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Published: February 15th 2011
We left Granada today and started the long trip back to Balaguer. There was no time for a final walk around Granada or time to stop for breakfast. We set off, taking what we hope would be a shorter route back and made good time. We stopped in Guadalajara for lunch and as my friend laughed over being in a place bearing the same name as somewhere so familiar I had to admit I never saw anything more than the bus station and airport in Mexico. We walked briefly through a park and visited a small church before finding a suitable place for lunch, then it was back on the road again. Four hours later we arrived in Zaragoza where we were hoping to eat and possibly stay the night so we could explore the city tomorrow morning. We had a slight suprise as we drove in though. I noticed a few people walking past in old fashioned costumes and then we saw a roadside poster declaring it to be the Pilar festival.
The Pilar Festival (Fiestas del Pilar) is celebrated every year on the 12th of October. The Virgin of Pilar, the female patron saint of Spain is honoured with
an abundance of flowers as the history and culture of Spain is remembered and celebrated. The origins of this festival date back to 40CE when St James the Apostle came to this area to spread Christianity to the mostly Pagan population. On his journey in Aragonese territory, on the eve of January 2nd, the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared to him on a marble pillar and asked him to build a church on the land upon which he was standing. Initially a chapel was built around the pilar followed by ever grander churches over the centuries. Today the magnificent Basilica del Pilar which was designed in 1681 stands on this spot. Major alterations took place in the 18th century and the Basilica's towers weren't completed until the 20th century.
We found somewhere to park and got out, hoping to spy a few more people in their costumes. We weren't disappointed. Although late in the day hundreds of people were out in the streets the vast majority dressed in traditional Spanish clothes, even if some of the dyed hair and modern make-up and jewellery spoiled the overall picture.
We reached the central plaza by the cathedral and saw a
huge pile of flowers with the image of the Virgen at the top. A market was set up selling foods and crafts and tended by sellers in costume as well. Everyone seemed to be involved and even the tinest babies were wearing costumes.
There was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new though including people dressed as Disney characters or Teletubbies selling helium balloons, a woman with spiked purple hair wearing an old fashioned dress and a couple of boys in costume playing with a gameboy.
We walked around taking in the sights and trying not to be seperated by the swarming crowds. We walked around the streets and passed a couple of other churches and ultimately decided to eat and leave as surely all the hostels would be booked up already with people staying in town for the festival.
We found a Turkish cafe bizarrely enough but it provided me with the reliable option of pizza so we ate and then retraced our steps to the car.
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