Italian City Drives Its Tourists Up the Wall

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Climbing buildings has become a tradition for the Italian city of Sondrio. For several years now, passionate climbers have been gathering here to take part in the now famous  Sondrio Street Climbing festival.

This year, the event has managed to bring together around 200 professional climbers from all over the world, all eager to start climbing some of the oldest, most important buildings in the city. “It is the new sport of the future and we are pioneering it – street bouldering. And with the Sondrio Street Festival we have established ourselves as the world center for street bouldering,” a spokesman of the council explained.

Last year, 75 climbers showed up for this offbeat event, but the numbers of people interested in street bouldering is definitely on the rise. On December 18, over 200 climbers took part in the various events that included scaling granite columns, stone walls and even a 40 meter tall bell tower. Just like last year, winners were rewarded with a delicious pizza and pints of beer.

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Kobe Luminarie – Japan’s Festival of Light

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Kobe Luminarie is an extraordinary light festival that takes place every December, in commemoration of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

The first edition Kobe Luminarie took place in December of 1995, as a memorial to the lives lost in the terrible earthquake of January 17. It was entitled “Dreams and Light” and was a message of hope that two and a half million people came to see, on the first day. Following the success of the first festival, Kobe Luminarie became a yearly event that celebrates Kobe’s remarkable recovery from disaster.

Various light decorations are created from millions of small light bulbs and LEDs, from bright arches to citadels and whatever else Italian designer Valerio Festi and his team decide on. Since the name of the festival comes from the plural of the Italian “luminaria” -which means light decoration – the decision of employing an Italian team must not have been incidental. Every year, the theme of Kobe Luminarie changes, and that has people from all over the world coming back year after year, to see the new light structures. Approximately five million people attend the Kobe Luminarie every year.

Apart from the beautiful light structures, another impressive aspect of Kobe Luminarie is that it relies on its audience to keep going. Visitors support the event by putting coins in the donation boxes set up around the brightly lit structures, and this assures the funding for next year’s festival. A great way to show appreciation, considering the entrance if free of charge…

Just to be clear, Kobe Luminarie has nothing to do with Christmas, despite the common colorful-lights theme. This year, the festival of light took place between December 2-13, and was named “Il cuore nella luce” (The heart in the light).

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The All Saints Day Giant Kite Festival of Guatemala

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Every November 1st, the people of Santiago Sacatepéquez , Guatemala celebrate the Day of the Dead by flying giant colorful kites, during the All Saints Day Kite Festival.

Known as “barilletas gigantes” in Spanish, the giant kites of Santiago Sacatepéquez are masterpieces that take great skill and patience to complete. Months before the Kite Festival, teams of people begin work on the colorful kites that will bring them great honor and the respect of their peers, on the big day. A giant kite is made of cloth and paper tied to a bamboo frame, and features a colorful design, usually with a religious or folkloric theme. In recent years, designs have been hinting at the ever-growing corruption of the Guatemala government.

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The Bizarre Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival

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Every March, the Wat Bang Phra temple of Nakhom Pathom, Thailand, becomes the scene of a weird celebration, known as  the Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival.

While in most western countries tattoos are viewed as an art form, in Thailand, a country with a culture deeply rooted in superstition and spirituality, tattoos are considered more than just skin deep artworks. The traditional Thai tattoos, known as “Sak Yant”, are believed to have magical powers, and people get them done at temples, for protection against evil spirits, and as good luck charms. Many members of Thai police, army, and the underworld think some tattoos have the power to stop bullets and blades from piercing their skin.

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Cascamorras – The Dirty Festival of Granada

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Every September 8th, the Spanish towns of Baza and Guadix host the Festival of Cascamorras, an event unique to the Granada region of Spain.

According to legend, the origin of “La Fiesta del Cascamorras” can be traced back to 1490, when Don Luis de Acuña Herrera decided to built the Church of Mercy in the town of Baza, where a Moazarabic mosque had previously been erected. While chiseling a block of plaster, Juan Pedernal, a worker from the nearby town of Guadix, heard a soft, soothing voice coming from inside a cavern, which said “Have mercy!”. Upon examining the cavity he stumbled upon a statue of the Virgin Mary, that came to be known as “Our Lady of Mercy”.

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Redheads Celebrate Red Head Day in Holland

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Yesterday, thousands of redheads gathered in the Dutch city of Breda, for the fifth edition of the Red Head Festival. Participants were asked to come dressed in white, a color that really compliments their hair color, and were able to take part in all kinds of fun activities, workshops and even a fashion show.

The main criteria for attending the Red Hair Festival is that participants have natural red hair, but the event itself is not all about the hair, but the color read, in general. This unique event can be traced back to 2005, when Dutch painter Bart Rouwenhorst advertised for 15 red-haired models he wanted to paint. 150 people answered his ad and the painting session turned into an annual event for redheads. Last year , 4,000 redheads attended the Red Head Festival, and their number surpassed 5,000 in 2010.

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The Shocking Fireball Festival of Nejapa

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The Fireball Festival is an old tradition celebrated each year, on August 31st, in the town of Nejapa, El Salvador.

