BURN, BABY, BURN!

Since I was extremely silent on here for the month of March, I need to explain why!

  • The first 3 days of the month were spent in Prague
  • Than the beginning of March kicked off the festivities for Las Fallas festival, the main events being from March 14- March 19
  • Mallorca road trip March 22- 25
  • Barcelona school trip March 25 – 28

Mascletás

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Las Fallas official start of day 1

Until I knew I was moving to Valencia, I had no idea what Las Fallas was. Although no amount of words and pictures will be enough to justify these 5 days, I will certainly try my best. Starting on the first day of March Mascletás go off in the city center everyday at 2pm, these are day time fireworks that are louder than any noise I have ever heard, but it is beautiful and every day is in a different symphonic order. Plaza del Ayuntamiento is completely filled with people everyday until the Mascletás come to an end on the last day of Las Fallas, March 19. As each day gets closer to the end of the festival more and more people fill the streets surrounding the launch site in Plaza del Ayuntamiento and it actually feels like you are swimming in a sea of people, usually I am not one for huge crowds, but it is amazing seeing the plaza fill up more and more each day with people from all over town, the country and even the world! Than stopping to think, I live here!

Espectáculo de luces

525313_10151539914862692_1629235700_nAbout a week before the kick off date of Las Fallas officially starts, el espectáculo de luces (light show) that happens, every night for 7 days in the district of Ruzafa! I have been to my fair share of raves and Disney world parades, but wow, Disney has nothing on Las Fallas. The light show would start at 8pm and reoccur every 30 minutes until 10pm to the beat of a few different songs, the funniest was “scream and shout” and seeing a little girl on her dad´s shoulders saying     “it´s Brittney bitch.” The first days of this were the best because we had free range to move and dance as crazy as we wanted, the last few days of Fallas it got pretty packed, as if there was actaully a live concert happening, nope, just the lights.

sds

Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

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Fallas

Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

Fire spinning Falla! Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

It will happen almost over night, you are strolling through any of the 350 neighborhoods in Valencia (Fallas-communities in this case) and bam, there is a huge sculpture in front of your eyes that was not there just a few hours ago. Each Falla-community commisions two fallas-sculptures, a falla and a falla infintal. Each falla is made up of ninots. These are the figurines that all together make up the multi-faceted story of the falla. The bigger the falla, the more money that community has. The most expensive Falla this year was 600,000 Euros (x1.3=USD). The fallas are typically satirical, playing on political figures, movie stars, even Steve Jobs.

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enourmous Falla

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enormous Falla

The artist and teams who commission these fallas spend about 364 days working on them, the most fascinating part is on the last day of Las Fallas, every single falla (except the one voted best) gets burned to the ground!

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

Falla infintal These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

Falla infintal
These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

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It´s Jack!

Paella

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

The most typical dish to Valencia is the Paella, my favorite being Paella de Marisco (Seafood), the most typical one is made with rabbit and chicken. During Las Fallas, each Falla– community has their own tent to party, dance and make Paella! I ate so much Paella this week, before Fallas even officially started our class was invited to a multicultural desert competition which also came with all the Paella and Sangria you could drink! The following day our falla tent had a Paella competition between the teachers, which obviously also included all the Paella you could eat. It is really neat seeing this dish be prepared because when it is made for the masses they use these huge pan´s over an open fire. It is a science and also an art, things were heating up (quite literally) and the winner went to a FSU favorite, Professor BJ. I was sure to try all of the Paellas, my favorite being the one with snails, shell and all!

Fuegos Artificiales

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One thing that can always make me lose my breath is fire works, in Spanish, Fuegos Artificiales, I have spent countless holidays at the beach, New Years on the bay and 4th of July at  Epcot (Disney park) but no fire works show I have ever seen in my life can come close to the fire works I saw in Valencia during Las Fallas, even my friends mom who has seen a lot more years than we have agreed. Every night for 5 nights at the amazing river bed park at 12 (or 1) fire works would go off for 30 minutes, 45 minutes honestly I have no idea, forever! Each night topped the last, with what seemed like cannons of golden glitter exploding in the sky, everyone was going crazy. The entire park was full of people screaming and hollering for these explosions in the sky!

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Desfiles

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Fitting right in

A very important part of Las Fallas is el desfiles, the parades. Whether it is the falleras and falleros or just people dressed up with their fallas tent, people are always going to be marching with the tradational fallas pasodobles. While you can see parades at any given time during this 5 day fiesta, it is important to note 2 imoprtant parades during the week:

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The start of the virgin

The start of the virgin

Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados This is when Falleras big and small march to the plaza de la virgen (right near where I live) with bouquets of flowers they present to a towering statue of Virgin Mary. The streets are blocked off and it is an obstacle course making it a few plaza´s down town, but so entertaining it´s worth the wait! It is a nice change of pace, the whole week you are bombarded with the smells of fire and smoke but during la ofrenda the plaza is filled with scents of flowers.

