A unique festival in Spain
| So, where do you go when you want to participate in the worlds largest food fight? 30 miles from the city of Valencia, Spain, on the sunny Mediterranean, lies the seemingly peaceful town of Buñol. For most of the year, it is just like any other medium sized Spanish town, with merchants happily selling their wares, and farmers vending vegetables. Just a nice, friendly, happy town. Who would guess that every year, after a solid week of festivals and parades, on the last Wednesday in August, the town square gets sacked by Veggie Vandals.
Just as mighty Rome was invaded by the heathen hoards, so this small town must endure. And the weapons here are much more insidious than the Gladius. Here, they use.....tomatoes! That's right, these would-be conquerors pelt Pondersa Pinks, St. Pierre's, Brandywines, and Beefsteaks, just as fast as they can get their hands on them, and all supplied by the town itself.
Insanity, you say? Maybe so, but it must be contagious because every year, over 20,000 future Burpee Battlers from all over the world, descend on this small hamlet to participate in a real fruiting war. The town supplies over 90,000 pounds of ammunition for the event, and it gets bigger every year. This is much safer, and more fun that the Running Of The Bulls in Pamplona.
The origins of La Tomatina are murky, but the most accepted story is that in 1945, during a parade, some of the participants were wearing large heads as costumes (Gigantes y Cabezudos). Some youngsters wanted to join the parade, and accidentally knocked over one of the Big-Head Guys. Infuriated, and unable to see out of the shifted head, he began swinging blindly all around. The youths returned fire with tomatoes, snatched from a nearby vegetable cart. Some innocent bystanders were hit, and retaliated in kind, and a free-for-all ensued in classic Pie-Fight fashion, until the police arrived to restore order. The next year, the same youths brought their own tomatoes, and started another Roma Riot, and the police broke it up. This continued for a few years until the town gave up and decided to include it in the festivities.
The Marinara Melee only lasts for around one hour, but this will be the most fun-filled hour you've ever spent with your clothes on. And speaking of clothes, you'll want to wear something that is destined for the trash bin, because it will be unwearable afterwords. And be advised, anyone with a camera, or baseball hat is considered an extra-special prime target, and will receive heavy fire.
The war starts when trucks arrive in the town square, around noon, with tons of organic artillery, so you'll want to get there early. The square fills up with so many people that space in the actual combat area is at a premium. Also, accommodations in the city fill up quickly, so you may want to get a room several days early, or one outside of town. At the sound of the first banger, combat ensues. There are only a few rules, and they are followed religiously by all.
• It is illegal to bring any bottles, or other objects that could cause an accident.
• No actual physical violence is allowed, or tolerated.
• Tomatoes must be crushed before throwing, to be sure and not injure anyone.
• At the sound of the second banger, all combat must cease.
• To date, there has never been a mishap. They'd like to keep it that way, so do your part.
There are public showers available near the river to clean up casualties. Since Buñol is a small town of only 9000, there are few accommodations in the town itself. Your best bet is to book into a hostel in Valencia. There are trains that have regular hourly service to Buñol, so if you catch the 8:08, 9:08, or 10:08, you'll get there in plenty of time. The trip takes about 50 minutes. Bring a change of clothes.
La Tomatina could be the start of a very unique experience on your next vacation.