The best of the rest (6)
The Edinburgh Festival (®www.eif.co.uk) is the largest arts festival in the world, three weeks of music, opera, dance and theatre in a fantastic array of locations across the city. Actually, it’s two festivals in one, because the so-called Edinburgh Fringe (®www.edfringe.com), which goes on simultaneously, attracts at least as many people, and specializes in less highbrow, more experimental stuff – the events that get all the publicity basically. There’s no better thing to do than spend a week or so up there, wandering around town and soaking up as much culture as you can stomach.
Edirne Oil Wrestling Championships
Where? Edirne, Turkey
How long? 3 days
Enjoy watching groups of grown men dressed in leather and doused in olive oil grappling with each other? Well, oiled wrestling has been a national sport in Turkey since at least 1360, and you’ll see the best of it at the Wrestling Championships at the Sarayigi Stadium on mid-river Kirkpinar island, just outside the ancient border city of Edirne, where it has been held since 1924. It’s a great event, whether you’re into the wrestling or not: the grounds are gripped in a medieval fairground atmosphere, with gypsy bands, dancing bears, and wandering kebab- sellers entertaining the crowds. Over a thousand wrestlers take part in the tournament, divided between the main “open” category and a smaller one for youngsters, many of whom are barely into their teens. The wrestlers wear tight leather shorts called kisbet, made of water-buffalo leather, and the worst offence that a wrestler can commit one that merits instant disqualification – is to pull off an opponent’s kisbet. Competitors are covered with specially produced olive oil just before a match, with more 0il applied during the fight itself – with over five hundred litres used during the tournament, it’s a wonder that either man can grab the other at ail. Fights last up to 45 minutes; a few nastier holds are barred but winners have to pin their opponent’s shoulders down or prise out a verbal submission. With victory comes prize money, nationwide fame and the title “Champion of Turkey”. To train for this you either have to be naturally talented or work out a programme along the lines of legendary champion Koca Yusuf, who was apparently strong enough to shift a 450kg boulder around. Tickets are sold as three-day passes, enabling fans to see all the matches during the festival.
Where? Serbia and Montenegro
How long? 4 days
This event has only been going a few years, and it’s no accident that its vibrancy is in inverse proportion to the grim realities of life in Serbia over the last decade or so. It’s appropriate that as the country begins to rejoin the rest of Europe the Exit Festival (®www.exitfest.org) goes from strength to strength, attracting around 150,000 people to its dramatic fortress setting in Novi Sad, just north of Belgrade, and a host of world-class bands and DJs – the White Stripes, Fatboy Slim, Franz Ferdinand have appeared at recent events.
When? July 14
How long? 1 day
Just south of Zurich, the town of Zug is home to the peculiar female carnival figure of Greth Schell, who on the Monday before Mardi Gras parades through the streets of the city accompanied by seven fools in ludicrous costumes. At midnight, she proceeds to carry her husband home in a basket after he has had too much to drink at the inn – a centuries’ old custom has faithfully served as the perfect excuse for the towns mensfolk to get absolutely laddered in the name of tradition.