To Europe! Face-Off: Most Memorable Festivals

Posted by Fodor's Editors on June 9, 2010 at 2:00:00 PM EDT | Post a Comment

We're in week 4 of the To Europe! Face-off. Last week's winner was Munich International Airport. See the original post here.

For this week, we're matching up two iconic European festivals that draw scores of tourists from around the world each year: Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany) vs. the Running of the Bulls (Pamplona, Spain). Each festival has a wild side, but there's still a lot of atmosphere to take in even if you're sitting on the sidelines. Which festival offers visitors a more memorable experience?

Have more to say than just a simple vote? Feel free to write a comment to explain your opinion, share a memory of one of the destinations, or simply tell us we're off our rocker because we didn't include your favorite festival in the matchup. The poll will close at 12:00 PM EST Wednesday 6/16, and we'll crown week four's European Face-Off winner later that afternoon.

Oktoberfest.jpg Vs. bulls.jpg
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The Running of the Bulls
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Oktoberfest began in 1810 with the celebration of Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghause's marriage to the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig I. The fair was such a success that it became an annual event that has now morphed into a 16-day international beer bonanza attracting more than 6 million people each year.

Not even the wildest Bavarians can be held wholly responsible for the staggering consumption of beer and food at the annual Oktoberfest, which starts at the end of September and ends in early October. On average, around 1,183,000 gallons of beer along with 750,000 roasted chickens and 650,000 sausages are put away by revelers from around the world. Take advantage of an hour or two of sobriety to tour the fairground rides, which are an integral part of Oktoberfest. But under no circumstances attempt any rides--all of which claim to be the world's most dangerous--after a couple of pints.

The Running of the Bulls

In the Sun Also Rises, Hemingway describes the Pamplona encierro (bull running or literally "enclosing") in anything but romantic terms. Jake Barnes hears the rocket, steps out on his balcony, and watches the crowd run by. Men in white and red sashes and neckerchiefs, run faster than the bulls. "One man fell, rolled to the gutter, and lay quiet." It's a textbook move--an experienced runner who falls remains motionless (bulls respond to movement). In the next encierro in the novel, a man is gored through and through and dies. The waiter at the Iruna café mutters, "You hear? Muerto. Dead. He's Dead. With a horn through him. All for morning fun..."

Despite the risk, generations of young Americans and other internationals have turned this barnyard bull-management maneuver into one of the Western world's most famous rites of passage. The idea is simple: six fighting bulls are guided through the streets by 8 to 10 cabestros, or steers (also known as mansos, meaning "tame"), to the holding pens at the bullring, until the fight that afternoon. The course covers 924 yards. The classic run, a perfect blend of form and function, is to remain ahead of the horns for as long as possible, fading to the side when overtaken. If all goes well--no bulls separated from the pack, no mayhem--the bulls will have arrived in the ring in less than three minutes.

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