I spent over 25 years of my adult life avoiding German beer festivals and town festivals that involve debauchery and drunken stupor, not to mention incessantly loud music blaring from all corners that throbs in your head and the pavement while assaulting my auditory senses.
On top of not enjoying such situations, I also plunge into anxiety attacks when trapped in a crowd. Claustrophobia is a bitch. Having said all this, I have to laugh at the cruel joke the universe has played on me this time. I moved to Portugal to start over with a clean slate, establishing a distance as far away from beer festivals as possible, but where do I land? Right smack in the middle of sardine festivals and bull runs that also involve copious amounts of free flowing beer!
Vila Franca de Xira hosts an annual bull run that is the Portuguese equivalent to the festival in Pamplona. All hell, I mean all bulls, breaks loose and the streets turn into one giant bull ring with horses to tow. Oh. My God! What have I gotten myself into? This three- day festival has the town turned upside down and the preparations began three weeks ago with the installation of the protective wooden barriers along the main roads where the main action will be. This past week however, the decorations came out in full force and the Vila Francans are showing their true colours.
Lights have been strewn and strung all around town transforming the place into a fairytale. I suddenly feel as though I stepped into a page of Beauty and the Beast and there will be a Gaston tumbling out of every pub. I have to check my wardrobe if anything resembles Belle’s pinafore dress, but I can assure you I shall not be breaking out in song… perhaps dance if I have enough liquid courage!
The final touches were added yesterday though, with tractors and lorries spreading sand all around for the animals that arrive tonight.
And all the shops with glass windows and displays along the bull run route have been boarded up. At first I thought this was a bit extreme and exaggerated but then I realised bulls have horns, horses have long legs and hooves… the music and the lights were tested as well, meaning the town is one giant dance hall now with music is all genres and generations blaring out of the speakers installed on the lamp posts. By golly miss Molly! I heard three versions of Despacito and Shallow in at least three language variations last night! Sleep was impossible since they switched off the music around midnight but left the floodlights on all night.
I have no clue how I will get home tonight because my train pulls into town about the same time of the first bull run, and since my building is along the primary road that stems directly from the bull ring, I have the same chance as an cube in an oven to reach my door in one piece. it was already adventurous enough last night squeezing through the barriers! I followed my fellow villagers and squeezed through the barriers wherever there was a gap between the posts and the wall. I would have been arrested for this in Germany but this is Portugal, where there is always a loophole and workaround.
I leave you now with a video of the festival as a teaser of things to come in my world: