Last week I went to Palma to visit one of my dearest friends. My friend is kind of former vagabond of my ilk who eventually found her place on this earth. Now she has been living in Palma for almost 10 years and recently decided to ‚grow roots’ in one place and bought a lovely loft. She found her home. I am very happy for her. Also for myself because I can now visit her in her cosy duplex with vistas al mar (sea-view). Aaahhh…
This time my plane landed just when all the bars around Palma de Mallorca started to fire up their barbecue ovens. My first Saint Sebastian festival – huge festivities to celebrate the city’s patron saint. The celebrations go for the whole week but the main events take place on the 19th of January with a program full of concerts and activities. The culmination is the bonfires and barbecues which are held on the squares, streets and street corners.
People can either book their barbecue at a bar of their choice which provides food and drinks or they simply bring their own sausages and use the barbecues of the bar – buying drinks from that place (although there is usually also wine in your pocket ;)).
This fun is called ‚torrar’ (which basically means to roast). There are around 70 ‚torradores’ in the center of Palma, I am reading in the leaflet describing the festival. Not bad. Let’s see, I’m thinking…
So my friend took her tofu sausages (lately she is into healthy food), some veggies, the wine and the obligatory olives (olives are omnipresent in Spain whenever people have an aperitif) and we took off. It was an adventure to find a parking space but eventually we found something quiet ‚close’ (20 minutes walking to ‚our’ bar) and joined her group of friends at one of the corner bars. The barbecues were already full but people didn’t seem to mind that they have to ‚fight’ for a little sausage space. Everyone was in a cheerful mood and gathered around the grills they seemed like students on a spring break.
The atmosphere reminded me once again my Erasmus year in Spain where you didn’t mind drinking on the street, using the pavement as your table or getting smelly from the smoke. In fact it reminded me of one particular day when 12 years ago while studying for one year at the University of Valencia – department Gandía, we all celebrated a ‚Paella Day’. Basically the day was free of classes and everyone, forming little groups, cooked their own paella on the Campus. I remember the whole university parking area was full of people, food and smoke… I remember being drunk already at noon and the general craziness of that day. At one point we started to sign each others T-Shirts ‚as a souvenir’ which ended up being an idiotic attempt to be creative – in the wrong way – so that I had to throw away my T-Shirt because there were some body parts drawn on it. Such a shame.
Of course the celebration of Saint Sebastian in Palma was much more ‚civilized’. Eventually we managed to barbecue our tofu sausages which I ate thankfully because I was hungry but I was even happier when another friend offered me his steak.
As much as I wished I was a vegetarian, I so much enjoy the taste of a good steak (please don’t judge me).
At one point someone yelled ‚the devils are coming!’, I listen…and hear the sound of drums approaching, I turn and the first thing I see is fireworks…then slowly the men in the flames take shape and I see an impressive and quite fearful procession ‚straight from hell’. Men dressed up as demons are dancing towards us, making noises and ‚playing with fire’.
The devils represent the bad and the fire is the symbol of the purification. If they stay, they ‚execute the bad’, if you stay, you will be cleansed. You can either run away or stay and affront your demons. ‚Our’ demons stay. They are fire dancers, drummers, and other ‚performers’ shooting fire at the public and throwing firecrackers at our feet. They are running out of control now. We are staying. Holding on to my wine in a plastic glass in one hand and armed with my camera in the other hand I affront the demons and have a strange sensation that I could be a good war reporter. Not running away from danger, eager to get this one good shot. The fire is raining on me and the mass around is shrieking and jumping and I stand there with my iPhone, motionless. I don’t think that means I will be ‚purified’ but I have fun anyway.
Unfortunately afterwards the only jacket I brought with me on this trip smells like hell. Literally.
My story ends here although the night did not. As I mentioned there were concerts and performances all night long. In a night like that, one feels like a student again…