The world is wide, wild and weird. Traveling can give you a sense of place, but getting involved in local events can pull you more deeply into a culture than any walking tour.
The following five events may not be well publicized but you’re bound to feel in the thick of things when you’re cheering on or participating in activities you may still doubt exist, even after you’ve been there.
Water and Ham Festival
The breathtaking Alpujarras mountains, in the Granada region of southern Spain is the setting for what is arguably the biggest and best water fight in the world. At midnight on June 23rd, everyone in town attacks each other with all the water they can get their hands on.
Strangers soak each other in the streets, while apartment dwellers spray those below with hosepipes from the safety of their balconies. The best bit? Once the whistle blows at the end of the fight, the cerveza starts pouring and the real party begins. There surely is no better way to break the ice.
More information: spanishhighs.co.uk
Nettle Eating Championships
Feeling brave? You’d better be – The Nettle Eating Championships are a test of endurance. Who can eat the most? It’s not obvious what the hardy winner gets for his or her efforts – but if you’re aim is to impress the locals, this is sure to do the trick.
The competition takes place at a pub in the picturesque but little-known rural town of Marshwood Vale, Dorset, England. Its history can be traced back to the 1980s, when a dispute broke out between local farmers over who had the longest nettles, and since then it’s become a yearly tradition.
More information: thebottleinn.co.uk
World Wife Carrying Championships
Don’t worry if you’re not married – teams don’t actually have to be husband and wife. As long as one male is carrying one female (over 17 year old and more than 49 kilos in weight), you’re in. The Championship is a 250 meter race over obstacles, including a water jump – and the winner wins his ‘wife’s’ weight in beer.
‘Husbands’ be warned – a 15 second penalty is incurred if you drop the wife. If a world championship sounds a bit daunting, there are other, smaller races visitors can enter. The event is said to take its inspiration from a time when men courted women by running into their village, picking them up and carrying them off. Lovely.
More information: sonkajarvi.fi
Annual Mooning of Amtrack
Laguna Niguel, California, USA
If, like the Laguna Niguel locals, you’ve got a fondness for flashing your behind, then get yourself to Orange County in July. This rather bizarre event was born in 1979, when locals rushed to moon a passing train in order to get a free drink.
They must have enjoyed it, as it’s been a tradition ever since. There are no official organizers for the event, meaning that locals and visitors work together to keep everything running smoothly on the day.
Be warned – there will likely be cameras. For those worried about this, the website assures that you can “decorate your butt”, and also that if you’re not keen to “moon,” visitors are welcome as observers only.
More information: moonamtrak.org
Every year the village of Moncrabeau in southwest France plays host to a battle of cunning. As the title suggests, entrants must beat their opponents with a pack of lies, the best fibber enjoying the coveted title of ‘King of Liars.’
The village sits in the Lot-et-Garonne region and is a little off the beaten track – many of the towns of the region (even the capital, Agen) are frequently excluded from travel guides.
Getting involved in the festival is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the traditions, as it’s rumoured that event grew out of the locals’ tendency to swagger and bluster. And who wouldn’t want to celebrate such admirable traits?
For more information (on the destination): southofthedordogne.com
Can’t get enough bizarre events? Check out Carlo Alcos’s article for more strange events in Finland.
Do you know about some strange festivals or customs? Is there a crazy eating contest in your hometown?
Please share in the comments below!