La Tomatina Festival: Bunol, Spain

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Another Successful Tomatina Festival in Bunol, Spain has come to a firework clashing close. What is the Tomatina Festival, you ask? If you’ve never heard of it, here is what you need to know: Tomatina is one of the biggest food fights in the world. Yep, remember that last food fight you had in your high school cafeteria? Well, it really does not compare to the craziness experienced in the streets of Bunol, Spain for this August Festival.

Still combing random tomato peels and seeds from my hair, I feel a sense of accomplishment as I realize that I have, in fact, survived the tomato smashing party in the streets. I started my morning off in Valencia, staying at the Tryp Airport Hotel in Valencia. With a convenient shuttle and nearby proximity to the metro system, it was obviously a prime choice. Armed with Sangria, we began our journey by metro and train to Bunol.

After some rather awkward moments riding with morning commuters sweeping off to work at around 8 a.m., we pulled into the train station. Upon stepping foot off of the metro, the toxic musk of confusion, partiers, and angry cab drivers set in.

“Don’t wait in this line for the “beep” train!” Yells a taxi driver, desperate for business. He got it too. If you plan on staying outside the city and taking the train into Bunol, be ready for a gargantuan line to purchase tickets.

The line was long, but we knew how taxi drivers tended to err on the side of an underestimate of the cost it will actually take to get to point B. So, we staked our claim in line and waited out the mad rush. In an effort to “prepare ahead” we did not bring cash (everything you have on you WILL be soggy afterward) which proved to be a slight problem when one of the machines did not take “tarjeta de credito.” Luckily, we did end up with tickets and happily zipped through the gate to await the train. As far as what to bring, be minimal. Do not bring cameras (unless it is waterproof) and other items without a very mighty Ziploc bag of some sort.

As for boarding the train, be ready to throw down like Ludacris and drop some major bows. People WILL run you over and stop to say sorry some other day. So, just resolve to be ready to protect your own life and everything will be fine. Seats will be few and far between, so plan on standing for around 45 minutes. And ladies, guys are lazy too, so don’t expect to be given a seat for your beauty. You have to earn that seat, and everyone agrees that if you find one, you get it for life.

Once we arrive in Bunol, the smell of smoked sausages, alcoholic sweat, and random urine notes fills the air. We pass some people using the bush as a bathroom since there is not one anywhere in the train station. However, had they held it an extra five minutes, they could have kept their dignity and used a porter potty (well, at least SOME dignity). Try a bocadilla-it’s a type of Spanish sandwich that is sure to please even the pickiest eater.

The walk into the heart of the festival runs you about 15 minutes. Get in there as quick as possible to try to catch a peek of the slippery pole-it is very entertaining to watch a bunch of inebriated guys climbing on top of each other to try to retrieve a ham.

Now, the difficult part of the journey- the crowds. You can plan on exceeding what it feels like to be a true sardine. People will be jabbing arms and elbows into your rib cage. You will feel like you are going to suffocate/die at some point in the day. If you are claustrophobic or have a fear of being run over by huge dump trucks, turn around and meet your party afterward.

I really did consider that I would not make it out of this alive about three times. The first was when some wider than tall man barreled his way through causing a domino effect amongst the packed crowd. The second was when I was in the streets after the second firework went off and got squeezed between a quite hairy man and a dump truck. The third was when I got elbowed in the center of my upper head by someone throwing a tomato. Aside from all that, I was good.

My advice is to take the wall side of the street to avoid being crammed in the middle of the streets. After a firework goes off, dump trucks attack the streets full of low quality tomatoes. Some people stand on top of the trucks and pelt people in the face with tomatoes from above. The rule is to “squish” the tomato before throwing it. However, from personal experience, I can tell you some do not meet that qualification. Before you know it, you are drenched, have a rotten tomato taste in your mouth, and your once beautiful outfit is destroyed. Don’t wear flip flops. You will lose them. After trucks pass, everyone scrambles into the streets to pick up loads of tomatoes and throw them accordingly.

Goggles are recommended, especially since tomato juice will get in your eyes and can cause infection. I did not have them, and I can tell you I am sorry I did not. I also recommend ladies to wear a shower cap, otherwise you will be pulling dried tomato pieces out of your hair into the next couple of days.

There is something so fun and juvenile about throwing tomatoes. Maybe it’s the age-old “rotten tomato at the bad comedian” thing. Maybe it’s because you never got the chance to join in on a major food fight because you did not want it on your school record. Whatever it is, it is fun. Just be sure to bring goggles and ear plugs and leave your bad attitude at home!

If you feel brave enough to face the semi-rotten tomatoes in one of the biggest food fights in the world, you can attend by visiting Valencia then taking the train to Bunol. The festival is every last Wednesday in August. To find out more, you can visit the Tomatina Website. 

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