Planning a trip to Europe? Knowing what European traditions and customs you might find is important- but these bizarre events might just be the reason you choose to visit somewhere in the first place!
European Traditions and Customs
Europe is weird. Don't get me wrong, exploring new countries and cultures is one of my favourite things about travel, but there are some things we've come across which have made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
And no, this isn't a “Europe vs UK” thing- we have just as many odd things happening in the UK- as you'll discover below!
Still, if you're planning a Europe trip, it's good to know what you might find- so here are some of the weirdest European traditions and customs we've found. If you know of any more, by all means let us know about them in the comments!
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5 bizarre Religious European Traditions
There are different rules and traditions in every culture- and you'll be much less likely to cause offence if you know what they are in advance. But there's nothing quite like religion to bring out some of the strangest customs.
For example, did you know that most of Germany bans dancing, in any form, on Good Friday (and many rural places ban it on Sundays)? Or that in Romania they whip women with willow branches on Easter Monday to promote fertility?
In Catalonia, Spain, they have El Caganer– a Christmas tradition involving miniature models of people… umm… defecating in the Nativity scene. And be careful if you ever visit Corfu at Easter. Every Easter Saturday, at 11am precisely, the locals start throwing pottery out of their windows to smash onto the street below. It apparently stems from a New Year's Eve tradition of clearing the house for the New Year. (TOP INSIDER TIP- fill the pottery with water first for an extra big ‘smash'!
And in some parts of Scotland they still ‘blacken the bride‘ by pouring disgusting and horrible things over the happy couple to ensure they can withstand humiliations together. Fun, huh?!? (If you're planning a wedding and a Scotland Road trip, be sure you plan it well!!)
Strange European events involving food
There are plenty of events and bizarre traditions in Europe (and probably worldwide) which involve food. Here are a couple of the strangest…
Every year in the UK, on the last Bank Holiday Monday in May, a place called Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire becomes… utter chaos.
For over 200 years, people have been racing down a ridiculously steep hill… chasing a cheese.
Yep, an actual cheese. The cheese is produced specially by a local cheese maker and is let loose in front of the competitors and they race/ tumble down the hill trying to catch it… You know what- just watch the video below. It's impossible to explain this craziness.
And this is DANGEROUS. People break limbs every single year. There are literally people at the bottom of the hill to stop the competitors from rolling further.
You can just turn up on a day and enter… if you dare!
Tomatina Festival, Spain
Oh yes- Spain knows how to food fight. Every year, Buñol, near Valencia, hosts a tomato throwing festival. Yep, people literally pay to throw tomatoes at each other. If you're motorhoming in Spain, make sure you park far far far away.
Over 160 tonnes of tomatoes get thrown by 22,000 participants in a massive food fight all over the city- it gets very, very messy! The event began in 1945 as a dispute between 2 farmers… and has now grown to crazy levels!
The one-hour event takes place at the end of August and is for over 18s only. If you want to buy tickets, their website is here. And yes, here's another video for you to enjoy…
Bizarre European Sporting Traditions
Every year, Germany hosts the Mud Olympics- which is exactly what you'd expect! Held on the (very muddy) banks of the Elbe, crowds of 'athletes' gather to play games in the mud, including events like football, handball, welly boot throwing and the eel race.
The event has been running since 1978 and runs at the same time as the festival Mudstock. If you happen to be motorhoming in Germany at the right time, it's worth a visit.
Bath Tub Racing
In Dinant, Belguim, they race bathtubs down a river every year in August. The course is 1Km long and the race attracts more than 25,000 people each year!!
Having said that, we have several festivals and events in the UK where people design rafts or use old tubs and have races. If you happen to catch on your UK road trip, they're a lot of fun.
Wife Carrying competition
Every year, in several countries around Europe, there is a wife-carrying competition- which is exactly as it sounds. The world championships are held in Finland, but there's a strong competition held in the UK each year too.
The course appears to involve running, swimming and obstacles. All I can say is, I'm not sure I'd ever let my husband try this with me!!!! 🙂
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