La Tomatina is happening on 28th August 2013
“Who left the top off ketchup bottle?” That’s pretty much the spectacle awaiting you at La Tomatina 2013; the festival which put the little village of Buñol on the map. This might just be the closest you’ll ever get to experiencing face-to-face combat. Oh, and it’s free too. We’ve a low-down of the event, a bit of history, how to get there and suggestions for hostels in Valencia too.
Whether ‘you say tomato and I say tomato’, no one is safe at this Spanish fiesta of tomato throwing; really just a glorified food fight. Last year 45,000 people descended on the Spanish town of Buñol, which is located about 15 miles outside of Valencia. Battle commences on 28th August , and everybody hurls, dunks and chucks the red fruit at each other. Crazy as it sounds people love rolling about in 125 tonnes of tomato puree.
Interestingly, it’s all very methodical. Once the lorries have delivered the ammunition, all out war has run it’s course and the second chupinazo sounds, order is restored once more. Shopkeepers remove the protective tarpaulins and everybody lends a hand in hosing down the streets. In just a few hours the tide of red has disappeared and just a few people – escapees from the set of a bloody horror film perhaps – are left.
If you’re interested in how previous visitors fared in the battle according to data provided to Europa Press by the Department of Health in 2009:
- 7 people with cuts required stitching
- 2 suffered hypothermia
- 1 suffered heat stroke
- 2 were treated for alcohol poisoning
- 1 suffered an anxiety attack
- 1 was affected by conjunctivitis
- 3 were treated for bruising
So, compared to the Pamplona Bull Run and Spain’s obsession with bullfighting, a squashed tomato is definitely the lesser of the other evils!
Why Chuck Tomatoes?
Here’s a history lesson…
Back in August of 1945, a group of youngsters pushed to the front of the crowd to get a good look at a parade making it’s way through the village square. One fellow jostling for a good spot fell to the floor and angrily gave everyone around him a jolly good shove. The fight soon spread and before long the crowd began to arm themselves with produce from the nearby market stalls, primarily tomatoes.
The youngsters returned the following year equipped with their own supply of tomatoes. And so the tradition came about. The City Hall of Buñol attempted to ban the festival in the 1950s but by then the village had begun to embrace this yearly moment of childish idiocy. In protest they held a tomato funeral, a procession carrying a coffin with a big tomato inside. Since 1957 the festival has been a legal event and even promoted and organised by City Hall.
- No bottles or sharp objects.
- Do not tear other people’s clothes.
- Tomatoes must be squashed before throwing.
- Be aware of the passing supply trucks.
- You must lay down your tomato weapons when the second shot is sounded.
- Think you will gain the advantage from a higher vantage point such as a window ledge, gate or lamppost? Wrong. Chances are you will become a target for 40,000 tomato chuckers.
- Flip-flops = bad idea. And shame on you, this is a serious sport after all so wear some old trainers.
- Goggles or diving masks are brilliant; mild acid juice in the eye is not.
- Nothing but a waterproof or underwater camera will survive.
- Look out for the ‘soap post’. A delicious juicy leg of ham hangs at the top of a soapy slippery pole. If you can scale it, you can save yourself some bacon.
If you’re travelling from further afield, book yourself a return ticket on one of the dedicated coaches travelling from cities all over Spain. It’s a more costly option but this way you are guaranteed a seat both ways.
Valencia: Catch a train from Estació del Nord at about 6:30am. Leave it too late and you’ll find it hard to get past the throng. Try to get a good view of the greasy, ham-adorned pole too.
The last train back is at 9pm. Have a local hose you down during the clean-up or you’ll be waiting in line at the station for a shower; they won’t let you back on the train covered in tomato.
The little village of Buñol has very little by way of tourist accommodation. Although people hang about for a drink after the battle most catch the train back to continue the party in Valencia.
Oh and one last thing, enjoy picking tomato seeds out of your ear for a week!
- San Fermin: How to survive the Pamplona Bull Run
- Travel to Spain on a budget
- Travel by Train: France and Spain
- Tales from Las Fallas Festival, Valencia