American in Spain

Fiesta de la Arribada - Baiona

March 9, 2010
Bayona 1493

On Saturday, March 6, 2010, I attended the 517th annual Fest da Arribada ("Arrival Festival" in the Galician language) in Baiona, Galicia. In the port of that small town, 517 years ago, on March 1, 1493, a boat called La Pinta returned to Spain bringing news of a New World to the west, filled with bizarre mostly naked humans, corn, potatoes, peppers, tobacco, tequila and cowboys. It was the first of Christopher Columbus' ships to return, and, should your childhood textbooks be believed (they absolutely should not!), the first proof that the Earth was not round. Normally Spaniards need little to no provocation to have a celebration, so there's been no stopping this party for half a millennium! Baiona Beach Panorama

This was our first view of picturesque Baiona when we parked the car. View large. I liked the way the waves bounced off the town and back to the beach.

Los Hollister

In the first market we came to, they were selling books by the kilogram, 3.33 €/kg. Marga found this book of The Happy Hollisters, the children's series that lead to her fascination with Denmark, which lead to her choosing Denmark as a country to take her Erasmus grant, which lead to her meeting me. Thank you, Andrew E. Svenson!

Festival Goers

We got their fairly early in the morning (that's 12:00 noon in Spain) and we were able to wander around unimpeded, but soon the narrow medieval streets begin to swell with crowds. Tens of thousands of visitors swarmed to the town with a population of 11,000.

WARNING! After this point, the images contained herein may induce extreme hunger.

Pig on a spit

The smell emanating from this crispy spinning swine was amazing. This is the "before" picture...if you catch my drift.

Strawberry tarts

The newspaper said there were 130 different stalls selling either food or homemade crafts.

Homemade toys

Sometimes the same toys that entertained children a millennium ago are still fun.

Baiona Town Hall

We arrived at the town hall square just in time for a bagpipe concert.


I love seeing young people adopting these traditional instruments and crafts.

Glass Blower

This glass blower was truly amazing. I think it must have been my first glass blowing demonstration, because I away.

Glass Candies (made entirely of glass)

by erikrasmussen, on Flickr") These were all made entirely of glass.

Glass Blower

I wouldn't put my finger in there.


This potter was very impressive too. His wheel was entirely manual, no foot pedals or gears or anything.

Souvenir Wine Jug

A souvenir wine jug. From MCDXCIII to MMX!


I always get a little rush of testosterone when I see the sword and dagger booth.


Octopus for lunch! But not yet...


A crepe maker. Crepier?


Lots and lots of chorizo.

Chorizo on the grill

On the grill.

Shish Kebabs

If only I could embed smell onto a web page...

Sausages and Ribs

Sausages and ribs. I warned you, didn't I?

Octopus Lunch

This was our octopus lunch, with bowls of wine.

Stilt Clowns

Some amazingly talented stilt walkers traveled the crowd with a band of drummers.

Coke cans in brown paper

This was the funniest thing to me. Because everything was medieval, and all the plates and cups were earthenware, some people had the idea to wrap Coke cans and bottles of water in brown paper to make them blend in better. Talk about brown bagging!

Medieval Mickey

And no medieval festival would be complete without a balloon animal folding Mickey Mouse.

Frogs made of sand

Some sand creatures, made entirely out of sand. They were very lightweight. According to the woman selling them, they are entirely the invention of her husband who worked in a quarry. It's not regular beach sand, you see, it's fine pure sand chipped from rocks at the quarry that, when mixed with the right quantity of H2O forms a malleable substance that can be pressed into molds and baked hard. Fascinating.


There's no such thing as a medieval festival in Spain without the local falconer and his hawks and owls.

Creepy Puppets

The puppet displays always creep me out. How do you get a kid to put down his Nintendo DS and play with one of these things?

Medieval Ladies

There were many, many people dressed in medieval garb. Personally, I like that style of clothing a lot.

The Pinta in Baiona

There was a replica of The Pinta in the harbor.

Aboard the Pinta

We paid a euro to go aboard. For your benefit. Seriously, click on an ad or something.

Native Americans brought back in The Pinta

The Pinta had these Native American people in the hold along with the foreign products they called maize.


These musicians were playing in one corner of town.

Hurdy gurdy

I had never seen anything like this instrument. Simon, in the comments, has informed me that it is a hurdy gurdy, also known as a wheel fiddle.

Festival Goers

By the end of the day, the streets were packed!

Pig Head on Spit

Remember that entire pig from before? This is what was left of it a few hours later.

Torture Sarcophagus

We visited a torture exhibit that gives more than enough meaning to Marcellus Wallace's catchphrase. This was a spiked sarcophagus in which people were placed to slowly bleed to death, screaming over the course of four or five days. This was one of the kinder tools on display. Most of the crimes being punished had to do with not being a Catholic heterosexual male. I'm still trying to forget what I saw there. It was kind of a downer at the end of our day, kind of like it is at the end of this post.

Baiona Harbor Panorama

If you view large, here you'll see people lined up along the edge of the water to watch a jousting competition (they rooted for the white knight and booed the black knight) on the beach at the end of the harbor. And just beyond the beach you'll see the Monte Real Castle, which we went up to visit.