Spain/Valencia: La Tomatina Festival in Buhol

A major bucket list item that’s been in planning for years – La Tomatina Festival in Buñol, a small town about half an hour away from Valencia. Every year 25,000 people gather here (the number is now controlled at 25k) along the main cobblestone streets of the small town to participate is tomato-throwing mayhem which is probably the biggest food fight in the world! The tradition began in 1945 when a fight broke out in the street and one of the guys used tomatoes from the nearby vegetable stand to throw at his opponent. The tradition was born and banned for the first couple years, but eventually it became a festival and huge crowds, initially Spanish and then from all over the world rush here every year to get basically annihilated with fresh tomatoes and soak in tomato juice for days afterwords. The crowds gather in streets early in the morning near the central place where a large wooden pole greased with pork fat has a ham hanging on top – and the objective is to climb and get it. Of course, it’s impossible to do and people climb over each other and push each other just to fall off anyway. At 11am, the gong announces the beginning of fighting and sheer mayhem begins: 5 trucks loaded with about 150 thousand kg of tomatoes (300 thousand pounds) drive slowly through the street and the tomatoes are thrown into the crowd and then rethrown at each other. It’s an absolute insanity – and although you are supposed to squash the tomato or make a hole before throwing, it still hurts like hell when you get clobbered in the neck or head or worse – eyes (most people are in goggles). As I was filming this on my GoPro, somebody hit my hand and the camera flew spectacularly into the tomato pit – gone and never recovered, as did some of the best footage. Oh well! The fight continues fornexactly one hour until the Gond announces the end, and crowds of people covered head to toes in tomato pulp and juice slowly disperse. The streets are left with rivers of tomato juice as well. To summarize – it was fun, but I wouldn’t repeat (loss of the GoPro notwithstanding). But I now have a great idea for a potato festival in Belarus!