Erasmus Memories: a 24-hour visit to Zaragoza, Fiestas del Pilar (2012)

When you’re young, you’re a student, and you’re in Erasmus, things such as sleep are not necessarily considered essential. The motto was something of the sort “you’ll sleep when you’re dead”, which frankly is not healthy at all at any age or time of life. Still, in most cases, this didn’t really apply. I would say it was more like “you’ll sleep when you’re back on the bus on the way home”. But then you have people like me that have a lot of trouble sleeping in any kind of transportation. Actually, I can’t even sleep properly if there is a hint of light, so day naps have always been outside of my understanding (even as a child, for my parents’ exasperation) and on full moon nights, not even my eye mask can make me have a nice night sleep.

I love a good solid door.

So, basically… I did not sleep for 48 hours. Our trip to Zaragoza was also organised by Erasmus Org from the university and it was a day trip. However, contrary to Segovia or Toledo, making Zaragoza a day trip from Madrid it’s not so easy, since it’s pretty much a 4 hour drive each way. Of course, you can make it in less time if you use the train. But that was way too good for broke students like ourselves.

Zaragoza is the capital of northeastern Spain’s Aragon region and it is very beautiful, and definitely deserves a night stay if you’re coming from Madrid. We went for the annual Fiestas del Pilar, a week-long festival in honour of the Virgin of Pilar, a patron saint of the city. The Cathedral-Basilica named after the Virgin is absolutely magnificent. Due to the festivities, my lack of time and a not very good camera at the time I was not able to take some good pictures of it, but just Google Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar and see it for yourself.

We went for one of the days of course, and I’m telling you, these festivities are absolutely magnificent! People dress in traditional costumes, and there is a massive flower offering to the Virgin and thousands of people come from around the world. There is a massive procession of carriages and glass lanterns that completely closes off the streets of Zaragoza.

And due to this, my friend and I actually got lost and completely cut off our group. We knew that they had been able to cross to the other side of the city, but because of the procession, we hadn’t made the cut and got ourselves stuck for a large period of time on the other side of town. Trying to reach out to other fellow students was impossible. The networks were too busy and we couldn’t do any phone calls. This was a problem, because at the time Internet data wasn’t as widespread as it is now, and we didn’t have a meeting point.

We did spend some time watching the local dancers and performers with their traditional costumes and some of them were nice enough to even pose!

The whole day is just a blur on my mind now. Looking back I can remember the flowers, the crowds, the feeling of being lost and not knowing when we were going to meet our group again. I remember feeling very tired, but there was nowhere to rest. The streets were full and the plan to finish the day, instead of immediately driving back home, was to go to an Erasmus party in a local disco. As per usual, it was not my kind of scene, but I did endure it quite a bit just to fit in at the time. And to be fair, it’s not like I could go anywhere else. There was no hotel room, there was no bus to be seen.

At some point, my friend and I left the party and crossed the city to go to the place where the bus had left us, thinking that would be the same place they would pick us up to go back to Madrid. I need to highlight here that these trips were also organised by students, sometimes not very responsible ones. And therefore things were not clarified in advance. We saw a couple of buses there and were waiting by one of them when we saw a group of students also sitting nearby that didn’t look like any of those in our group. With terror, we realised we had almost gotten inside a bus that would take us to Barcelona, precisely in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go!

I can’t remember the exact details of how we ended up finding out that actually, our bus was picking us up from the nightclub where most of our fellow students were still partying hard. What I do remember is laughing out of exhaustion for almost having gotten ourselves in Barcelona. I wouldn’t haven’t mind, but to be honest, at that point I was so broke I probably wouldn’t even have enough money to go back to Madrid!

When I finally sat down on the uncomfortable cheap bus seat, I was so tired I thought I would be able to sleep. Unfortunately, that was not the case. While most people seemed to have drowsily fallen into a deep sleep, my eyes were wide open. Probably red and swollen. We were travelling during the night, and there were not any views to entertain those long hours. I believe we got to Madrid at about six in the morning. I went straight home, but couldn’t fall asleep until late that evening. I don’t think I did anything that day besides laying down on that bed thinking how crazy that trip had actually been.

Love, Nic

P.S. Check out my other Spanish adventures in Erasmus!

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