Everyone knows about that annual tempting of fate known as running with the bulls in Pamplona. It’s one of those festivals that make the saner among us scratch our heads in confusion and wonder, “How was that ever a good idea?”
But just because it is Europe’s most famous oddity certainly doesn’t make the Pamplona festival an isolated case. Indeed, the more traditions and customs one comes across, the stranger the Old World starts to look. Just in Spain alone there are two monumental annual food fights: one, in the town of Bunol, involving tomatoes; and who could forget the famous grape war of Binissalem. Up north, in Basque Country, it gets even stranger. There, young villagers hang from a live goose’s neck until the poor animal expires — all in the name of tradition.
Over in Greece, the island of Chios erupts in an annual fireworks war on Orthodox Easter pitting one parish in the town of Vrodandos against the other. In Belgium, they swallow live fish. In Turkey, camel wrestling is all the rage. And in the town of Malanka in Ukraine, residents dress up as Nazis and create simulated wartime checkpoints once a year to celebrate the end of World War II.
In short, there is no end to odd European festivals and traditions. And with the Euro 2008 football championships running through the month of June, SPIEGEL ONLINE thinks it’s time to expose Europe for the strange place it is.