Location: Heimaey, Westmann Islands, Iceland

 

Dates: Verslunarmannahelgi (first weekend in August)

 

All over Iceland, bonfires are lit and vodka is shared to celebrate the ratification the country’s constitution in 1874, but Heimay hosts the mother of all parties. Some 10,000 people make like the local puffins and flock to the only inhabited Westmann island for a music festival on the edge of the world.

Scandinavian bands like Sigur Rós take to the stage, but the music is perhaps the least remarkable aspect of the event. For starters, the stage is in the shadow of a volcano, which last erupted in 1973. The chilly climate induces an extreme degree of heart- and hide-warming camaraderie, with singsongs rolling across the site between sets. At night, the festival hotfoots it to the huge bonfire halfway up the volcano. 

Not that there’s much night, of course. Due to its position at the top of the map, Iceland experiences almost endless daylight during the summer, a situation that’s cruelly reversed during the winter. At the festival, roving bands of ‘sleep police’ kindly encourage catnappers not to waste the day. The gangs’ job is easy – most people are more interested in warming themselves with a bottle of vodka or a fellow Arctic beauty.

 

Essentials: Bring your thermal underwear and a strong constitution.

 

 

Local Attractions: Surtsey Island was thrown up by a volcanic fissure in 1963.

 

 

More info: Reykjavic Tourist Information Centre: (   +354 590 1550   )

 


 

 

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Location: Old Market, Trie Sur Baïse, Hautes-Pyrénées, France

 

 Dates: Second Sunday in August

 

The smell of roast pork fills the air at this porcine celebration, which gives a boost to the declining pig-farming industry. In fact, it’s universally enjoyed, because it gives everyone an excuse to do an impression of a porker at the swill trough.

 

Trie Sur Baïse, once the country’s largest pig market, fills with decorative piggy displays in shop windows. In the old market, waiters flourish pigtail corkscrews and banqueters happily dig in until it’s time for the spectacular sports. The Piglet Race pits the speediest runts against each other, but the strangest contests are purely human affairs. In the Black-Pudding-Eating Competition, men force down yummy lengths of congealed blood stretching over 1m. The judging criteria are simply ‘how much and how fast?’

 But the event that challenges entrants to really make pigs of themselves is the Cri do Cochon (pig-squealing championships). Contestants not only imitate our pink friends, but represent various stages in the twisty-tailed life cycle. Starting with the squeals of newly arrived piglets, they cover the whole gamut of pivotal moments in the pen, from the grunts of lovemaking to the wheeze of an old hog preparing to trot off this mortal coil.

 

Local Attractions: Walk off the pork in the mountainous Hautes-Pyrénées area, where snow-capped peaks lie along the Spanish border.

 

More Info: www.pourcailhade.com in French

 


 

 

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Location: Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, London, England

 

Dates: Last Sunday and Monday in August

 

The British capital’s top summer knees-up, a celebration of the local Caribbean community, has enlivened this part of town since the 1950s. During the end-of-August bank holiday, the neighbourhood featured in the Hugh Grant film Notting Hill explodes with reggae sound systems and Rastafarians smoking what one of Grant’s characters might call ‘wacky baccy’. Also featuring calypso and soca, samba dancing, sassy costumes and animistic sculptures, the display of vibrant Caribbean culture attracts two million party animals to West London, making it one of the world’s largest street festivals. A steel-band competition and Children’s Day are among the events reflecting the city’s multiculturalism and love of a good boogie. It all climaxes on Monday with a 3-mile parade of floats and revellers in feathered headdresses, Lycra suits and other costumes not normally spotted on London’s streets. Ravers can fuel themselves at stalls selling Jamaican patties, jerk chicken and curries.

 

Essentials: Make sure you have deep pockets for your dosh – street crime is a feature of the weekend.

 

Local Attractions: As well as the coolest bars found west of the city centre, narrow Portobello Road has a market from Monday to Saturday. It’s the city’s best market for rummaging through antiques and curios, and for getting kitted out like a trendy Londoner.