“Las Bolas de Fuego”, as the locals refer to this bizarre event, is actually a reenactment of the fight between San Jeronimo and the devil. In 1922, the people of Nejapa and the surrounding area were forced to evacuate, by the eruption of a nearby volcano. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano, and believed their patron saint was actually fighting the devil with them.

Ever since they witnessed the fight between good and evil, the people of Nejapa have celebrated it each year, by organizing their very own fireball fight. If you didn’t know this was an organized celebration, you’d be tempted to think you’ve been dropped in the middle of a war-zone. Two teams of young men, with their faces covered by war paint, throw flaming fireballs at each other, surrounded by hundreds of bystanders who watch their every move.

Equipped with gloves and clothes soaked in water, the brave combatants throw and at the same time, evade the flaming fireballs made from rags and dipped in fuel. Some of their clothes do catch on fire, and some of the participants are often hit right in the face, at point blank, but despite all the health hazards, few injuries have been reported during the Fireball Festival.

It’s definitely a shocking display, but un a country like El Salvador, where gangs and violence are everywhere, getting hit by a flaming fireball, during “Las Bolas de Fuego” is the least dangerous thing that can happen.

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The Frog Jumping Festival of Valley City

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Ever since 1962, the small town of Valley City, Ohio has hosted one of the weirdest, most fun events in the world – the Frog Jumping Festival.

Over 2,000 fun-loving people take part in the Frog Jumping Festival of Ohio, every year, eager to watch the annual Frog Jump Contest, participate in a series of games, or simply spend some quality time with family and friends. Attending the festival is free, but those who want to enter the Frog Jump Contest have to pay a $3 fee.

The most important event in the Frog Jumping Festival is the Frog Jump Contest, where around 600 competitors, from toddlers to the elderly, try to get their frogs to jump as far as possible. No touching is permitted, though, the frog jockeys are only allowed to tap the ground behind their frogs, scream at them, or blow at them to make them jump. That doesn’t always work though, some frogs just don’t feel like jumping.

Competitors are allowed to bring their own frogs, or they can rent one for $5. Winners get trophies and bragging rights for the whole year. The 2010 Frog Jump Contest, held on August 15, was won by one year old Lindsey Jackson, who got her frog to jump a total distance of 14 feet.

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Toro Jubilo Festival Makes Bullfighting Look Like Child’s Play

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If you thought bullfighting was cruel and barbaric, you’ll soon learn there are far worse ways to kill an innocent animal in the name of primitive entertainment.

Every year, on the second weekend of November, a horrific show takes place in the streets of Medinacelli, an otherwise picturesque Spanish town. As soon as the sun sets, bulls are brought into the town square, surrounded and restrained by the “bravest” of participants. Big balls of pitch are attached to the bull’s horns and the animal is set loose through the town.

This savage bull run is known as Toro Jubilo, and the bull is called Toro de Fuego, which translates as “bull of Fire”. As the pitch burns like a bonfire on the horns, it scorches his eyes and face causing it unspeakable pain. Disoriented and in agony, the bull often runs into walls and hurts himself even more, while the crowd run around him and cheers.

After hours of immense pain and eventually being blinded by the flames, the bull dies in agony. If this wasn’t cruel enough, the animal’s carcass is cut up and split among the participants to the event. Toro Jubilo is viewed simply as a form of entertainment by the people of Medinacelli, but this kind of animal cruelty doen’t qualify as such.

If you feel this is an old tradition that should continue, in the name of cultural diversity, just read this post, look at the photos and get back to what you were doing, but if you want to put a stop to it, make sure you sign this petition (I did) and share it with your friends.

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The Suzdal Cucumber Festival

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Cucumbers may be just every day vegetables to you, but in the Russian town of Suzdal they are of such importance that they have their own yearly festival.

The first cucumbers were cultivated in the Suzdal area, around 500 years ago, and some locals even consider the popular vegetable inherently Russian. The people here consider cucumbers the most nutritious vegetable in the world, and they use them in thousands of different dishes, from cucumber soups, to cucumber cakes and rolls, and even cucumber drinks. This being of the biggest cucumber producing centers of Russia, you’ll have a hard time finding a household that doesn’t make a living growing cucumbers.

The Suzdal Cucumber Festival takes place every year, in the month of July, during the vegetable harvest. During this event tourists will learn everything there is to know about cucumbers, from hot to grow them to the many different varieties. The region’s most famous entertainers perform different plays relating to cucumbers, and tourists can try the various cucumber delicacies of Suzdal, as well as buy cucumber souvenirs made of clay, wood and other materials.

One of the most important events of the Suzdal Cucumber Festival is the cucumber eating contest, where competitors try to beat the competition by eating as many cucumbers in the set time limit. Judging by the whole atmosphere of the festival, the winner probably receives some cucumbers as the prize.

This year, the Suzdal Cucumber Festival took place on July 24.

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The Mysterious Scissors Dancers of Peru

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Performed in the central and southern highlands of Peru, the Scissors Dance is a traditional event that tests the physical and spiritual strength of the participants.

