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Hemingway Adventure

Valencia, Spain (third day)

Valencia, Spain 
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Every day at two o'clock a crowd engulfs Valencia's main square to be blasted by the mighty explosive event they call Mascletá.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureIt is a perfect day, bright, cloudless with a dry, fresh breeze. An hour before the display is due to begin, the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is already impassable. The crowd, estimated at two to three hundred thousand, is kept behind barriers allowing access for the Red Cross emergency teams who occasionally dive in to retrieve someone overcome by the crush. In the centre of the square the men from the fireworks company work quietly away, checking the network of wires from which hang thousands of small packages of explosive, and loading up rows of mortars.

Our kind host José Luís Soler, an architect, offers us a drink and a piece of sliced sausage and advises us to keep our mouths open during the display as it takes the strain off the eardrums. And don't use earplugs, let the blast through.

Three shells fired high into the air signal the start of the onslaught. The fuses are ignited, releasing a thunderous wall of sound which rolls towards us, the speed of the explosions carefully orchestrated to vary the pace whilst building up a counterpoint of over-lapping echoes. One huge report follows another, the blasts hurling shock-waves across the square, strong enough to send my jacket flapping. The pace accelerates as the fire sprints along the wires of thunderflashes, sending up a ripping, shattering din, and when you think you can take no more, the big mortars start to blow with such force that you can only hang on and let it thrill and terrify. A final, ferocious amalgamation of sound, fed by thunderous explosions on the ground and soaring shell-bursts in the air, builds to a relentless, ear-splitting cacophony, an unbelievably tremendous roar, which, with one last mighty salvo, stops as suddenly as it began. Which was, according to my watch, five minutes and eight seconds ago.

For a fragment of time complete silence falls, then with a great cry, the crowd spills through the barriers and races across to the fence to salute the pyrotechnic team, who emerge like mythological heroes from the shroud of white smoke they have created.
Valencia, Spain 
click to enlarge 
file size
Every day at two o'clock a crowd engulfs Valencia's main square to be blasted by the mighty explosive event they call Mascletá.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Valencia, Spain (third day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Valencia
  • Book page no: 123

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