 

More info: www.londoncarnival.co.uk

Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dates: July 10 – August 31


Each summer, more than 2000 dancers, actors, musicians, writers and artists flock to the city of Dubrovnik to indulge the art-loving world in over 70 performances at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Also known as the Dubrovnik Summer Games, the main events include theatre, dance and folklore, showcased in six weeks of culture and performance.

Since 1950, the charming and whimsical city of Dubrovnik has set a beautiful backdrop to the numerous world-renowned exhibitions. An element in its own right, the city boasts performances in the streets, arenas and plazas for audiences to enjoy the festival in the evening summer air. This combination of setting and talent is precisely what makes the festival Croatia’s premier cultural event and attracts international attention and eager guests to the city.

The festival season hosts a wide range of events from classical ballets and operas to film exhibitions and poetry readings for a lineup that is sure to satisfy every artistic craving. Spectators may be entertained at the theatre by the Festival Drama Ensemble of famous Croatian actors, or be captivated by the Lindo group performing traditional folk dances from Croatian villages.

Also not to be missed are the classical music performances held in the Ducal Palace atrium, known for its acoustics and the world-famous composers and orchestras it attracts each season. Ensconced in ancient city walls, curious visitors and elite artists are together swept up in the inspiration and romanticism of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and its featured exhibitions.

Essentials: A love of European culture and an appreciation for the performing arts are all you need to bring.

Local Attractions:

Take a walk atop the 2km circuit of the medieval city walls to get a bird’s eye view of the red roofs and beautiful vistas of the fortified city. Also, look for battle wounds along the walls, as Dubrovnik was hit in the Yugoslavian war in 1991.

More Info: http://www.dubrovnik-festival.hr/Default.aspx?sec=46


 

 

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Every year on the last Wednesday in August a little town called Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain plays host to the world’s largest food fight. During La Tomatina, tens of thousands of people throw around 150,000 tomatoes (equal to 90,000 pounds or 140 tons) at one another for an hour in the city’s streets.

 

La Tomatina is a week-long festival featuring music, parades, dancing, fireworks, and a paella-cooking contest the night before the big fight. A number of stories have been offered up explaining the origins of La Tomatina in the mid-1940s. Not officially recognized until 1952, it was also banned during the Spanish State period under Francisco Franco for its lack of religious significance. The festival is held in the honor of the town’s patron saints, San Luis Bertràn and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats.

 

There is limited accommodation for those who travel to Buñol for La Tomatina. Many opt to stay in Valencia and take the 38km bus or train trip in for the festival. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them. Firefighters use water cannons to wash down the streets after the festival. Oddly enough, little evidence of the tomato battle remains afterward as the acidity in the tomatoes has a way of cleaning the street.

 

Rules of the “Fight”

 

 A cannon is fired to signal the beginning and end of the tomato-throwing. According to the official La Tomatina website, there are just five rules:

1. You must not bring bottles or other objects that could cause an accident or injury.

2. You must not tear or throw t-shirts.

3. To avoid hurting people, you must squish tomatoes before they are thrown.

4. You must be careful around any trucks or vans.

5. After hearing the second shot, you must stop throwing tomatoes.

The “simple rules of civic responsibility and cohabitation,” as the website states, are meant to ensure the safety of La Tomatina participants.

La Tomatina Festival Tips

 

Thinking of joining in the food-flinging fun at La Tomatina? Here are a few bits of advice…

  • Choose a pair of shoes that you’re okay with ruining. You probably want to leave your  new, $150 cross-trainers at home. Go for lace-ups over slip-ons, if you want to keep them, that is.
  • Wear old clothes you don’t intend to use again.
  • Swim goggles are a good idea. The acid in the tomatoes can sting your eyes.
  • Use a waterproof camera if you want to take pictures.
  • Don’t miss the soap stick, a pole smeared with soap that has a ham hanging at the top. Whoever gets to the ham first, keeps it.
  • Enjoy yourself! Doing something as absurd as throwing tons of tomatoes at one another  for an hour isn’t something you do everyday!
Source: worldnomads.com