Alcalá del Júcar turns medieval for three whole days

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Alcalá del Júcar turns medieval for three whole days
Alcalá del Júcar turns medieval for three whole days

Alcalá del Júcar is a really lovely place to visit – lots of water, lots of old buildings, narrow picturesque streets, and the whole place hidden in the dreary flat plain that you cross when you drive from Alicante to Madrid. And in the long weekend from 31 May till 2 June there’s also a medieval market.

It will be a real craft fair, with original craft work to be seen on every stall, made by the people on the stall. Nothing imported, nothing from small factories, all carefully and lovingly made by people who chose this way of life.

This market was originally planned for Easter, but very bad weather made it impossible and it was decided to postpone the market till the long weekend at the end of May, as the 31st is the “Día de Castilla La Mancha” and thus a bank holiday in the whole area. Some forty stalls are expected, with ceramics, with wooden toys and leather handbags, with painted T-shirts, hand made shoes and sandals, design jewelry in silver, ceramics, wood, silk and recycled materials, puppets and soft toys, even caricatures and engravings.

Plus there are stalls with food: home made goat cheese, honey from the bee hive, bread straight from a wood oven and coffee ground while you wait and as you want it. For younger visitors there are workshops where they can learn how to make their own work piece – a valuable introduction to the idea of doing things for one’s self. The workshops are run by people on the stalls, they charge a little money for materials.

Then there is a merry-go-round for very young children, a young couple who make thousands of soap bubbles, and wooden table games for children of any age.

Some crazy minstrels create a real medieval atmosphere, helped by a juggler and a dancing bear (not a real one!). Every evening the market closes with a juggling show with fire.

All is set up in the shade of some high trees at the foot of the hill on which Alcalá del Júcar is built, almost next to the river. Amata, the craft association which created and registered the “Artesanía de Autor®” label, will be setting up this fair for the sixth year running. Amata inspects workshops, critically examines how goods are made and who makes them, checks that what is on the stall is made by the people on the stall – a guarantee that any visitor to the market will find goods that are original and of good quality.

Alcalá is a lovely place to spend a day – there are plenty of restaurants and the town is a delight to visit, with a Roman bridge, three large caves and its own impressive castle; visitors can also enjoy numerous activities such as horse riding, rafting, fishing, climbing and various guided walking tours.

One of Spain’s many “caminos de Santiago” (the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela) passes through the village and for people who don’t want to follow a guide nor walk the odd 1.000 kms there are a number of sign-posted local walks.

The Market opens on Friday morning, 31 May, and is on till Sunday evening the 2nd of June. Opening times are from 11 till 2 in the morning and from 5 till 9 or 10 in the afternoon and evening. To get to Alcalá del Júcar from the coast, follow the main autovia A31 (Alicante – Madrid) and turn off just past Almansa (signposted Alpera); Alcalá del Júcar lies half way between Almansa and Requena.

To find the market with your GPS: the address is Callejón La Virgen. More information on the market to be found on the Amata web page (www.amata.es, also in English) or you can ring Elvira (who speaks English) on 639 979 678. Photographs of last year’s event are at http://www.amata.es/Alcala_18.html . For accomodation or excursions and other activities you can ring the tourist office on 967 473 090.

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