A few weeks back we decided to take a bus up to a small town named Capdepera to see their Medieval Festival.
I had never been to a Medieval festival so I didn’t know what to expect. Chris had been to the one near Denver, so he was super excited. We knew ahead of time that there wouldn’t be any sword fighting or jousting, but the entire festival was centered around an old Moorish castle. And, as you would expect, a medieval castle is the perfect place to have a medieval festival. We didn’t even miss the jousting (well, maybe a little).
And as you can see from the brochure, the event was almost entirely in Catalan.
We could either go on Friday, and battle children on school trips, or go on Saturday and battle tourists. We figured that since the tourist season wasn’t quite in full swing, it would be fine. So we chose Saturday, but unfortunately for us so did everyone else. Loads of people from all over the island showed up and many German tourists walked up from Cala Ratjada to see it. It ended up being far more busy than we thought it would be.
We arrived at around 10 am to see decorations everywhere. Even the neighborhoods outside of the festival area had bunting and painted shields hung from their balconies. (The only one we thought to take a picture of was of someone’s dog.)
Meanwhile the castle towered above it all, carefully decorated with shields and bunting.
Even without jousting, you can’t beat a medieval festival in a real live medieval castle.
The first thing we did was wander the very tight medieval streets. It was, at times, very crowded. If two people knew each other they would stop the both directions from moving by stopping to chat. We saw someone we knew but we said “hello!” quickly as the crowd pushed us one way and them the other way.
All of the shopkeepers were dressed up in medieval clothing. Here you can see a man carving stone bowls by hand and another man selling Muslim teas and sweets.
This was probably the biggest sock for us. Our version of “medieval” is based off of English knights and shining armor. Spain’s medieval days were Moors vs Christian battles. So you can’t have a medieval market without half the shops being Moorish. It smelled amazing with shops selling minty tea and baklava. In the Spanish medieval stands there were goats cheeses, fruits, and barrels of olives.
Other stands sold all kinds of handmade things: baskets, leather belts and shoes, jewelry, paper crafts, ceramics.
Of course there were modern things for sale, hand bottled hot sauces and jams; Sant Antoni figurines and shirts; wooden horses and swords. Someone had built a small merry go round which was hand-pushed. Other people were telling fortunes or face painting the kids. Temporary tattoos, gypsy blessings and your name in Arabic were floating around. At the corner by the court house were 3 miniature horses, five euros for a ride around the block.
And of course there was a children’s medieval costume competition, so the kids were dressed to the nines. I thought I saw a couple of my students but it was hard to see under thick makeup and elaborate hairstyles. Some adults were all decked out but the kids stole the show.
The stands weren’t just temporary tattoos and Moorish spices. There were also stands with food to eat on the spot. Some were peppered in among the toy swords. There was a horchata-like stand tucked in near the horses. The nice lady described it at “spiced milk” which was lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and cold rich milk. A man was cooking candied nuts in a huge ceramic pot over an open fire. Standing near it was super dangerous with splashing, boiling hot sugar spraying everywhere and of course the live fire. You couldn’t get away with that in an American festival. But this is how a real medieval festival should be – with live fire and risk of bodily injury.
For more solid fare, a large plaza had been converted to a huge outdoor food market. Artisan hamburgers (mango chutney, goats cheese), large slices of pizza, fancy kebab (longest line), crepes, fancy baked potatoes, and waffles. Stands on all four corners of the markets just mixed cocktails for you. Too modern for you? Try the meat stands. One was grilling probably 30 pounds of meat over a real fire (no charcoal, but hand cut wood. The man dipped a basting brush into a ceramic pot filled with oils and spices). 6 kegs of beer sat waiting behind him. You want medieval? Try just meat and beer. Doesn’t get much more medieval than that.
There was a sit down restaurant that would make a vegetarian’s (or really any rational omnivore’s) hair curl.
It was another 30 or so pounds of sausages on a huge tray the size of a golf cart. Nearby was a pan larger than a stovetop filled with paella (fish) and another pan filled with meat and potatoes. 20 or so octopuses were being turned into tapas behind this. It was a carnivores meaty dream.
The prices for alcohol was pretty reasonable as well. Shots of homemade herbal liqueur and cups of beer ran about €1 apiece. And a local brewery had two unique beers that we’ve never seen before…ginger and cinnamon, and mint. We got both of these and the mint one was surprisingly amazing.
But ordering turned out to be a frustrating mess. The employees would speak to us in Catalan, so we’d respond in Spanish (quite normal in Mallorca). But here they’d just get frustrated by this and switch to German. We’re not tourists and it’s frustrating to be constantly treated like them. They’re lucky we speak German, but why not just use the Spanish I just showed you I could use?? Nope, because I don’t understand Catalan I must be a German.¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Just as we were leaving a troop of belly dancers got on stage and began dancing to a remix of the Game of Thrones intro song. If that’s not the perfect blend of modern-medieval/Spanish Moorish-Christian then I don’t know what is.
The crowds kept growing, so we bailed and walked to Cala Ratjada. Cala Ratjada is a nearby coastal resort town. It’s a beach town as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It’s the middle ground between Germany and Vacation-Germany, between beach and party. This is the dimension of bullshit. It is an area which we call … The Tourist Zone.
We have been everywhere around it but not to it yet. It’s a touristy nightmare zone. Most restaurants are stereotypical “Spanish” restaurants with the menus all displayed in German. Anything that is not a restaurant is either a junky beach gear store, or an imitation airport duty-free shop selling mostly perfume. Prices are high.
And then the Germans inside it think they own the place. They were incredibly pushy and wouldn’t even let us see the bus schedule because they needed to lean on it. It’s hard to travel, isn’t it? The whole time we were on the bus they made very rude comments about how shitty the bus, bus driver, roads, and island were. They, and many British people seem to think of Spain as a kind of undeveloped Mexico or Africa. They think its dirt roads, dysentery water and no real infrastructure. Obviously it’s paved roads, highly trained employees (who speak more than 4 languages) and perfectly drinkable water. It’s frustrating because Spain and especially Mallorca are as European as they are. This should be a public service announcement to all visitors to Mallorca – EVERYONE understands EVERYTHING you’re saying, so don’t be shitty.
This is a version of the island that we’re only going to see more and more of as it gets closer to summer. We’re feeling this massive pressure to see things while we can (beaches, cities, mountains) before it becomes a literal crush of people. If you don’t believe me about how crowded it is going to get check this trailer out. This is, of course, a discussion for another time. We’re excited to live (not visit but live) on the most desirable tourist destination in Europe over the summer (the busiest time). It should be interesting if nothing else.
As for the medieval market? Super interesting. I wish we would’ve gone on Friday, even if we had to fight school groups to do it, and we will be back next year to eat more and probably buy some Sant Antoni gear.
For information (all in Catalan) about the schedule see Capdeperas Ajunamiento website.