Top Festivals You Have Never Heard of

Europeans like their festivals and there are many not known or visited by tourists. Over the years I have been to many by accident and have had the most memorable experiences of my life.  In order of experience here are the ones to go to

1.     Correfoc (Spain)

The last Saturday in October many towns in north Eastern Spain stage a bull run with fireworks where locals dressed as devils chase you through streets throwing fireworks and spraying you with globules of oily fire that sting like a bee. I turned up to the one in Girona thinking I was going to see a firework show only to find the old town windows boarded up, crowds of people in masks and layers of old clothing. Then the authorities turn off the street lights in the old town with its narrow, cobbled streets. Devils with spinning carousels of fire appear spraying the crowds and throwing fireworks at you.  This is my favourite festival. It’s not for children or asthma sufferers.

2.     Semana Santa (Spain)

This festival takes place the week before Easter across the major cities in Spain. Seville, Malaga and Madrid are probably the best cities to see it. I am not religious but the emotion of this festival is incredible and best experienced in the narrow streets of Malaga’s old town. 300,000 people party till 4 in the morning. Families with young children in pushchairs mingle with groups of young people and older residents.  All 5 senses are brought into play as 300 masked sinners dressed like the Ku Klux Klan carry the 3-tonne altar out of their church on huge poles around town for hours. The bigger the sinner the greater the penance, some are blindfold, some are barefoot. Drums beat, soldiers sing operatic songs, incense fills the air, crowds fill the narrow streets. So narrow that the 300 sinners carrying the 3 tonne alters pass within inches of your nose.

3.     Johannisnacht (Mainz, Germany)

This is a generally unknown festival which takes place around 21 June festival. 300,000 people party over a long weekend in the wine capital of Germany. Squares all around town are populated by wine tents and beer gardens are interspersed. A programme of acts plays out on the many stages dotted around town with something for every taste. Family friendly with kids events as well as many musical tribute acts for the seniors.

4.     Bordeaux Music and Wine Festival

This takes place every two years (even numbered years) at the end of June and its highlight is a daylong party in the town which is sealed off. Bands play for free all-around town. This is a drinking festival so many locals walk around with beers and wine bottles or laze about in the sun. The wine festival is ticketed and showcases the very finest wines from the region

5.     May Day

Celebrated around Europe. Spanish May Day in the mountains can be a parade through the local village.  May Day in Germany centres around the large totem poles called Maibaum symbolising the tree of life. Scandinavian countries have similar ceremonies.

6.     Lucca Comic Festival

I’ve never heard of this but 100,000 people attend the biggest festival for comics (strip art not comedy). It is celebrated around Europe and the world.

6.     Oktoberfest

OK, so you have heard of this festival. There are no cheap options here other than getting a flight to Memmingem and travelling into Munich each day.

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