If you mention the name ‘Teruel’ to Spanish people, a common response is "does it exist?" There are valid reasons why questioning Teruel’s existence has become a popular joke across Spain. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. But let me tell you; not only does it definitely exist, it is also home to the craziest all-night-party I’ve ever been to in my life.
I was in Pamplona’s San Fermin one summer, watching bull run after bull run and generally seeing a lot of the same thing over and over again. In passing, a random guy I got chatting to on the street mentioned ‘Las Fiestas del Ángel de Teruel’ also known as 'La Vaquilla del Ángel'. I had never heard of this festival before, nor the town, but he assured me that “Teruel has the best party in the whole of Spain. Better than San Fermin. And tourists have no idea about it.” I didn’t pay the guy too much attention at the time. It seemed like a rather bold claim. But a few days later, my friend Miguel and I took the train to Zaragoza to escape from San Fermin. And at night in a cocktail bar, we got talking to a group of locals who told us “Forget about going back to San Fermin, you absolutely must go to ‘Las Fiestas del Ángel de Teruel’. It starts tomorrow”. To say the least, it sounded like something ‘different’. So we decided to go.
The next day we took a bus in the hot afternoon from Zaragoza Delícias bus station. We noticed almost immediately that the entire bus was filled with other young people in their twenties, all dressed in white, on their way to Teruel for only one reason; the Fiesta. Halfway into the ride, looking out the window I saw what looked like endless dry desert land and rocks. The view reminded me of that scene in Breaking Bad where Hank dies. We seemed to be disconnected from everything. No wonder people question if Teruel exists.
Once we got off the bus, the sound of music was booming and seemed to be coming from every direction, as did the swarms of people partying in wine stained T-shirts, all in such high-spirits despite the sweltering heat. A few minutes earlier, I had been starting to forget what civilisation looked like and then, there I was in one of the liveliest parties I had ever seen. We were lucky to find a hotel but paying for the room turned out to be pointless; we spent the entire night out in the streets, partying with random locals until the sun came up.
It was only the next morning, when the music had all stopped, and the crowds had slowed down and all but dispersed that I actually stopped to realise how stunning the old part of the town is with its mudéjar architecture, most apparent in the Tower of El Salvador, inspired by the fallen Moorish empire that once ruled this land. That was a touching final moment for me and another reason to believe that Teruel exists. Or does it?
[Cover image © Credits to iStock/Josedbey]
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