What to do in Southern Europe this January
Text: Arne Adriaenssens
Carnivals, bonfires, food festivals, dog-sled races… They are all happening here, in Southern Europe. Don’t miss out on these fabulous events in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal this month.
1 January – 6 March, Guadeloupe, France
Nothing compares to a Caribbean carnival. On the paradisiacal island that is Guadeloupe, they celebrate for two months straight. Colours, feathers, glitters, beads, masks, parades… There is no trick in the carnival handbook that the locals don’t know about.
Cirque du Soleil: Corteo
3-12 January, Lisbon, Portugal
When clown Mauro passes, the circus is in mourning. To celebrate their friend’s life, they catch up on memories of all the nice times they had together. Cirque du Soleil’s latest show is a melancholic masterpiece whose acrobatic mastery will – as usual – leave you breathless.
Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc
11-22 January, Mont Blanc, France
La Grande Odyssée is one of the hardest dog sled races in the world, but it sure is one with a view. Spread over 12 days, the dogs and their jockeys make a snowy trip of over 375 kilometres. At the start and finish lines, spectators aplenty support for their favourites. In between, there’s nothing but the jockeys, the dogs and deafening silence.
16 January, Novoli, Italy
Why not start the year with a humongous bonfire? In Novoli, they traditionally light the Fòcara – the Mediterranean’s biggest beacon. 80,000 vine branches form a pile of 20 metres wide and 25 metres tall. Before igniting it, fireworks galore entertain the crowd on this night of fire.
18-19 January, Sarlat-la-Canéda
So rare, so exclusive, so delicious! Truffle can turn any dish into a culinary masterpiece. In Sarlat-la-Canéda, the home of the Black Périgord Truffle, they start the year with a big truffle extravaganza. Taste, discover and buy the world’s most precious mushrooms.
The Peasant Wedding
19 January, Castelrotto, Italy
Few events are as lovely, traditional and shamelessly misogynistic as the re-enactment of the peasants wedding. Yesteryear, South-Tirolian marriages came with a year-long ritual. During this engagement year, the wife-to-be had to cook for her fiancée and all his friends to show what she’s worth in the kitchen. On the wedding day itself, the couple had to take a carriage to buy a goat before heading to church. Annually, the people of Castelrotto (an otherwise-modern mountain village) head back in time to relive these traditions once more.
19-20 January, Piornal, Spain
Navarra has its bull runs, Valencia its Tomatina and Extremadura the Jarramplas. This folkloristic festival circles around a colourful figure with a mask and a costume of ribbons who represents the devil and has to be chased out of town. This is done by throwing beets at it while it runs through the streets. While the person inside the costume always ends up bruised from head to toe, it is considered a major honour to play the Jarramplas for one year.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
28 January – 2 February, Madrid, Spain
Fashionistas, get ready! Because in January, we’ll head from one catwalk to the next. After passing the Paris Fashion Week (see page six), we head straight to Madrid for its Spanish counterpart. In collaboration with major brands like Inditex, the event features the capital’s greatest fashion talents and their avant-garde creations.
6-9 February, Vinhais, Portugal
The smell of smoked meat awakens the winter spirit. That’s why, in Northern Portugal, they have elevated the act of smoking to a real art form. During the Fumeiro Fair, it’s all about smoked sausages in the city of Vinhais (the self-declared capital of smoked meat). Not exactly a veggie-friendly festival, but the amazing sausages sure are a treat for the carnivorous masses.
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