by Darlene Foster
We enter the historic part of Orihuela City by the town hall and are immediately transported back in time. The town is decked out medieval style. A feast for all senses, we are greeted by colourful tents, the smells of exotic spices, teas, paellas, fresh baked bread, pastries, and goat milk soap. The vendors and entertainers dressed in medieval garb add to the ambiance.
We wander aimlessly around the numerous stalls of artisans, bakers, butchers, fishmongers, drummers, acrobats, camels, ponies and much more scattered throughout the town. Every corner we round, we see new and exciting sites. A troupe of drummers march down a street and stop at the cathedral to put on a show. Knights Templar serve special cakes. Bread is baked on site in ancient wood-fired ovens. Belly dancers greet us on a side street. A camel tender gives rides to children while an ancient merry-go-round and a puppet show, including a dragon, delight the little ones. It is truly a family event with all ages taking in the festivities.
The historic town of Orihuela dates back to the sixth century where the foundations were laid by the Romans. It features Arabian and European cultures that have lived here together over the many centuries. The Arabian coffee tents are so authentic, I feel like I am in the Middle East.
We stroll aimlessly around the various tents and stalls, tempted by the food for offer until we stop for a relaxing tea and delicious tapas. For dessert we share a bag of warm, freshly made churros sprinkled with sugar. Nibbling on our tasty treats, we wander some more, stopping to watch a sculpture at work and a blacksmith create a sword. Along one avenue is a display of birds of prey with an authentic falconer present. He allows a young boy to put on a glove and hold a falcon on his wrist. The smile never leaves this young man´s face. I particularly like the owls as each one seems to have a personality of its own.
Orihuela City sits at the base of the Sierra de Orihuela Mountains in the province of Alicante, Spain. As much as I enjoy the market, I am also taken by the historic buildings such as the sixteenth century Santo Domingo Diocese College with its wonderful renaissance doorways and serene courtyard. Another interesting building is the Salvador and Santa Maria Cathedral, built on the remains of the old Moorish mosque at the end of the thirteenth century. This building also has an amazing doorway and bell tower. Wandering down a side street we find more interesting doorways and an old mosque. There is no end to the treasures we find.
This three day event is held every year at the beginning of February. You really must spend an entire day to take in all the flavours, textures, scents, sights and sounds.
If You Go:
Orihuela City is an interesting pace to visit at any time of the year. It is situated 52 kilometres southwest of Alicante airport on the N340. It is only 20 kilometres from the many beaches of Orihuela Costa. There are buses available for the medieval market from a number of locations.
About the author:
Darlene Foster is a dedicated writer and traveler. She is the author of a series of books featuring Amanda, a spunky young girl who loves to travel to interesting places such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain, England and Alberta, where she always has an adventure. Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca of Spain. www.darlenefoster.ca
All photos are by Darlene Foster.