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Getting down and dirty

The newest entrant made to look fashionable is the festival of tomatoes in Spain or more popularly known as the La Tomatina

travel Updated: Jun 24, 2011 15:31 IST
Nikki Sachdev
Nikki Sachdev

Leave it to Bollywood to introduce something new in style. First it was the snow clad mountains of Switzerland romanced immensely and made ever so famous by on the larger than life canvas of Yash Raj movies. Once the mountain fever was over Bollywood's fixation was caught by the west and lately London has been hogging a lot of limelight both on the movie scene and as a popular destination thanks to the many Bollywood movies being shot there.

The newest entrant made to look fashionable is the festival of tomatoes in Spain or more popularly known as the La Tomatina that happens each year in a small town of Bunol in Valencia. So if the promo of a certain movie song has got your curiosity quotient up, well then here is everything that you want to know about the festival so you can plan your trip better especially when it is just two months away.

Amidst all action
This tomato fight festival is held every summer in Spain and attracts party animals from all over the world to flock to the town of Bunol to fight in a battle where rotten tomatoes are thrown in the streets. It is believed that on an average the total population in the tiny town of Bunol crosses 30,000 as compared to a measly population of 9000 which means you need to get a booking well in advance.

This week-long festival of La Tomatina is scheduled on August 31st, 2011 and will feature music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. On the night before the tomato fight, participants of the festival compete in a paella cooking contest. On the day of the great battle, local shopkeepers cover the walls blue with big plastic sheets covering the local shopsfronts, as 20,000 fighters take to the streets making Bloody Mary by the litres.

As soon as the siren signalling the end of La Tomatina is sounded, the massive cleanup operation gets underway. Water is pumped from a nearby Roman aqueduct and by mid afternoon there¹s barely any trace left of the messy melée that has taken place, much less the stench of fruit lingering in the streets.

Not for the faint hearted
The festival's first fight starts around 11 am when a ham is placed on a large greasy pole and the fight can only begin if and when participants climb up to the top and get the ham down. This is when the real struggle begins, people struggle against each other, climb on top of others in order to get that ham down and once that's done, the victory is seen in the form of throwing of the tomatoes.

The fights that start with the blowing of the cannon ball comes to an end after a dedicated two hour session of throwing tomatoes at each other. If you happen to be in the middle of all the action, you will see hauls of trucks filled with the fruit all over the village and many fighters take over the truck in order to have maximum ammunition for attack.

Since the festival tends to get a little wild it is only advisable to keep certain things in mind to keep you and the others safe as the mad frenzy of tomatoes take over.

Wear clothes that you will not need later
Make sure to carry a set of fresh clothes, as you will not be allowed inside any public transportation dirty. There are many public showers in Bunol
Bring sunglasses to protect your eyes
Wear shoes that have a decent grip
Do not take any bottles or any kind of object that could cause any incident
Please do not tear any t-shirts
Tomatoes need to be squashed before throwing them.
Be careful about the lorries going through the village
When you hear the sound of the second cannon ball , stop throwing tomatoes

Accommodation in Bunyol

As mentioned earlier Bunyol is a small village of some 9000 people whose population swells to some 30,000 on the day of La Tomatina so getting an accommodation will be a daunting task. If happen to be late, be prepared to fine no booking in Bunol and so your best bet is to stay at a hostel in Valencia. Be sure to book well in advance.

In case you are staying slightly away from the place of action, do not worry, there are trains plying to and fro to Bunol and will get you in time before the fight starts. The earlier the better as the trains do get full. Alternatively, you can arrive by local bus or rent a car though this might not be a great idea considering the mess you're likely to be in after the tomato battle.

People of Velencia and the fans from all over the world are very cautious about not turning the festival into an ugly event and hence following the rules is of utmost importance. The la Tomatino is one fight which has no single winners but a simple aim of having downright dirty fun. So if you plan to visit Spain for the festival, come dressed to get drenched in tomato juice.

Grab those red ripe tomatoes and throw them at anyone that runs, moves, stays still, bends down, or turns around (that just about covers it).

First Published: Jun 24, 2011 15:31 IST