When the Romans Marched on Calahorra

The weekend before Easter was supposed to be a calm time. A time when I recovered both physically and financially from my time in Portugal. But, surprisingly, this was not to happen. Because Calahorra was having yet another celebration and it was all about the Romans.

Let’s take a moment to wonder why they do them all at once? No fiestas, no activities, just silence during the cold months. Nothing happens in Calahorra.

Then the minute March arrives, it seems there are non-stop things going on. Fiestas, Carnival, the Roman celebration, huge Easter activities, next weekend a celebration of Vegetables (I’m not kidding). It’s both wonderful and confusing the way the calendar worked out, though I suppose these Spaniards are people of sunlight. So why do anything until it’s warm and the winds have died down?

The Romans

If you had asked any child what this was going to be, almost all of them replied with a shrug and one word- ‘parade.’ Yes, yes, there is nothing much that this Roman celebration will be outside of a simple march and some people milling about. I should have learned my lesson from the amazing Carnival weekend and known that this underplay was not, in fact, reality.

Calahorra went all out for this weekend of celebrating their history as a Roman town. They built roman buildings in the street, a giant archway adorned with replica statues, the winged ‘Victory’ standing tall outside our normal walk of Pincho Pote bars. They transformed the old square with the main church into a theme park of times long ago. Tents stretched out with birds of prey on display, a small hunting cat that paced back and forth in the dimness of the shade. Giant columns that reached toward the sky with statues atop them. A long expanse of a wooden bar serving sausage and wine in clay cups for the price of three euros. Vendors selling their wares lined three streets and all made out to look like a living market from the times of the Romans.

The shops included piles of spices that I haven’t been able to locate in the shops of Calahorra. Handmade jewelry, freshly made gelato, giant rolls of cheese and hanging meats, pastries stuffed with all kinds of delicacies, leather sandals, purses and scarves billowing in the still air of a hot summer day in the beginning of April.

A wander down the street had you stumbling across an animal zoo of sorts, with baby goats, chickens, geese, bunnies, and an old chariot without an animal to model upon.

In short, the entire town was made-over and it was no weak attempt. It was amazing. I felt as though I had stepped into a true Renaissance fair.

Random parades took place throughout the day, but there were two main ones that occurred featuring the entire entourage. The first was early in the morning at 11.

“Wait, the parade is at 11? This is Spain. I thought nothing happened before 2?”

“Yah, we aren’t going to make the parade if it’s at 11.”

“Oh, good, look, there is another one at 2.”

“Now there is the Spain I know and love.”

Dressing Up

There was mention of how people dress-up to look like Roman soldiers and women of that time. I’m thinking, ah, a helmet here, a sword there. Once again though, full blown effort all around. Full Roman regalia. Leather sandals, leather vests made to look like that of the warriors, gilded silver helmets and full-blown shields that looked heavy in the heat of the day. The parade was amazing. Soldiers mounted on horses, their plumed helmets swaying. Romans and old Vikings dressed in strange clothes, their faces fiercely painted, banging on drums and howling. Large dogs that would have been kept for hunting, a llama being led, and the girls and woman dressed in layers of billowing silks, their hair done up elaborately. It was very, very cool.