Videos: Best European Festivals

european festivals

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Europe: The land of romance languages, castles and the annual Orange Throwing Festival. That's right. Within the 50 countries that comprise the continent, there is such a wealth of history, national pride and quirkiness, it's no surprise that some pretty awesome annual gatherings and festivals have developed, and risen to international fame.

If you're hoping add worthwhile entertainment to an upcoming trip to Europe, try to schedule in a visit to one of their premiere festivals. There's nothing like congregating with the masses at one of the great annual European fests to get a sense of tradition, hear what's hot in the music world, get an understanding of a national psyche, or just a sampling of straight up wackiness.

Watch these videos to get an idea of what to expect:

Baby Jumping Festival
Where: Castrillo de Murcia, Spain
When: May or June
The annual Baby-Jumping Festival (or El Colacho) has been happening every year in Spain since the 1600s. Small groups of babies are laid on a mattress on the street, as men jump over them, dressed in devil costumes. This "devil jump" is done as a part of the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, and the gesture is said to cleanse all babies born within the past year of any evil. Either way, it's quite a sight to take in.

Glastonbury Festival
Where: Somerset, England
When: Last weekend of June
Glastonbury is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. It happens every year (with some rolling exceptions on the fifth year of each cycle). Some of the most influential music and arts acts perform at Glasto each year, including The Cure, David Bowie, Oasis, Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen. Beware if you're trying to go this year: Tickets have already sold out for the 2011 festival.

Orange Throwing Festival
Where: Ivrea, Italy
When: February
The Orange Throwing Festival (also known as the Battle of the Oranges) has traditions dating back centuries. Each February, the town in Northern Italy receives a large shipment of oranges, and crowds participate by hurling the fruit at masked volunteers, representing the heads of Medieval tyrants. Wearing a red hat is a good technique for avoiding getting pelted, but by the looks of this footage, it's probably tough to avoid getting pretty citrusy and sticky.

World Body Painting Festival
Where: Austria
When: June/July
If you're into seeing lots of brightly and creatively painted skin, definitely plan a visit to Austria in the summer and pop by the World Body Painting Festival. The event attracts roughly 30,000 visitors and competitors who come to view and participate the latest in bodypainting, facepainting and special effects painting. Photography awards, bodypaint workshops, and live DJs and music make the week even more lively.

La Tomatina
Where: Buñol, Spain
When: Last Wednesday in August
Similar to the Orange Throwing Festival in Italy, La Tomatina (or the Tomato Party) is another large-scale food fight that is famous around the world. The festival kicks off in the morning with a race to climb up a greased pole, where a ham is dropped off the top, signaling the start of the tomato fight. By the end of the day, red, tomato-soaked revelers are everywhere to be found. Hey, if a town is going to let you do it, why not participate in a giant, sloppy, socially-sanctioned food fight? Just remember to bring your goggles.

Where: Munich, Germany
When: Late September-early October
The biggest, and the original Oktoberfest - the largest fair in the world - happens every year in the heart of Bavaria, in Munich Germany. If you're a fan of beer, Würstl, and live music, you can join the crowd of several million people that congregate for this 2-3 week festival each fall. Visitors meander through dozens of tents sampling the goods, filling their steins with beer, and going for a spin on the carnival rides. Try not to drink too much ... but in case you do, the Red Cross even sets up shop at Oktoberfest each year to help those who need it.
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