Once a year in the autumn, visitors to and residents of Madrid alike can enjoy a unique rural spectacle right in centre of town with La Fiesta de la Transhumancia.
In this ancient festival, forgotten for many years but resurrected in 1993, shepherds move their flocks to warmer pastures for the winter and over 2,000 sheep, along with some goats and oxen, crowd through the streets of the capital. They are accompanied by dancers and musicians, colourfully clothed in regional dress – it’s quite a sight. I’d never seen an ox before – they’re huge! The sheep are so close you can pet them (I did – woolly!) and the costumes are beautiful – I especially liked the traditional wooden clogs worn by many of the drovers.
What’s more, 2018 is special – it’s 600 years since the Spanish monarchy first gave shepherds the right to transport their livestock seasonally, using droveways that sometimes went right through towns and cities.
To celebrate, there is a slightly longer route that comes up Calle Mayor from the Casa del Campo, through Sol, along Calle Alcalá to Cibeles, up to Neptuno and then back round the way it came – as the procession comes full circle, if you miss it going up, you can catch it coming down.
Times are approximate, as I found out last year; the sheep had left Sol a full hour before the programmed time of 11.30, so top tip – get there early!
I look forward to seeing all your photos on Instagram #sheep #transhumancia #spottedbylocals!