Wrong turn, Right time – Feria Real en Priego de Cordoba
By Bobbie Hassenwinkel @ The Parking Spot
Have you ever entered an address into your map’s app, and accidently used ‘Street’ instead of ‘Avenue’? Yeah, this is kind of like that but in Spanish. When you don’t speak Spanish. My quest to experience a local Spanish tradition didn’t go as planned, but was an experience I will never forget.
In 2018, my husband and I went on a European vacation with another couple. Our friend Bridget had studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain and had been waiting for the opportunity to visit again, and we were of course along for the adventure. Since she knew about the area, she took over the planning for the Spain portion of the trip, and my husband and I planned the second part of the trip, which was Croatia.
Both were the most incredible countries with amazing people and iconic attractions. In Spain we saw beautiful architecture – Cathedral of Sevilla, Plaza de Espana, and Real Alcazar, and ate olives at every bar we went to. We also added an unexpected destination of Barcelona when our connecting flight to Croatia was delayed. The second part venture was Croatia, a beautiful combination of European architecture with Caribbean vibes. We explored the city of Split, swam in the (very cold) Krka waterfalls , and sailed to the island of Milna.
On the Spain leg of the trip, we all agreed seeing a bull fight was a must. Given Bridget’s experience with the area, we were all following her lead. We woke up that day and took about an hour train ride from Sevilla to Cordoba, Spain, excited for our next adventure. We got off the train and started walking towards the arena. As we got closer, we were all beginning to question what was going on – there was no one around. Surely there should be some people around with a bull fight about to start. We walked around the entire arena in downtown Cordoba without running into a single person.
Plans starting to unravel
We finally made our way to a local bar to see if we could find out more information. While we all could get by with a little Spanish, only Bridget could really communicate using the appropriate local dialect that is slightly different than the Spanish we were taught. She learned that there indeed was no bull fight happening in that town today and the bartender had no idea what we were talking about. For a while, none of us really knew what to do. After some investigation, we realized we were in the wrong town. The fight was in Priego de Cordoba, a town about an hour away.
There was no public transportation that would get us where we needed to go so, we had to find a local driver willing to make the trip. Luckily, we found a very friendly and trustworthy driver to escort us on the hour long, very rural, trip to the correct city. Oh and willing to wait for us to take us back so we could catch the train back to Sevilla where we were staying – for a very generous tip. I remember at the time not thinking much of it, but now looking back, we were lucky things didn’t go very wrong for us.
After some grumblings from her husband in the car about the mix up, we all make it safely to the destination. As we drove closer to the arena, we started to see a lot of commotion happening outside. Most people were walking away from the entrance and there was a small group at the doors, who were clearly not happy. Our translator for the group, again, went to investigate. Returning to the car to deliver the bad news - the bull fight had been cancelled.
Embracing the unexpected
After all of this, she felt so terrible for all the mix ups. But all we could really do was laugh. And have a few cocktails.
With our driver paid up and waiting, we figured we might as well explore the town. We started walking towards the music that was coming from not too far away and stumbled upon, for my best Chicagoan description, a street festival. There were vendors, food, drinks, flamenco dancers, and people on horseback. Turns out it was one of the larger celebrations in the area, The Royal Fair of Priego de Córdoba, an event which goes back to 1842, when locals used to meet to buy and sell livestock.
While the day hadn’t turned out exactly as we had planned or hoped, it was a memorable adventure with good friends. We got to see the countryside of southern Spain, experience the local culture and festivities, and had some laughs along the way.
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