Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cordoba in Springtime - Post by Alan Parks

Cordoba in Springtime!
Cordoba is a magical place in the late spring and early summer. May and June are particularly important months in the calendar, before the real heat of July and August hits the ‘Frying Pan of Spain’.
 This year we indulged, and took part in the three major events, The Patios Festival, Cordoba Feria and ‘La Noche Blanca del Flamenca’ , this involved two all nighters and one very hot day. 
 The festival of the Patios, takes place in May every year, and this year, as usual, involves lots of homeowners opening up their terraces and gardens to display their wonderous collections of geraniums, petunias, bougainvillea and exotic and colourful cacti of all shapes and sizes. At some of the entrances, marked by red terracotta pots planted with conifers, the queue stretched out for more than 100 metres as people and tour groups clamoured to see the most popular patios. Some of the terraces and patios are communal and as such there is a wonderful sense of community pride, but some are individuals houses, and one has to wonder how these often old and infirm proprietors of these places manages to keep them in tip top shape. This year there was even a Spanish musical group, touring the larger patios and adding to the atmosphere where ever they appeared.
 We completed one of the three routes around the city, and it took us over 4 hours to appreciate fully all the amazing patios, so to truly do the festival justice, at least two days should be allowed.

 The patios is swiftly followed by the ‘Feria de Cordoba’. An enormous, week long fair, complemented by numerous ‘casetas’ (tents erected to serve food and drink), hosted by many local companies. The masses of people can enjoy beer and wine, tapas and many local delicacies. A large stage is erected for bands and groups to perform, and flamenco dancing can be seen in every other caseta. The local Cordoban ladies wear their traditional gypsy dresses, children are dressed up to the nines and grandparents are at their proudest.
 The fairground consists of a variety of childrens rides, extreme thrill rides, many raffle stalls and sadly, even in this day and age, merry-go-rounds with live miniature horses.

 After enjoying the festivities until the early hours it would be rude not to enjoy some ‘churros’ the Spanish equivalent of a doughnut, and some thick chocolate to dunk it in. Falling in to bed exhausted, in readiness for the next night of celebration is the norm for most of the citizens of Cordoba.

The ‘Noche Blanca del Flamenco’ is a large, one night flamenco extravaganza, held every year on the 16th June. It takes in all the Flamenco disciplines, guitar, singing and dancing. This year nearly 250,000 people descended on Cordoba for the annual event. 
 In different plazas, dotted around the city, all within walking distance from one another, stages are erected and performers from all over Spain get the chance to sing and dance in front of baying crowds. Even in these times of austerity, the bars and restaurants are heaving throughout the night. 
 In the ‘Plaza de la Corredera’ thousands of people cram in to watch top Spanish bands play, and it feels like a large rock concert, complete with lights and ringing ears.
 The last show of the night was on a huge stage erected in front of the city’s famous Mezquita, next to the Roman Bridge, and there must have been five thousand people bouncing up and down in unison. The show started at 5.30 am!
 All in all theis makes May and June, the perfect time to visit the beautiful city of Cordoba, as the Spanish know only too well, before the heat of the summer hits. Why not try it next year?
 Back on our little farm springtime was also busy. In early May, one of our female alpacas, Lily, was starting to look a little hefty. In July last year, we had an incident, where two of our males escaped and although we stopped the ensuing copulations, obviously we were not quick enough in Lily’s case.
 Although Lily was large, if she was indeed pregnant it was still early and she had a few weeks to go. However, one day, on returning home from shopping, we pulled in to our courtyard to see she had given birth to her cria, still about 5 weeks too early. The baby looked ok, and she weighed in at a reasonable 7 and 3/4 kilos, but she had a ruptured umbilical chord, and she didn’t have the strength to drink from her mother. Sadly, after 24 hours of effort and milking of Mum and feeding by syringe, we lost the battle. Lily gave an agonising cry as the cria took its last breath, and as we held her to give her a shot of antibiotics, a single tear rolled down her cheeks from each eye. I couldn’t believe eyes, sometimes Mother Nature is amazing. 
 Our springtime was completed at the end of May by the shearing of the alpacas. We are lucky to have a great friend from Australia, who shears alpacas in the UK in the summer and always manages to find time to squeeze in the few alpacas we have here in Andalucia. The animals are sheared and we store the wool in our barn, hoping that one day somebody will come along with the ability or talent to do something amazing with it.
 While the alpaca industry is still in its infancy in Spain, word is spreading and as well as Cordoba, there are alpacas in Ronda and Gaucin, Malaga, Cantabria and Toledo, as well as a few small farm dotted around. 

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