Europe’s 10 Strangest Local Festivals


We know of many festivals, but you probably have not heard of any of these. We call them the strange ones of them all… and by “strange”, we really mean “strange”.

1. Krakelingen Festival in Geraardsbergen, Belgium – last Sunday in February

An unusual local take on Jesus’ bread and fishes; every year, while bread is thrown into the crowds, a lucky two dozen prominent individuals line up to drink a tiny fish from a 16th Century goblet – while it’s still alive. The grondeling is just an inch long, but apparently very wiggly. At least they’re soaked in red wine.

2. Phallus Festival in Tynavos, Greece – Shrove Monday

Expect to be whacked by more than your fair share of giant penises (don’t worry, they’re only models) at this ancient Pagan festival. Nicknamed ‘Dirty Monday’, its roots lie in Dionysian revelry; nowadays, you certainly can’t claim it’s inconsistent in its theme. Phallic ceramics. Phallic drinking straws. Phallic statues. If it can be penis-shaped, it probably will be.

3. Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy – The three days up to Shrove Tuesday

So sure, they might say it’s an allegorical representation of a rebellion against the Roman Emperor in 1194 – but really it’s just an excuse to pelt each other with oranges. Don’t worry, they’re very ripe. Don your finest medieval apparel and join in the re-enactment fighting off horse-drawn carriages. Still don’t want to have oranges thrown at you? That’s OK, there’s a special red hat you can wear.

4. Cooper Hill’s Cheese Rolling Festival in Gloucester, England – Spring Bank Holiday

Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. Carry a 9 lb round of Double Gloucester cheese up a hill. Roll it down a hill. Chase it. The winner wins the cheese. Last year the cheese was actually replaced with a foam replica due to safety concerns. Boo hiss!

5. El Colacho in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain – June

Ever heard of baby jumping? No, I didn’t think so. Yet every year in the village of Castrillo de Murcia, men dress up as red and yellow devils and jump over rows on babies less than 12 months old in order to exorcise their “original sin”. Misbehaving spectators may also be whipped into shape – literally. It has been named as one of the most dangerous festivals in the world.

6. Wife Carrying World Championships in Sonkajärvi, Finalnd – July

If running’s not your thing but you still want to win a race, this is the ideal solution. Finland’s been hosting the world championship since 1992; the prize is the wife’s weight in beer, so start fattening up now.

7. Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain – 7-10th July

Yes, it is as dangerous as it sounds: a dozen bulls are let loose in a cordoned-off section of the town and those foolish enough to remain in its path run away as fast as they can. The event is televised and broadcast live across Spain, so you can rest easy knowing that if you’re unlucky enough to get gorged (which has happened), at least you’ll live on as a YouTube legend.

8. La Pourcailhade in Trie-sur-Baise, France – Second Sunday of August

AKA ‘The Festival of the Pig’, this porcine party in the Pyrenees has been taking place since 1975, under the watchful eyes of the Brotherhood of the Pig (you can’t make this stuff up). Sure, there are your run-of-the-mill pig races and such – but what you really want to see if the French Pig-Squealing Championships. Whoever said French men are always sexy has clearly never seen a whole group of them doing their best to imitate a pig’s journey through life.

9. La Tomantina in Buñol, Spain – the last Wednesday of August

A town-wide tomato fight – why not? Rumor has it that the tradition dates back to 1945, when woodland animals ate all the watermelon during a parade and were chased off by hungry, angry locals with tomatoes, and a giant food fight ensued. Hey, it’s as good an explanation as any.

10. Mountain Bike Bog Snorkeling in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales – August

If you fancy racing a mountain bike through the famous Waen Rhydd bog – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – then this is the race for you. Competitors must complete two underwater lengths of bog, which is 45 yards long and 6 feet deep. Bring your own snorkel and don’t forget your wetsuit!


Have you been to anything that tops these? Then let us know.


About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.

1 Comment

  1. That’s got to be the strangest picture of what I assume is meant to be the cheese rolling competition that I’ve ever seen!

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