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Cultural Adventures, Part II: Spain

Following my guide to eccentric past times in the UK, I have outlined some of the most intriguing traditions and festivals to experience this year in España.

As I noted before, there is still time to make 2008 a year of cultural adventure! So take a chance, and discover some of Europe’s most bewildering and unconventional pastimes.

A guide to some of Spain’s most unique celebrations.

1. La Diada de Sant Jordi (Lovers’ Day).
What
: Like Valentine’s Day, except boys get books (?)
Where: Barcelona, Spain.
When: 23 April 2008.

Get ready for a little spring sunshine…and lots of Latin love!

This April, hopeless romantics will unite in the streets of Barcelona to honor Saint George, who, like our man Valentine, inspires thousands of young lovers to make their passions public via reciprocal gift giving. Stroll down Las Ramblas, and immerse yourself in the amorous buzz as you delight in street performances, quirky architecture, and, of course, the colorful merchandise of nearly every florist and book seller in Catalonia! Join in on the tradition: gentleman, woo your novias with roses, and ladies, make your men blush with some heartfelt selections of prose.

Be sure to stop at Plaça Sant Jaume to witness a traditional sardana performance. And end the day by capturing the sunset and glowing city lights on a romantic evening photography tour.

2. Santa Maria de Ribarteme (Festival of Near Death Experiences).
What: Basically, people pretending to be dead and talking about (almost) dying.
Where: Las Nieves, Galicia, Spain.
When: 29 July 2008.

Ever wanted to stage your own funeral and observe from the heavens? Have a macabre fascination with coffin interiors and burial ceremonies?

Hopefully not?

Either way, you are probably at least intrigued by the idea of others having such fixations; you should thus immerse yourself in the black humor (or ardent mysticism, depending on who you talk to) of the annual “Festival of Near Death Experiences.” Behold the madness of this age-old tradition as a select few “survivors” crawl into coffins and embark on a series of mock funeral processions. Spanish speakers can listen as the “dead” divulge their candid stories of battling fate…

The ceremony, of course, ends with much feasting, drinking, fireworks and merriment.

3. Santa Tecla Festival.
What: Human Castles galore.
Where: Tarragona, Spain.
When: 23 September 2008.

Ok, so maybe you aren’t a hopeless romantic and/or a morose coffin-seeker. But we can all indulge in a bit of light hearted celebration (I hope!).

End your summer by paying homage to the patron Saint Tecla at this lively festival, held annually in the charming Roman town of Tarragona. Just minutes from the Mediterranean, you will be able to enjoy seafront relaxation alongside rich, cultural celebration! Amidst the dancing, drumming and music, behold one of the most peculiar and fascinating sights in Spain—the parade of human castles.

Get swept up in the raucous celebrations that follow, and party with the locals into the wee hours of the morning…

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