Be at Fiesta de Puerto Viejo
I had a fantastic time at the fiesta de Puerto Viejo that lasts from August 10th to the 14th. Fiesta de Puerto Viejo is famous throughout the Basque Country. It first gained its recognition when two Basque men named Kali and Motxo mixed cola and red wine in 1972, creating the first Kalimotxo. One of the most particular drinks here in the Basque Country. In this festival, they also celebrate many traditional competitions like Alazadas and Sokamuturra .
The fiesta kicked-off the morning of Friday, August 10th, with a local farmers market. After getting off at the central Algorta, I headed to Plaza Biotz Alai Plaza, which is next to Plaza de San Nicolas. Upon entering, there were tons of people and food stalls taking place in both plazas. There was even a live band playing traditional Basque instruments.
Agriculture is one of the pillars of Basque culture. Basque livestock pigs, cows, sheep, and goats are heavily controlled and result in fantastic quality. If you see the official Eusko Label, these products will be the top quality.
At the farmers market, there were tons of cheese, bread, vegetable, meat stalls with fresh produce from different regions around País Vasco. All the cheese stalls had free samples. I even bought a mix of different Iberian cheeses, nuts, and raisins.
When in the Basque Country you can't forget to try the local cider or white wine called Txakoli. The cider is poured high above the cup at an angle. Of course, I sampled a glass of each for only a few euros. Bottles of Cider in Plaza de San Nicolas were going for 3 euros, so I bought two.
Some of the other distinct agricultural products only found in Euskal Herria, Basque Country in Euskera are Espelette red peppers and Haricot beans.
After walking around the plazas, I went home for lunch and to rest before the night's party. Which looked a little something like this…that field later filled up and the entire bottom area was filled with a sea of people.
On the second day, there is an event called Sokamuturra or cucaña. They set up a tall wooden beam on the banks of the harbor during low tide. Teams of 5-8 people have to try to touch the top of a heavily greased pole. They get to the top by climbing individually or climbing on top of each other's shoulders. There's a catch though. Not only is the pole greased, but there's also a young bull attached by a rope to the pole. Don't worry; the calf is relatively harmless because they cap the horns. While one or two team members distract the bull, the other members climb up the pole.
Get to Old Port early to watch this event if you want to be up close and personal. On the bottom area close to the pole, as you can see it is jam-packed. It is supposed to start at 5, but they took their time to start. It was exciting watching this event.
On the third day, there is an event called Alazadas, that has ties to basque fishing culture. Unfortunately, I missed this event because they started earlier. At Alazadas, "Individuals are thrown into the air by a rope and then dunked in the sea while trying to sever a dead goose head." (bizkaiatalent.eus) I am hoping to remember to visit Lekeitio on September 5th for the Feast of St. Antoninus of Pamiers to watch this event where it is famous.
On the fourth day, I finally learned how to eat sardines. Since I first arrived, Carmen has been trying to get me to enjoy sardines, tuna, and anchovies. So being able to eat the local delicacy is funny and a significant breakthrough. During the fiestas of Algorta, one of the mornings, I came home at sunrise and was starving. The only open place only had a tortilla de potato al tuna. I had no choice but to eat it. For the first time, I was able to stomach the saltiness of the tuna. Today I discovered how good sardines are when they are freshly caught and then BBQed. Almost every day at la Plaza del Puerto, you can buy half or full dozen and then enjoy them while sitting on the steps of the port.
Each day in l Plaza del Puerto there is small live concerts as well as a traditional singing in Euskera called a bertso. During these songs, two people will battle it out like in a rap battle following a unique melody and follow a distinctive rhyming pattern. The Basque accordion or flute sets the toon and pace of the bertso.
The very last day of Fiesta de Porte de Viejo is famous. This day everyone comes at noon to eat a tuna and potato soup called Marmitako. Some people will make there own and have their own set up(similar to Paellas), or you can pay 15 euros at the community tables from the official txosna for a food ticket. We got a salad, two large helpings of Markitako, wine, coffee, and ice cream.
It is also custom for boys to wear girl pajamas and then girls will wear boy pajamas throughout the lunch and into the night. The sillier, the better. A few days prior, I went to a cheap department store in Spain called Primark to pick up my pajama. It is Spain's version of Ross. With the help from my local friend Ray and his girlfriend, we picked out a ridiculous extra long pink toy story shirt.
I got some pretty strong reactions from you all back in the states. For example, what the heck are you wearing and some other vulgar comments. My travel philosophy has and always will be, "do as the locals" and arriving at this party not dressed the part would be like going to a toga party dressed in street clothes. Exhausted from the entire day of eating and drinking, I called it an early night around 2 a.m, yet the party was still in full force.
(After finishing all the posts about the parties, I will get back to regular posts for tips on living in Spain as an expat and ESL related topics. In which I think I want to cover shopping. I will cover everything from my favorite products, grocery stores, and department stores.)
Be curious. Be courageous. Be chivalrous.