Fallas – The Purifying Effect Of Loud Noises

The decision to leave Romania for another country was taken during 2017. I just knew that I had to leave. But the actual process materialized at the end of 2018. Partially because there were quite a few loose ends that I still had to take care of back in Romania, and partially because I didn’t want to “just leave”, I wanted to make sure the change will be positive.

So, a big part of 2017 and the first couple of months of 2018 were only research. We decided together what exactly we want from the new place we were targeting. We even made a list of questions and started to search for cities and places that will answer “Yes” to all those questions. Asia was quite high in this list (with Thailand, Vietnam and Bali scoring really good) but we also looked at Spain, France and even Italy in Europe.

Eventually, we decided to give Valencia a try. And this try was an actual test period of two weeks, in which we tried to live just like locals: no touristy stuff, no leisure, just regular stuff. We really wanted to get the feel of it and make sure it’s good for living, not only for visiting or relaxing.

Alas, half of this plan was literally blown away by a flaw in our plan.

The flaw was called “Fallas”.

When we arrived in Valencia, in March 2018, Fallas was at its peak. We had no idea what Fallas was, and, although we noticed a serious increase in prices for AirBnb and flight tickets, we thought it was just a normal festival, with some music, you know, maybe a parade or two. Regular stuff. Festive.

Nope. Fallas is absolutely nothing like this, as we will soon had to find out.

The Noise

The first night in Valencia – from our two weeks trial period – was an absolute nightmare. There were petards thrown across the city literally every second, and some of them were thrown almost in our apartment. We booked something in Ciutat Veilla (The Old City) the most touristy area of Valencia. It’s an area where a lot of “fun” is going on: from throwing petards to drinking and singing up to 4AM.

As the festival progressed, we slowly started to realize we landed in the middle of something big. Really big.

There were huge statues made of styrofoam in almost every big intersection, the car traffic was restricted and there were dozens of thousands of people on the streets, at any given hour.

During the last night of the festival all the statues were burned, in the middle of the streets, in a huge display of fire masterpiece (Falls means also “fires” in Spanish) and fire fighting skills (no accident happened during that burning, which I find almost unbelievable).

After exactly one week, Fallas ended and we had the chance to experience a different side of Valencia, the one that we “signed up for”: a regular Spanish city.

I will write another detailed description of Fallas, as a festival, later on, and probably a more detailed description of our entire moving process, but for now I want to focus on something that I found extremely disturbing during my first day in my current city: the noise.

During Fallas there is a lot of noise. Every day there is a mascleta (a fireworks which focuses not so much on the visual display, but on the noise created by the explosions, almost like a music). Also, the opening event is a huge fireworks in La Marina, in the harbor, in which tons of explosives are blown away (yes, tons, like in 1.7 tons this year). After that, another event called La Despierta, unfolds in the city center: people are walking on a certain street and are literally throwing petards at their own feet, in a cloud of smoke and intense, relentless noise.

Noise is everywhere. Powerful, unexpected, continuous.

And, as disturbing as it was during our first experiences here, it slowly became the key to a higher understanding.

There is a certain healing within loud, powerful noise. There is a certain relief in the low frequency sound, almost not heard, but felt, of a controlled explosion, like a firework 50 meters in front of you. There is a subtle balancing process taking place during those days, a balancing in which the tendency towards violence or even just arrogance, is sublimed by the noise.

Yesterday, Fallas 2019 started with a huge fireworks in La Marina, and I was there, filming the entire experience. You will see it in the video below (10 minutes of continuous fireworks) and I highly recommend to stay with it until the end. There is a certain crescendo that happens, there’s a language of the fireworks, there’s literally a purifying experience happening there, in the dance of the shapes, colors and the violent music of explosions, an experience after which, believe it or now, everybody is calmer and more relaxed


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