Westerners usually regard “La Danza de las Tijeras” as a physical test where two men have to prove their dexterity and resistance to pain, but to the people of the Andes, this dance is a sacred ritual. The dancers, called danzaq, perform difficult stunts and leaps, called atipanakuy, accompanied by the music of a violin, a harp and the sound of the scissors they each hold in their hands. So much about not playing with scissors, right?

The origin of the danzaq and their Scissors Dance is shrouded in mystery, but some anthropologists believe they appeared in 1524, during the rebellion against Spanish colonial rule. According to old Spanish chronicles, Huancas (pre-Hispanic deities) possessed the bodies of indigenous young men, allowing them to perform an impossible-looking dance signaling the return of the Old Gods to vanquish the Christian God of the Spanish. As we all know, that didn’t happen, but the tradition of the Scissors Dance was kept alive by the Andean people.

It’s almost impossible to believe someone can accomplish this kind of acrobatic moves, while handling a pair of scissors made out of two individual sheets of metal, 25 cm each, but the danzaq do much more. To show spiritual superiority, they go through a series of challenges that include sticking sharp objects through their bodies, eating glass or walking on fire. The Scissors Dance is sometimes performed continuously for hours, until one of the competitors proves his superiority.

The best Scissors Dances can be witnessed in Ayacucho, Apurimac, Arequipa, Huancavelica and Lima.

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The Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival

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Dating back to the year 1357, the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival is the oldest wrestling event in the world, attracting oiled up wrestlers from all over Turkey, and beyond.

Oil wrestling is one of Turkey’s most popular sports, and regarded by many as the manliest sport on Earth, so it’s no wonder over 1,500 oiled up Turks gather, every year, on a green field near Edirne, for a seven day event that decides the best oil wrestler in the land.

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Incredible Flower Carpets at the Genzano Flower Festival 2010

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If you’re a flower enthusiast, and you happen to be in Rome, in the second week of June, you just have to visit the small town of Genzano, for its world famous Infiorata.

The Genzano Infiorata is a flower festival that can be traced back to 1778. Every year, local artists cover an entire street (Via Belardi) with intricate flower carpets, inspired by famous artworks, religious paintings or geometrical shapes. The flower carpets are made by talented local artists who have to stick to a previously agreed upon theme, like ‘The Colors of Michelangelo’ or ‘The Designs of Bernini’.

The Infiorata of Genzano begins with the harvesting of millions of flowers, 2-3 days before the event. They are stored fresh, in caves around Genzano, while the artists draw their masterpieces on the pavement of Via Belardi, for the Saturday parade.

Preceded by a ‘mini Infiorata’, where children from local schools create the flower carpets, the Infiorata ends on the Monday of the third week of June, when children are allowed to destroy the colorful artworks, by playing on them.

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Wave Gotik Treffen – The Goth Festival of Leipzig

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The festival-friendly city of Leipzig, in Germany, has hosted the 19th edition Wave Gotik Treffen, considered the world’s largest Goth event.

Around 25,000 Goth fans, from all over Europe, gathered in Leipzig, four a 3 day festival (22 – 24 May), that started back in 1992. Covered in tons of eyeliner and makeup, and sporting shiny jewelry and extreme piercings, attendees paraded their eccentric outfits, on the city streets, and turned Leipzig into a dark fantasy realm, if only for a few days.

During the Wave Gotik Treffen, Goth enthusiasts enjoy Goth rock concerts, theatrical performances, film premieres, exhibitions and discussions on various philosophical topics. Take a look at some of the coolest costumes from the recently ended Wave Gotik Treffen 2010:

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Onbashira – Japan’s Riskiest Celebration

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Held every six years, in the Nagano area of Japan, Onbashira Festival is believed to have continued uninterruptedly, for the last 1200 years.

Onbashira, literally translated as “the sacred pillars”, is a Japanese tradition that symbolizes the renewal of Suwa Grand Shrine. It consists of two phases: Yamadashi and Satobiki, the first held in April, and the second in May. Before Onbashira begins, 16 tree trunks, cut form 200-year-old Japanese fir trees are cut down. Each tree can be up to 1 meter across, 16 meters tall and weigh up to 12 tons.

Yamadashi is translated as “coming out of the mountains” and is the most popular part of the festival. Teams of men have to drag the logs down the mountain, to Suwa Shrine. At some points they encounter steep slopes where they must slide the tree trunks. In a ceremony called Ki-otoshi, brave young men risk their lives by climbing on the trunks and riding the all the way down the muddy slopes. It takes 3 days to move the sacred tree trunks, over 10 kilometers, to the shrine.

Satobiki involves placing the logs at the four corners of the four buildings that make up Suwa Grand Shrine. Using ropes, teams have to pull up the giant tree trunks in a vertical position, with young men sitting on them. Those still on the logs after they are positioned, perform all sort of feats.

On Sunday, during the 2010 edition of Onbashira Festival, a man was crushed to death by a tree trunk, during Satobiki. One of the ropes came loose and hit the 38-year-old man in the head. Several others were injured in the accident.

Photos via Daylife

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