This week is the Feria de Abril (April Fair) in Sevilla and we’ve decided to go there today. After a 75 minute drive we park the car at the outskirts of town and take the metro to go to the city center. It takes us a lot of time to buy tickets for the metro at the machine, but at 11:20, we’re at the platform, tickets in hand.
As we wait for the metro to arrive, Christophe asks a man if he knows where we can buy hats. For the weather is sunny and warm, and we lack protection. A conversation engenders between Christophe and two Spanish men. They are actually both of them going to the Feria. One works in one of the casetas and the other is a member and on his way to spend a couple of hours there.
Just before we arrive at our stop, Pedro (the one who’s a member) hands us a card which allows us to enter the caseta of his association as his guests. The other man signals us to follow him, which we do, and he shows us where to go to find a shop where we can buy hats. We both buy a straw hat to protect us from the sun before proceeding to the Feria.
The Feria takes place on a huge terrain where they have installed 1052 casetas. These are sturdy tents that are rented by associations and businesses for their members and relations. Most hire just one caseta (for € 6000 for the week), but some hire more than one and create bigger spaces. Almost all of them are for members and invitees only, but some of them (ten or so) are open to everybody.
The casetas officially open at 1 o’clock and we are half an hour early. Which allows us to see how the casetas are prepared. All of them have a kitchen and sell food and drinks, and many also have a (small) dance floor. The first carriages are also arriving and there’s so much to see, it makes our heads spin.
We walk the streets between the blocks of casetas, thoroughly enjoying the hustle and bustle. The casetas are beautifully decorated, inside and out. As more people and carriages arrive, we see more and more women in traditional dresses. Some of the men are dressed in traditional outfits as well, but not many of them. No matter, just the women in their colourful dresses are a feast for the eyes.
As the afternoon progresses, more and more carriages and groups of mounted horses arrive. Many of the carriages are drawn by donkeys and mules. In fact, I’ve never seen so many donkeys together in my life!
The horses are beautiful, but the way they are treated makes my heart bleed. All the mounted horses are equipped with a metal nose band, some of them serrated. The bits they use have long shanks and metal chains under the chin. They are ridden one-handed, and most riders just jerk on the reins when they want to change direction, literally forcing the horses to obey.
We see several horses with open wounds caused by the nose band. When asked about it, one owner affectionally rubs his horse’s nose while telling us that it doesn’t hurt the horse at all. And that’s just one example. It’s a big and wonderful feast, but it is absolutely awful for the horses. I strongly suggest a group of people involved in natural horsemanship go there next year to introduce a different way of treating horses to these people.
In the casetas
Pedro is a member of caseta nr. 64. We locate it, and Pedro in it. He invites us in and offers us a glass of white wine. Christophe engages in conversation with him while I amuse myself looking at all the people and carriages passing by (I still don’t speak Spanish). We order tortilla from the kitchen and Pedro offers us choco’s (fried cuttlefish), which Christophe adores.
Back out on the streets, it’s as if we have traveled back in time. The streets are now really crowded with people, carriages, and mounted horses. Cars aren’t allowed, except for the trucks that keep on touring the grounds to clean the streets. Which is a wonderful way of preventing the place of stinking of horse urine and manure.
As we walk amongst the casetas, looking in, we get invited into two more casetas. First by a man who offers us meat pie (it’s a land of carnivores!), and later by three women. They obviously must think we look starving, for when we decline their invitation to come into the caseta, they hand us their left-over chocolate cakes :-)))
Dining at La Marimorena
We dine in one of the open casetas. It was recommended to us by the girl from the info stand when asked if there was a place that serves vegetarian food. It’s called La Marimorena. It’s a rather unique project; all personal are volunteers and the money they raise goes to projects to save the planet. We find chairs and have some tapas while observing the people surrounding us.
Everybody is in a good mood, no exceptions. Even the little children seem to enjoy themselves and not one of them is crying or upset in any way. The carriage drivers keep up their good spirits as well, despite regular near-accidents. All in all, the atmosphere is incredible. Boy do these people know how to party!
We have just one problem: Christophe is taking so many pictures (312!), we cannot possibly publish them all in this blog. It’s really hard to make the selection, but here we are then. We hope you enjoy them 🙂