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Valencia – The City That Has It All! Part 2 of 2!

Yet, curiously, throughout this process a strong Valencian cultural identity emerged in, once again, the City of Contrasts. The locals see themselves as an ethnic kingdom within Spain. What is spectacular, though, is that here the traditional is still very much in fashion, preserved mainly in music, costumes, customs and fiestas. A good third or so of Valencia proudly sports regional costumes (said to be the most colourful in Spain) and music on even the smallest occasion. That includes a lot of youth. Here, it is still cool to be traditional in the 21st century.

Photo. Costumes in Valencia used in one of the city`s many festivals. © Alex Welsh, Valencia Tourist Information, Spain - www.valenciavalencia.com.

These are falleros – neighbourhood co-operatives, unique to Valencia in the whole world. It is a bizarre concept – clan-like, almost tribal conglomerations, reminiscent of Medieval Muslims, they are the core of the city, usually uniting for Catholic fiestas. There are around 350 of fallas (co-operatives) and they have their heyday every year in the middle of March, for 5 days of urban insanity named Las Fallas.

Huge and colourful effigies (monuments, sculptures) get built from wood and papier-mâché on the streets of Valencia, around 800 in total, some as high as 25-30 metres. They are usually satirical or provocative in their content. The whole city dresses up into traditional costumes and takes to the streets with music and war zone level of fireworks. Paella is cooked all over the streets, the crowds party until dawn and on the last day all those effigies get burned.

But that’s not all of it. There is always some kind of fiesta in Valencia. The locals love noise, spectacle and party. Fireworks and petards are kept in kitchen cupboards for daily use here. You get an impression they spend the whole year making costumes, spectacles, floats etc for all those colourful fiestas. And there is always plenty of music if you like Spanish wind and percussion – they call Valencia the Vienna of Spain.

All this love for noise and party doesn’t just stay in the traditional. The Valencians are some of the most hardcore party animals in Spain and the nightlife here is nationally famous, going well until dawn (and in some places until lunchtime!). They say people here go out from Monday to Sunday. There are myriads of bars, discos and night clubs, as well as concerts and live music nights.

The culture doesn’t stay in the traditional either. The City of Valencia seems to be hell bent on not letting Valencia turn into another Benidorm. More and more, Valencia gets to be in the circuit of world music, arts and cultural events. There is always something going on here, a truly cosmopolitan and avante-guard spectrum of events. Add to it scores of museums, theatres, art galleries, classical music venues resident in Valencia, and you really don’t have an excuse to be bored.

And yes, there is a beach, and it’s about the best city beach I have ever seen. It might not be a deserted island, but it is large enough, clean enough and lively enough, plus the climate is amazing, the water is great and the sand is of top quality. Just to think that it is a mere 20 minutes from all the sightseeing and culture in the centre…And right there on the beach you can have the famous Valencian cuisine. Paella is a Valencian invention and here you can have the best of the best.
Yet with all of this, with all its buzz and ambition, and a million things to offer, Valencia remains cosy and warm and friendly and laid back. The people are still very welcoming and open, and the city injects a good dose of tranquilliser into your veins as soon as you step off the plane. They call Valencia “the biggest Spanish village”. Quite extraordinary and totally incomprehensible. Perhaps it might not last long. We will have to see.

For now though, what else one could ask for from an urban destination?

Alex Welsh, 29 May 2007

Additional information
Alex is the webmaster of Valencia Tourist Information - an independent resource on travelling in Valencia, Spain - www.valenciavalencia.com.

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