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Fallera picking flowers for la ofrenda

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The Virgin composed of flowers

The Virgin composed of flowers

483781_10151594595295439_1843818022_nCabalgada del fuego was the craziest parade I saw during the week, or maybe during my life! This parade is a prelude to la crema bringing 300 hell fires out to play. Ladies in firey red costumes, men dressed up as el diablo and fire, fire, fire! The crowd was out of control on Calle Colon but luckily my class mate Alex managed to snap some awesome shots!

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The battlefield

In the middle of the city stretching for miles is a park, where a river once was, but has now been converted to an enormous stretch of land where there are different kinds of exercise equipment, play grounds, museums, everything! But during Las Fallas the riverbed turned into a war ground. It was impossible to walk through here at night without a constant suspension of a fire cracker coming down from above. The first night that the boys in my program found the pyroshop we had a battle. Some of us were on a bridge overlooking the river bed and the rest of us were down below. Tossing firecrackers back and forth, drinking and playing with fire… not a safe combo, but no one lost any body parts (from our program) which shocked me a little.

Nit de La Crema

Nit de La Crema 2013 View of the city from the top found this photo online

Nit de La Crema 2013
View of the city from the top
found this photo online

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The highly anticipated crema happens on the last night of Fallas, by this time everyone’s bodies are drained from the constant boozing, lack of sleep and infinite walking. Even though we were on day 5 of constant fiesta the fact that is was all coming to an end was quite sad, but the show must go on, and that it did. Nit de la Crema, night of the cremation, is what all the partying leads up too. A spring cleaning some say. I got to see 3 different Fallas burn and it got hot! As each falla goes up in flames fireworks accompany it.

Fallera very sad it´s over

Fallera very sad it´s over

Falla infintal are the first to go

Falla infintal are the first to go

Next, our Falla goes up in flames!

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Tent hopping and ran into this!

Tent hopping and ran into this!

Ciao bella

Ciao bella

Las Fallas can never be put into a perfect description no matter how many words, photos or videos I use, but I hope this gave yáll an insight on how unique Valencian culture is. Alex Tellez made an awesome Fallas recap video i´ll post on here!

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Österreich; Part 2 of 3 Spring Break 2013

Our German adventure had come to an end, leaving me with one thing: I must go back and explore more of this amazing country!

INNSBRUCK:

It was the morning of February 25 (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY TWIN COUSINS! ) and Alison, Allie and I headed for the main train station to board a train that would take us to the great country of Österreich (in English, Austria). Would of never really considered or known about Innsbruck if it wasn´t for my friend Carter sending me “The Euro Bible” that his friends from UGA made while studying in Innsbruck.

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Train station waiting for our bus to Hall

The train ride was phenomenal as we made our way from flat land to high elevations as each wheel on the train turned we worked our way up in altitude surrounded by 1000´s of feet of white mountains. 2 hours later we had arrived in Innsbruck; one of the most majestic places I have ever seen. While the sun was beating on my face as I looked at snow-covered mountains on each side of me, I knew the next 2 days would be pure bliss. Innsbruck is located in the Tyrol region of Austria in the heart of the Tyrolean alps. Austria has nothing to do with the land down under and they speak German.. not Austrian.

Our hill!

Our sledding hill!

We were staying with our friend Erwin in a town a few kilometers outside of Innsbruck, Hall in Tyrol. Within our first minutes of arriving Erwin asked if we wanted to go sledging, or sledding. I have never been sledding in my 20 years of existence so my answer was an immediate yes! His friend Jules came over with 3 plastic, circular “sleds” and we walked around to find the perfect hill… and we did! We joined two little kids and made our way up and down the hill for close to an hour. I felt like a child again, the snow really makes one forgot about everything else and truly enjoy what is happening at the present moment, a therapy of some sorts. 

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After we wore our selves out sledding we were shown the “beach” of Hall in Tyrol. Although it did not fit my classifications as a beach, it was breathtaking! Millions of unique rocks by side a rambling river with a snowy Alp back drop is definitely something I can get used to.

Instead of eating out at some pricey restaurant we prepared a traditional Austrian meal that is very typical to this region, KäseSpätzle. The most similar thing I can relate spätzle to is Gnocchi, and käse means cheese in German. So a German/Austrian mac n´cheese would be an appropriate description.

ingredients for KäseSpätzle:

  • 1 small onion
  • 250g of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 liter of water
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g of cheese (we used a mix of white, swiss and gouda)
  • 1 more onion to prepare onion rings as a topping for the spätzle.

From this point you have to make the dough balls which is spätzle, prepare your onions, cut the cheese and make your onion rings. It is safe to assume you are reading this on the computer so you probably have access to Google. If you wish to make this, which I highly recommend you do, search “recipe for KäseSpätzle” and voilà your recipe awaits. I´d love to write it out here but I am approaching my final days of school so have a bit of homework to catch up on. If you decide to make it, please comment here and let me know what you thought! I absolutely loved it, and its low ingredients cost. We finished our dinner off with “Austrian desert,” schnapps!

