Traffic is diverted from the city centre to make way for herds of sheep guided over the cobblestones and through the plazas by crook wielding shepherds in an ancient tradition.
And it’s not just sheep. There are usually a few giant oxen and herds of goats among the livestock accompanied by villagers who look like they have stepped out of the middle ages.
Clogs are worn, traditional horns are blown and there is folk dancing.
This is all part of the Fiesta de la Trashumancia, an event which celebrates the ancient agricultural right for shepherds to drive their livestock through the capital from the summer to winter pastures.
Records show that in 1418, the city imposed a fee of 50 maravedís al millar (50 coins per thousand heads of livestock) from shepherds and this payment still stands and is delivered to the mayor in person at the Cibeles palace on Sunday morning.
Once upon a time the migration would have taken place twice a year and involved tens of thousands of animals but nowadays it is a symbolic act involving less than 2,000 animals.
Spain's Ministry of Agriculture has been keeping the tradition alive by promoting the festival since 1994.
When and where?
In 2019, the trashumancia takes place on Sunday October 20th.
To see the phenomena for yourself find a place to watch along the route between the Casa de Campo and the Puerta de Alcala
10.30 –Flocks leave the Casa de Campo and cross over the Puente del Rey en route to the city.
11.00 – Flocks reach Calle Mayor and head towards the Puerta del Sol.
12.00 – Flocks walk from the Puerta del Sol, down Calle de Alcalá towards Cibeles.
12:30 – Flocks arrive at the Plaza de Cibeles
13.00 – A ceremony is held outside City Hall where payment is made to the mayor.
14.00 – Shepherds begin the return route back towards the Casa del Campo
To coincide with the trashumancia a farmers market selling produce from the Madrid sierra will take place in the Galería de Cristal del Ayuntamiento at Cibeles.
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