Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mediaeval Market

There is a bunch of eccentric types who tour the country dressed in generic mediaeval dress, recreating the feel of a market of the time. A certain latitude is allowed in terms of clothing, stall architecture and the products on sale- they have to make a living, after all- but the basic requirement is that everything should look archaic, and above all, be fun. And it is. I've seen it in a couple of bigger cities, and there are hundreds of stalls and associated activities. Here it's on a smaller scale, but it's great fun.

They come one weekend a year and the last couple of years it's been advertised as an 'Alfonsí' Market, in honour of Alfonso X, who founded the place after the nearby settlement was wiped out by the Arabs in the 13th C.

There are falconers exhibiting their birds, stonemasons who carve your face into marble, farriers making horseshoes out of boyscouts, jugglers, people doing strange things, belly dancers led around on chains by soldiers, meat and cheese products from all around the country, soaps, sweets, scents and snacks made from ancient recipes and sold in funny shapes so you know they're real, little cars made of wood that bite your ankles, the work of artisans in leather, glass, gold, silver, tempered steel, aromatic woods, and a bit of new age herbology thrown in. Good humour and archaic speech are everywhere, little vignettes and characters from past times go by as you discuss the flavour of the cheese with a chap whose gown smells of sheep and who's blacked out his front teeth.

You can get your face painted on wooden boards recovered from long-wrecked boats, your name written ornately in a variety of Levantine scripts, you can take tea in the style of a number of different civilizations that once walked the town, and expand your waistline in many imaginative ways that you won't find on the shelves at the supermarket. The smell of burning fat, scorched meat and marijuana hang in the air (they're a Bohemian bunch, on the whole, as you might imagine).

Yesterday morning there was heavy rain, but in the afternoon it was sunny and hot, and today has been the same. As a result, I have a selection of home-cured foodstuffs awaiting my pleasure. And the photos, where you can see clearly what I have to rather poorly triedto describe.


Vincent said...

Interesting. I don't know of anything similar here in market squares, but many years ago I attended something similar in a pasture owned by the National Trust - a mediaeval themed pageant & craft/produce fair.

CIngram said...

Yes, the unusual thing is that although it is a spectacle, and everyone is in character and gives a kind of performance, it isn't something like the Sealed Knot or the National Trust pageants you mention, which are pure entertainment. They are traders, small businessmen who actually make a living from the stalls they run at these fairs. Most will have a shop somewhere, too, or a stand in a permanent market, but for half the year they are nomads, playing a part in a great show to entertain and to sell their wares. And I don't recall anything like it in England, either.