Normally, I enjoy heading down that dodgy unbeaten path as much as the next backpacker; festivals are the exception to this. This is one time where more IS merrier, throw in some alcohol and you have yourself a good time.
Queen’s Day/ King’s Day- Amsterdam, Netherlands
Date of Awesomeness: April 26 2014
Queen’s night is jam-packed full of parties so it really depends on what your scene is. Make sure to buy any tickets to clubs well in advance seeing as they book up quickly. The day of; since everyone looks great in that bright orange, make sure you adorn at least some part of your body with it. Vondelpark has this market/ carnival type thing set up where children create games and charge you money. It is more charming than it sounds. There are numerous markets set up around town. Most notable is the flea market where everyday people sell their stuff on the street. It is a garage sale times a million. Multiple music venues are set up around town so check the schedule for the day’s events. You can also just wander the streets and I am certain you will stumble upon something great.
La Tomatina- Bunol, Spain
Date of Amzaingness: last Wednesday of August
Most people book some sort of tour which includes everything but where is the adventure in that?
Getting to Bunol: The train cost about 3.60 euros from Valencia (which is where the nearest airport is). It is a little bit of a maze from the North station to the Sant Isidre Sation where the train to Bunol leaves from. This year they did put stickers on the ground to follow though which really helped.
Accommodation: the accommodation in Valencia books up really quickly. It is also crazy expensive. There is in fact, a cheaper better option. CAMPING. It is right near the scene of the tomato fight in Bunol. They offered it this year so I am assuming they will offer it next year (it is 10 euros for up to 4 people in a tent). I suggest arriving the night before for some all-night partying and then leaving after La Tomatina happens. There are some festivities after the fight but the majority of people haul ass back to Valencia that same day.
Food: After all my research online (which I hardly ever do) not one website mentioned the fact that the town of Bunol essentially shuts down for this festivity. Meaning, the one or two stores that stay open charge you crazy amounts for the tiniest portion of food. If you are planning on arriving the night before, make sure to buy groceries in Valencia and bring it with you. Surprisingly, there is nowhere to get Paella in Bunol. Sangria and beer is everywhere but the glorious Paella is not.
Clothing: Wear white. Honestly, tomato gets EVERYWHERE and even after washing, your clothes will have a moulded Ketchup musk to them. I managed to salvage my shoes but a week later I am still finding tomato on my socks. I bought a 5 euro white shirt to commemorate the day which I thought was well worth it. I also purchased goggles before the start of the fight. They barely fit my head so I didn’t end up wearing them. Yes, when the trucks came, if I got tomato in my eye it mildly hurt but you are having so much fun that you don’t even notice it. Don’t wear sandals/ flip flops/ thongs. That is bad news bears. Your feet will get trampled and you will end up losing your footwear.
Where to Go: So this year the festival required a 10 euro ticket to be purchased. I really didn’t mind since it goes to the town for clean up purposes or something like that. You do need to exchange your ticket for an armband though, which takes time. There are stations set up for this purpose even the night before, which are pretty obvious. The greased ham pole is right in front of the church. EVERYONE crowds around there. It is good to see but it takes a long time for anything to actually happen. No one even got the ham before the fight this year. There are “check point” type things and I suggest going beyond where the ham is located to check point two. Everyone crowds around the ham but once you push past the people you are golden. I stood near the washing stations which was okay. My shirt ended up being rather clean in the end but at the same time, I didn’t get acid in my eyes from the tomatoes.