Alcoy (Alcoi) lies in the hills about an hour’s drive inland from Alicante. It is rightly famous for its Moors and Christians festival which takes place in late April, but a night stop in the city and a good walk around reveals an awful lot more to see.
First things first though, and the Moors and Christians festival from 22-24 April, coinciding with the feast of Saint George. These festivities take place in a variety of locations around Spain but are widespread in the Valencia and Murcia communities. In Alcoy, the date commemorates the legend that as the Moors were gathering to retake the city from the victorious James I of Aragon, an apparition of Saint George appeared to scare them all away! Around the city different groups prepare all year to parade through the streets in incredible costumes and reenact the battles for the watching crowds.
If you can’t get there for the festival, the Museum of the Fiesta cannot be missed if you are in the city, or even just passing by. This is THE best museum that I have personally seen in Spain and it had me itching to buy tickets to witness the festival first hand. Examples of all the costumes are on display and there is an extensive collection of festival posters through the years. The videos explaining what happens throughout the festival leave a long lasting impression and you’ll leave the museum with the music of the bands ringing in your ears.
The city itself isn’t much to write home about. It’s not an awful lot different from so many places in Spain. Look carefully around though, and you’ll find things of interest all over the place. The city is divided by small rivers which, by size of the valleys they have carved out, were once raging torrents. Long bridges span their widths today and they are quite impressive in themselves if you can find a viewpoint to see them from. All along the valleys you can see evidence of the once thriving textile industry with decrepit buildings towered over by tall brick chimneys.
It seems that few tourists venture over the Canalejas bridge which leads to the Parque del Viaducte. It’s a curious part of town and may be a bid “edgy” for some as a lot of the immigrant population seem to live in the area. Be brave. It was a great barrio to wander around. There you will see an interesting sculpture dedicated to Ovidi Montllor, a local singer who died at the age of 53 some 20 years ago now. He’s certainly not famous in any circles of mine, but his deep voice and on-stage histrionics brought this local entertainer to the fore in his day. There is a Youtube clip at the bottom of this post for you to see.
On the other side of the city you may stumble across the park with a statue of Cervantes from which it takes its name. Here lies the entrance to a civil war air raid shelter. It looks like it will be an interesting place to see but sadly it was firmly locked up when I was there. The website suggests it should have been open, so who knows? Perhaps you will have more luck.
Finally then, let’s talk about football! CD Alcoyano have hardly set the Spanish leagues on fire in their 90 year history.Indeed, they have spent only 4 of the past 60 years in the second division and normally ply their trade in the third tier. In Spanish there is an expression which says “Tener más moral que el Alcoyano” (“To have more morale than Alcoyano”). This curious phrase possibly originated in the 1950s when the unfortunate Alcoy team were losing 13-0. The referee offered to end the game a few minutes early but the team wanted to play on, believing they could at least score a goal! The didn’t!! There are other theories but this is the one I like best.