The last time I attended the festival of San Madalena was 17 years ago. I can’t believe it was that long ago, considering if feels like it happened yesterday. Instead what happened yesterday, was a new way to experience the celebration of this great day.
Let me explain what I mean…
17 years ago, one of my dearest and life long friends, Alicia and I, were told to dress in blue and be ready for the festival of a lifetime. We followed my cousin’s (then boyfriend, now husband) to the car where he drove us to Elantxobe. I can’t begin to describe this remote village with only one road in and one road out…it is the same road. You enter, but you can’t leave, unless you turn around on this circle that stands at the end of town. It is the craziest thing. The town is literally built on a hill and you have to walk past people’s front doors and walk ways to get through town.
I was told by one of the guys I traveled with this time, that the girls of Elantxobe are known for having the best legs, considering they are always walking uphill. I told him I noticed the butts on the boys weren’t so bad from all the steep climbing.
Anyway, the festival 17 years ago was a drunken mess. What we wore that was white, eventually turned purple from all the water and wine being thrown around. If you tried to make your way up the cobble stone steps you would not get far because the cobble stone was soaked and that meant you slide right back down. There was barely room to move and looking back it was highly dangerous. So dangerous, that not long ago a young man died and since the festival has changed.
Today…it is more of a celebration to get to the festival, which now takes place strictly on the town’s port and not up and down the dangerous streets.
The theme is still fisherman blue, the party is still happening and the drinks are still flowing! But 17 years later I got the opportunity to take part in the festivities via boat that start in Bermeo and end in Elantxobe! It was amazing to see the empty waters from the day before filled with boats!
It was like spring break Lake Havasu style, but in the Basque Country!
14 of us piled onto a boat loaded with kalimotxo and beer and followed the others to the island where the festivities would start. Dignitarities from surrounding town and celebrants of all ages cheered together as the mayor of Bermeo threw a tile into the water, declaring the party had started.
From there it was to the port for more drinks and fun!
- My Maiden Voyage: Elantxobe part 1
- Miracles of the Past, Celebrated Today.