is one of the most exciting and
vivid fiestas in Europe. Here, in the remote Basque hamlets
of the Pyrenees, many date back thousands of years, inspired
by the intimate fears and desires of pagan man. As the mountains
stir from the depths of winter and the first sun warms the earth,
carnival masquerades and rituals explode with colour, sensation
and symbolism. Together with the local villagers we relive the
bears, wolves and witches, good and evil spirits of ancient
- and not so ancient - times.
geography of the Pyrenees and a conscious attempt by the Basques
to preserve their culture, mean that many of the carnivals here
have been kept alive. In virtually every attic, between racks
of cured hams and home-made sheep's cheese, you find a cupboard
that is only opened a few days every year. Inside, you find
a bizarre assortment of masques and disguises as well as the
ancient costumes of ancestors first worn hundreds of years ago.
In these mountains the carnival is ingrained in the cultural
psyche - much more than we are yet to understand.