El Bando de la Huerta

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Spain  , Murcia,
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Being an avid reader of various blogs like this and other sites before i visit a city, i knew the festivities of the area had not finished, and today was to be 'El Bando de la Huerta'. Where it was advised that the gardens and main squares would have people partying into the early hours.

When we arrive shortly before mid day it is just starting, and thousands upon thousands of locals had closed up their businesses and are filling the parks, squares and streets. They all wear costumes according to what the local farmers would have worn a number of years ago. This includes heavy refajos (skirts) and shawls for the women. Each embroidered with thick wool, and their hair forced into crazy concoctions with fresh flowers completing their look. The men wear clots and shirts in white, a thick band of colour round their waist and a embroidered waist coat. Both male and female wear an espadrille sandal which has a blue thread attached. Can’t imagine my brother’s wearing these!

The farmer’s have come down and have set up small stalls ‘Barracas’ and are selling food, produce and beer...lots of beer! Families are gathered together in the parks and are already celebrating by listening to live music, clapping and dancing.

Whilst wandering amongst them we find our way through the maze of streets and people . The architecture of the buildings is stunning. Typical tall plastered flats and shops mix along with churches and markets, all feeding into tiny tree filled squares. A beautiful city, and with this fever and entertainment around us, is very infectious. We stumble upon a number of small, yet very old churches and the market, all standing very proud.

After a small coffee for my folks and a beer for myself we meander to the main plaza. In front of us is the Cathedral, the Palace to our right, and a modern art museum behind us. Not an overly large square it is rammed full of people dressed in their costumes.

The Palace appears to be flaking in paint, but i like that. It hasn’t be refurbished just for the sake of it, and perhaps gives a little more feel for how old it is. Apparently it was built so close to the Cathedral so the bishop could stay there and see his Cathedral taking place before his eyes. You can easily imagine him sitting out on the balcony doing just that!

The 1467 Cathedral is striking. The stone masons of the day certainly must have been talented. There is hundreds of carvings depicting various religious stories, and a huge bell tower which has held 25 bells in total. (due to war and damage).

Inside we are welcomed by fresh flowers on the floor. A sign that the parade started here and then fell out onto the streets. Bringing home to me what all these festivals are for; Religion. There are 23 chapels inside. Each more stunning then the next. Not one to understand what they all mean, i am more taken away by the stone work of the ‘Chapel of Girolano’s 10 pointed flaming star. I entertain a number of local people whilst lying on the floor trying to capture many a photo.

I had heard on the grapevine that the ‘Real Casino de Murcia; the Royal Casino of Murcia’ is one of the most stunning buildings in the region. It did not disappoint. For a tiny fee of 3 euros you walk back into time of when opulence and grandeur was prevalent for a few people’s every day lives.

There is gold leaf on the walls, marble on the floors, cut glass mirror the reflections. Favourite rooms include the entrance, which actually is made of 35 000 gold leaves, and was once where royalty would have gambled away far too money. You can smell the wealth!

Walking through you are in an inner road, with small steps up to various rooms, including a library (Biblioteca Inglesa) with flamingos carved in wood surrounding it and 20 000 books dating back to the 17th century! Across is the ballroom (Saile de Baile) where the ladies would have danced to the small hours under the chandeliers and delicately painted ceilings... bad lighting for photos... but you stand and stare..absorbing the culture. There even is a fencing room and a stunning tea room. My favourite room is the ladies room (Tocador de Senoras), which is full of giant mirrors. Whichever way you look you are thrown into an Alice in Wonderland experience as you get smaller and smaller. Of course if i had needed to i could have used the solid silver toilet! Wonder what the toilet paper would have been made of!

A touring orchard show has my senses heightened as i wander round the last parts of this stunning building. I eagerly go outside to find my dad in a huff after being left outside for an hour... Mum and i chuckle..and we wander off back to find the car.

I would have stayed longer to see more of the wonderful festival but i can see mum and dad need rest and food. I will return another Easter to celebrate with the locals. I am certain of that!
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