1 review of Festas do Apóstolo in English
It would take forever to describe what goes on in Santiago de Compostela in July, especially during what they call the festas do apóstolo or celebration of the Apostle (St. James, of course). The festas get hard-core starting around July 18 (we’ll forget even if we shouldn’t that this was the day of the 1936 uprising of Franco against the republican government). There are a lot of activities, for young and old, many musical but others more theatrical. It helps to know Galician to get into the seams and deeper flavors of these days and spaces. However, most visitors don’t pay attention to that and come for the revelry along with the solemnity of the religious meaning of the Patron saint of Spain, who is buried here. So mix and match and pick the schedule you like: morning people will find activities for their tastes and night owls will really be kept entertained with the series of concerts that happen every year. There is an annual context of Galician folk attire, and one finds bands in the streets, music seeping out of doorways, mimes, hwkers of wares (beware of quality, but do not fear buying if it strikes your fancy).
A good part of all the hullabaloo is for purely commercial reasons, but it is still an adventure to make your way through the populated streets and see the stone walls come alive. One always wonders what santiago as a pilgrimage site was like in previous centuries. Some huge names in entertainment appear during these days, if you are one who likes to attend those events, but do not overlook the small, one-person bands that are in the area as well. They are really important in creating the atmosphere. A few artists may paint your portrait or sell you an image of the city and the quality may not be Picasso-like, but you will have a souvenir. Watch out for the hard-core pilgrims who have walked at least the minimum kms of the Camiño de Santiago to earn the stamp on their 'passport’. Maybe some day I’ll do that, but am not anxious to put up with cars racing along the highway to get hat reward.
Do your required reading on the cathedral and the surrounding sites of the city. Do not limit your visit to this area only, but go to nearby spots and if you can, to other parts of Galicia, which is also very lively in July and August and even in September. While the bustle is distracting, do look at things like the very artistic chimneys on rooftops, the carved conchas or shells on buildings throughout the casco vello or old part, and follow your way through the windy streets, perhaps to La Casa de la Troya. Look closely at the shops and pick the one that seems to be least bent on selling and more interested in offering you something authentically Galician. If it looks too Spanish (eg, tries to sell you sangría or gazpacho or some Spanish item rather than local culture), it is too touristy. Silver and jet (azabache) are typical here, and have been since the middle ages. Fans are really Andalusian and Spanish flags are out of place as souvenirs (the Galician flag os while with a diagonal blue stripe; if you find one that is black with the blue stripe, it is the one developed when the Prestige spilled oil all over the coast a few years back - perfect gift for an ecologically-minded person.)
I could go on forever, but think every visitor should just go - plan place of lodging in advance, though - and experience the city for all that s/he can. Many who go end up returning. Or just remain in Santiago permanently. There is that…
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