One of the most spectacular fiestas take place during Semana Santa (Holy Week). It is said that the best ones you can see in Andalucia, however, Salamanca province is not a bad place to feel the festive atmosphere either.
There are several processions daily, starting on Palm Sunday and lasting until Easter Sunday, going around the cities’ centre, towns and villages in the whole Spain. During these days hundreds of locals and tourists go out on the streets just to see the processions, which are in fact described as being ‘of international tourist interest’.
You shouldn’t miss the Thursday Procession (El Jueves Santo) in Zamora, a town situated 1-hour-away from Salamanca by bus. The celebrations start in the evening and last all night, ending with the procession at 5 a.m. named colloquially as procesión de los borrachos (the procession of the drunks).
I saw a few processions in Salamanca on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The experience of it is difficult to describe as it quite hard to compare the processions with something I know. A typical procession starts with its participants leaving the church. All of them wear special clothes, orchestra are in their uniforms and penitents wear some kind of a gown with klu-klux-klan-like hoods called cucuruche (see the photos below).
I had waited 45 minutes outside the church before the participants left the church and made a line. The tail of the procession seems never-ending. People participating are of all the ages, the youngest I saw were
Many people are engaged in carrying a statue of a saint
Some of the participants are wandering barefoot
And each procession is of the duration of a few hours!
Easter holidays end on Lunes de Aguas (Waters Monday) which is a week after Easter Monday (applies only to Salamanca). According to the story, in XVI century Felipe II, Spanish king, ordered that all prostitutes in city had to leave Salamanca during the Lent and Holy Week (in order to the students could get involved in the Lent and study). They went to another side of the river and the Padre Putas (clergyman) watched them. Students, after such a long time of abstinence, went to the river to give a warm welcome to the prostitutes with drinks and hornazo (a pie filled with a few kinds of meat). Until now, los salmantinos go to the riverside on Waters Monday with their families to have a picnic, chat with their friends and enjoy a day.