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What is Van Tour? Chances are you’ve heard of it, even if the details are fuzzy. “A pisshead’s tour of Europe” is how it’s been put in the past – which isn’t too far from the truth.

 In short, Van Tour is an Antipodean rite of passage, but one without any formal arrangements or routes. The general idea is to grab some buddies and a beat-up van and embark on a road trip around Europe. The unofficial start and end points are the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona (July 6) and Oktoberfest in Munich (September 22), though you can go for as long or short a period as you like. Taking in major European festivals along the way, you’ll bump into and meet up with fellow van touring types – and, in all likelihood, get ruinously pissed en masse.

While this is an independently organised ‘tour’, there are resources to ease your way. And your old buddy TNT is here to help you with those first tentative steps towards the ride of your life. Read on to find out which festivals you should work into your itinerary, some suggested routes, a few sensible points (not too many, promise), and the lowdown on the infamous 100 Club – an event exclusive to Van Tour, and not something you want to wander into without reading up on it first. Trust us. 

Best of the fests

A major part of Van Tour is swinging by as many crazy festivals as you can. We know all about Pamplona and Oktoberfest, but what should you hit up in between? Here are some ideas, but remember you can’t do them all. We’ve not included music festivals – see our special supplement in this issue instead, from P37.

Calcio Storico, Florence, Italy – June 24: Start your Van Tour early with this football-rugby-fight mash-up that sees two teams of 27 men dressed in Renaissance pants play a non-stop 50-minute game of what might be better termed ‘murder ball’ in a giant sand pit. It dates back to 16th-century Italy and punching, head-butting and choking are encouraged.

• Haro Wine Festival, La Rioja, Spain – June 29: Just a few days before Pamplona, get into the party spirit with this town-wide celebration that demands participants throw gallons of red wine at each other. There are also wine-drinking competitions – might as well start as you mean
to go on.

• Bordeaux Wine Festival, France – June 28-July 1: Why not stop off in Bordeaux as you drive down to Spain and check out the famous wine region’s festival? Supping fine vinos and visiting vineyards, this is probably the most respectable you’ll appear for some time.

• World Bodypainting Festival, Pörtschach am Wörthersee, Austria – July 2-8: You’ll see crazy creations at this event, which hosts the World Bodypainting Awards. There are also bands, DJs and the ‘Body Circus’, which invites “freaks to come out and get wild”.

• Santísima Sangre, Denia, Valencia, Spain – July 7: If you’ve already been to San Fermin, you might prefer to check out this alternative bull-running festival. The beasts are released through the streets and directed towards a bullring which has a pier in place of a fourth wall. Runners are challenged to taunt the bull into charging off the pier and into the sea. We’re assured that people are on hand to help the bulls out of the water. 

• Wasserschlacht, Berlin, Germany – July 20: A fun and filthy tradition since 1998, every July residents from Berlin’s Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg districts meet on the Oberbaumbrücke bridge to wage war on each other with water, eggs, fruit, veg, herrings – and anything else that comes to hand, so long as it’s rotten or cooked. Prepare to smell baaaad.  Wasserschlacht’ on Facebook

• Boom Festival, Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal, July 28-Aug 4: This festival for fruit loops – sorry, free spirits – is a sort of Euro Burning Man. Based on the “principles of peace, celebration, psychedelic culture, art, environment, knowledge, education, and love”, you’ll no doubt have a spiffing time in the Alchemy Circle and by the Sacred Fire – read: throwing intoxicated shapes to trance.

• International Regatta of Bathtubs, Dinant, Belgium – August 15: This particularly silly celebration sees locals ‘racing’ homemade crafts down the placid River Meuse. The only rules are that their creations must include a bathtub and do not have a motor. Take a picnic and sink some beers as you spectate.

• La Tomatina, Buñol, Valencia, Spain – August 29: You know the drill. The world’s most famous food fight soaks the tiny town of Buñol in tomato juice for yet another year. Turn up early to increase your chances of actually seeing a tomato – thousands of tourists pack into Buñol’s narrow lanes. And do NOT wear a white T-shirt.

• Festa des Vermar, Binissalem, Majorca – September 15-30: This annual grape harvest festival is a riot of parades, parties, and grape-crushing competitions. Best of all, however, is the ‘grape battle’, slated to take place around the last weekend of September. Follow the thousands as they chase a piper into surrounding fields – then pelt everyone you see with grapes.

• Closing parties, Ibiza – September 17-30: The notorious party island stages its final blow-outs to mark the end of the season. The biggest clubs and the best DJs will see another year of Ibiza out – could this be the perfect end to three months of pure hedonism?

• 100 Club, Munich, Germany – September 21: You’re on Van Tour, so it’s a requirement – even if it is unutterably gross.

Keep reading for the full route



The Ultimate European summer road trip - get your camper van and come along
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