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Prost!

The day next our goal was to get on that mountain! Since it was winter and the mountain was completely covered in knee-high snow,hiking up there was impossible with our lack of gear. After visiting gummy bear world, eating some amazing Italian pizza (since it’s just the next country over) and loading up on some beer for the mountain we took flight on the Nordkettenbahn (aka gondola) and made our way up to the highest point possible, over 7600 feet, which is called the Hafelekar. We took in the scenery of an endless sea of snowy mountains in every direction, never in my life have I seen this many mountains!

Chairs at the Seegrube (second highest point) were nice!

Chairs at the Seegrube (second highest point) were nice! My amazing travel companions Alison and Allie.

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My small friend Allie

My small friend Allie

On top of the alps!photo by Allie I :)

On top of the alps!
photo by Allie I 🙂

At this point Allie and I decided to trek a little farther than the Hafelekar since we had the shoes for it, why not? No joke, snow was up to our knees and it felt great! To see no human civilization. Just you and nature. It was a refreshing feeling, especially since we had been on such a schedule during the trip catching buses, trains and planes being away from it all on the mountain was amazing!

Sunsetting by the cable car station

Sunsetting by the cable car station

Later that night we went to a bar Moustache and had some white Russians, I must have been spoiled in Vail because these glasses seemed infant sized, but then I realized that´s how most white Russians should be… I guess just not at Garf´s where the glasses were what I now realize is abnormally big for W.R. Anyway, After Moustache closed we wandered downstairs and found ourselves at a club called Aftershave. I really enjoyed the clever naming of the pair. Since Innsbruck has an extremely large student population the club was pretty packed for reggae night on a Tuesday. We proceeded to make our rounds in Innsbruck with our amazing tour guide Erwin before catching our 5 am train to Vienna.

VIENNA:

Welcome to Vienna

Welcome to Vienna

St Stephen’s Cathedral lit up at night!

Properly known as Wien, the capital and largest city in Österreich (Austria) is where we made our way the morning of February 27th. Since our final destination was Prague, the most logical way to arrive in Prague from Innsbruck was by bus from Vienna, so we stopped here for a day. We walked around a lot and saw the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral, palace, and theatre. The city looks completely different during the day and night so it´s definitely worth it to see both! I wasn´t really there long enough but it was a great place to pass through, I´d love to come back with more time! We had amazing käse-bratwurst; bratwurst filled with cheese,while watching kids ice skate (and fall) in front of the winter exhibit near the theatre. At night we had amazing Greek food, a lot of people from all over the world make Vienna their home so there is certainly food for everyone’s pallet here. Use-it is an amazing map we found in Prague and after I looked on-line I found one for Vienna (after my trip) so I would highly recommend anyone heading to Vienna to go ahead and Use-it! HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

The next morning we would board a double decker bus and arrive in the magical land they call Prague…

DAY 1 (recap) let the new year begin!

I love to write, but I have never had a blog. After reading a few school mates blogs I realized… why not? Si o no? SI! So here it goes… I have been keeping a journal of my time in Espana but now this will go beyond that so my friends and family on the other side of the pond can keep up with me… because it is a little difficult to find time in between school and a 6 hour time difference to skype.

After spending my summer in Vail,Colorado my return back to Tallahassee was not pleasant. I missed waking up to breathe taking scenery and having endless amounts of new territory to explore, so August 20 when I arrived back in Tallahassee, known to most of us as “Tallanasty” I knew my time back would be temporary. Rather than taking a semester off and putting my self behind in school I came across my University’s study abroad program. Since I am an international Affairs major, this sounded perfect! My major would allow me to go to Valencia, Spain or Florence,Italy; it didn’t take me long to pick Spain. Being half Puerto Rican and Half Spanish, my great-grandfather was from the region of Gailica, it seemed perfect to go back to my “roots.”

And finally the day came December 30, my best friend, who is studying in Bilbao, and I set off for a trek across the sea and landed in Valencia, Spain on New Years Eve, a night were people tend to party… so I’ve heard 😉 My program started Jan 3, so we had a few days before hand to explore the city. First stop, bed! After coming off of a full day of flying with no sleep because I was to hopped up on excitement to rest, we knew we needed to nap before the New Years eve festivities began. We slept the day away and woke up at 11 pm! We quickly got ready and hailed a cap to the “city center” were most of Valencia would be drinking champagne and eating the traditional 12 grapes for good luck!

The sun begins to peek out over the port in Valencia
photo by Abby

Yellow and pink encompass the first skies of 2013!
Photo by Abby

Well our cab driver wasn’t the wisest of them all and dropped us off near (what I would later find out) Plaza de la Virgen. The streets were empty, so we tried to hurry to the city center to ring in the new year, that didn’t happen.  The clock struck 12 and we were in the middle of Plaza de la Virgen, which is A OK with me! Long story short we met a great group of Germans and danced all night than proceed to watch the first day of 2013 come to light over the calm waters of the Mediterranean.