Summer in Europe has so much to offer. You could easily jump from city to city, country to country and fill your itinerary with some amazing experiences for a solid 4-5 months. Music festivals dominate the calendar, but it's the local traditional festivals that often give you the most authentic European experience.
Bridgette Walker from Bucket List BK shares with us her story from one of the more unique festivals in Europe, the famous tomato throwing festival of La Tomatina in Valencia, Spain.
When I made the decision to move to London I never imagined I’d be heading to Valencia to throw 145,000 kilos of tomatoes at 22,000 foreigners.
Especially for work. Yep, I’m being paid to go to the world’s largest food fight; La Tomatina.
12pm Saturday; 2 vodka shots down thanks to Duty Free – we’re at Gatwick Airport and couldn’t be more ready for the 30+ degrees ahead of us. Or the tapas… or sangria… and that rooftop pool for that matter. Night 1 was exactly that; tapas and drinks in the Old Town. I’m lucky enough to have such a great crew of tour leaders with me on this tour – makes the ‘job’ that much more fun…
Which brings me to Sunday. 35 degrees. Off to Bunol and Requena, both tiny little Spanish towns but for a few days at the end of every August, those tiny little Spanish towns attract thousands of tomato-throwing tourists. We finish the day with sunbathing by that beloved pool and of course an enormous paella feast in the Old Town. Need I say more? It was a good day.
The Wine and Water Festival – a truly authentic and unique experience and a nice little extra to the La Tomatina fiesta. Most people soak up the opportunity (excuse the pun) to be covered in red wine and water by the locals – who wouldn’t? With a bull arena, music competition and street parade, it’s an unforgettable night. Well, depending on how much of the free wine you manage to collect in your plastic ‘vessel’…
So that was a 4am finish, and now it’s Tuesday 7.45am. We’re off to Bunol for the main reason all 200 of us are here. Or should I say 22,000? It’s hard to explain to someone what being a part of La Tom (as we call it) is really like. Let alone explaining it on paper, but here goes…
Picture this: You’re taken by coach to what is probably the smallest town you will ever visit, and led down a hill into the ‘main street’. You show your wristband to the intimidating Spanish security guards which is your entry into the fiesta, and you soon realise there is no turning back. Say adios to your amigos – the tomatoes have you now.
Waiting for an hour in the 30 degree heat is one thing, but waiting amongst 22,000 strangers in an 800m street is something else! All adds to the experience I say.
La Tomatina – it’s begun. Well, not until 11am when the rocket goes off – or when someone manages to claim the ham (yes an actual ham) from the greased pole. The first of the six lorries makes its way down this packed street and through the already sardine-like crowd, with locals lobbing the most ridiculous amount of tomatoes at you. Now it’s your turn. Grab those tomatoes and get throwing, squashing, flinging! You have exactly one hour and six trucks of tomatoes – make the most of it.
If you can’t seem to picture the above then check out this pics!
And so the 70th fiesta of La Tomatina has concluded. Time to stroll your way through the swarms of what is now Heinz and Watties tomato sauce and get back to Valencia. Always leave some time to hang out with the locals who thoroughly enjoy hosing off the participants and celebrating with some sangria.
Here are my Top Tips for making the most of La Tom:
Follow the few and simple rules of the festival – they are there for a reason: - Tomatoes must be squashed before throwing to avoid injury - Don’t throw anything but tomatoes - Participants must give way to the trucks and lorries (you really have no choice…) - After the second cannon is fired, no more tomatoes can be thrown
Wear two layers – such as a sports bra or singlet underneath a t shirt (you will be felt up, whether it is intentional or not)
Have the shampoo and conditioner at the ready (or even better, wear a shower or swimming cap)
Goggles or sunglasses aren’t always the best idea; it may seem clever at the time when tomato juice is seeping into your eyes, but as soon as that huge guy next to you bumps you, there’s an instant black eye. Depends which you’d prefer I guess.
Position yourself near an alley way or side street in case you need to get out
Take a change of clothes. No explanation needed here. If you don’t need to change after the festival, you may as well not have gone at all!
Why not add in some of these unique festivals along with your Koda Sail tour in Croatia for the ultimate Euro Trip. Contact us if you are needing some advice which festivals are our favourites to match up with your tour dates.
Big thanks to Bridgette for sharing her experience!
Bridgette or BK as known by her friends is a proud Kiwi living in London enjoying all that Europe is offering to her as she crosses off her Bucket List.
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