The Spanish like nothing better than a good festival and they know how to make a party go with a swing, whether it's pelting each other with ripe tomatoes or being chased through the town by a rampant bull. But it's not only tomatoes that get thrown around; the Spanish seem to have a penchant for hurling all kinds of unusual things at their neighbours in the name of fun. So if you fancy being attacked with the contents of a wine carafe or a pot full of paint, the festivals below could be worth a visit.
Batalla del Agua
Let's start with something fairly innocuous - water. In the spa town of Lanjarón in the Alpujarras area of Granada, they like nothing better than soaking you in water. As the clock strikes midnight on 23rd June, fireworks fill the air and Batalla del Agua begins. Celebrating the feast of San Juan Batista, the local residents fill the streets complete with buckets, water pistols and bota bags to throw the contents over each other, with people dancing and splashing in the resultant stream. By one o'clock it's all over as more fireworks and whistles signify the end of the Water Battle; those taking part dry off, get dressed and carry on with the festivities which last until 25th June.
Batalla del Vino
If you'd prefer to be soaked in wine, la Batalla del Vino is the festival for you. Taking place each year in the La Rioja village of Haro, the locals celebrate not by drinking their wine, but by splashing it all over the place. Needless to say everyone ends up a wet and sticky shade of purple as wine is poured over the participants. Luckily there's always plenty left for drinking.
December 28th sees the Spanish equivalent of April Fool's Day - Dia de los Innocentes, when the Spanish just love to play tricks on unsuspecting victims. However in Ibi, near Alicante, the locals go one step further, marking the occasion with their very own day long Els Enfarinats festival, where flour is the main weapon of choice. Following a two hundred year long tradition participants dress in military dress and stage a mock coup d'état, demonstrating their authority with fireworks, flour bombs and eggs until five in the afternoon when the festivities continue with dancing, singing and generally making merry.
The Fiesta de Cascamorras
Every year on September 6th the two neighbouring towns of Guadix and Baza in Granada fight for possession of a statue of the Virgen de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy). The story behind the festival is based on the discovery of a sacred image of the Virgen de la Piedad, which was found by Cascamoras, a worker from Guadix, but on land in Baza. Cascamorras tried to take the statue back to Gaudix but was foiled by the people of Baza, which understandably upset the residents of Guadix. Now each year they meet for a festival which relives these events and where it seems that anything goes, including paint, oil and anything else that will stick, in the quest to be victors.
Ants in Your Pants?
So far all the projectiles have been of the non-living variety, but the small community of Laza in Galicia have one of the strangest traditions yet. Each year at Carnival time the townspeople parade through the streets acting out a traditional play which involves whipping spectators and throwing all manner of things such as ash, flour, water and dirt filled with ants. From the moment the bells ring to announce the beginning of the entroido, the masqueraders in their elaborate costumes and masks 'whip' the bystanders to remind them that it is time to play. Monday sees the young men of the village heading into the countryside to dig up anthills, collecting ant-filled dirt which they put into sacks. Once back in the village, they wake up the ants by pouring vinegar on them and then rush into the square throwing the mixture into the air, so that they land on faces, down backs and in clothes.
Battle of the Rats
And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse than having live ants thrown at you - how about a dead rat? During the fiesta of San Pedro Nolasco, the Valencian town of El Puig like to celebrate with rats. Instead of hitting a traditional piñada which would explode with sweets and all kinds of goodies, the residents of El Puig hit a cucaña which releases a dazed rat. There's also likely to be dead rats flying amongst the fireworks, lively music and wild dancing, with seemingly no regard for hygiene. Of course to accompany the rat throwing there's also the obligatory alcohol and food. Just make sure you wash your hands first!