made selfies with him.

For small visitors, there were many other activities, such as a demonstration of old crafts (for example a scrivener with a brush and ink bottle), ancestral arts, knights battle lessons or simple games with cord and stones from the “BC” era - Before Computers.

Adults were more fascinated by medieval torture devices. No surprise, as the torture techniques experienced the greatest bloom during the Spanish Inquisition. Eww! People took pictures with a noose around their neck and scanned metal machines as if they were thinking of buying them home  :)

It was a good opportunity to try typical dishes, there was cooking everywhere. On the Town Hall Square, I saw the piglets (cochinillos) grilling constantly over an open fire, coated with a barbecue sauce. The skillful chefs roasted pork legs, sausages, spare ribs, but also pig snouts on two-levels rotating grills and prepared huge pans with a mixture of meat, potatoes, onions, eggs, peppers and tomatoes. It was all melting, bubbling, releasing juices and aromas; from time to time men rotated the grill, added salt and spices, stirred it well and left it to its fate again. I could watch them for hours! Delicious scents were smelt from far away; it was impossible to escape or to resist. Well, I was definitely not on a diet  :)

There was also a wide selection of homemade sweets, cheeses and on-site baked divine bread. I tried roasted new potatoes with olive oil, they were very thin sliced and only slightly salty, really yummy; and later I had coffee and pancakes in an Arabian tent.

In front of the Town Hall, two large puppets were hung on special cranes; their moment came after dark. At 10.30 pm, a local street theatre company Carros de Foc performed on the square. This group, which has already played in the open air in many countries around the world, is known for combining various disciplines such as dance, acrobatics, shadow theatre, choreography with fire, video, music ... and the result is an unforgettable street show of a huge format.

It was really a fantastic experience. One marionette was a narrator, controlled partly by a computer and partly manually by cords from the ground. The second one was a genie, flying over the audience, on which the princess hung and sang.

The story was freely inspired by an Alicante legend about how the city came to its name. Once upon a time, a Caliph lived with his family here. His most beautiful daughter, Cántara, had many admirers, but the most serious were the young men Ali and Almanzor. Because she liked both of them, the Caliph decided to entrust them with difficult tasks, and the first to complete them would take her as a wife.

Almanzor needed to go to India to buy silk, while Ali pledged to build an irrigation canal and bring fresh water to the city. Since he stayed at home, he had enough time to woo her. He sang to her, wrote her letters and recited poems until Cántara fell in love with him.

But when Almanzor returned with a beautiful cloth, the Caliph recognized that he had accomplished the task first. He promised him the princess's hand, unaware that her heart was already taken.

In despair, Ali jumped off the rock, and when a heartbroken Cántara found out, she threw herself off the castle and plummeted to her death. The Caliph got depressed because he lost his beloved daughter, he couldn't sleep, couldn´t eat, and eventually jumped off the castle too...

The inhabitants were so overwhelmed by the events that they decided to change the name of the city to "Alcántara" so that the names of the two in love were forever united; and over time it has evolved into Alicante.

The streets were crowded even at midnight, indeed, Spanish don ́t go to bed early; they party all night long. On my way to the hotel, I happened to see a fire jugglers show and to listen to the Wyrdamur band, devoted to medieval folk (they themselves call their style ``brutal rock”). The parade of musicians with painted faces, dressed in leather and fur, was a huge success.

Alicante is a nice destination for a long weekend. In the morning, you can see the sights - such as Basilica of Santa Maria, Santa Barbara Castle and the picturesque Santa Cruz district; wander down the narrow, shaded streets of the centre and do some shopping in the plenty of small boutiques. In the evening, take a stroll along the busy Explanada de España, lined on both sides with rows of palm trees and try some specialty or buy something at one of the local artists' stalls.

I spent the afternoons on the beach, which I think is one of the best in Spain. Clean, cosy; and the sea is mostly very quiet. You can meet there a peculiar beach seller of mojitos. A man with a serious expression, in a striped T-shirt and shorts, looking like the captain of an overseas ship. When he ran out of supplies, he sat down on the sand near me and took out of his bag everything he needed to prepare some more drinks.

Very quickly it was clear that he boozed up his own products since the morning; the advantage was that he certainly did not practice false economy and was generous with alcohol also for others J  While working, he was giggling and practicing English. "Do you speak English?“ he asked himself and fell down laughing.  I don't know how well his mojitos went on sale, I preferred sangria from the beach bar…

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