To me, travelling is all about immersing myself in the local culture. The games below are not very well known, but offer a unique insight in the lives of locals and their pastimes. Sports form a crucial cultural aspect of a nations identity, and I love to have the opportunity to see live games in the flesh whenever I travel. You may not find the games below on ESPN, but boy are they fun to watch!
Oil Wrestling – Turkey
The Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling tournament, held in the Turkish city of Edirne since 1357, is the longest running sport competition in the world.
The legend of the tournament is a long tale of two brothers from wealthy family.. It derives it’s name from an epic battle between two rival brothers who had wrestled and fought each other into the night.
As dawn broke the following day, the brothers were found at the base of the tree. They had died from sheer exhaustion and were buried by shepherds under the shade of the tree. 40 years later, a freshwater spring appeared atop the grave. In memory of the brothers, an annual game was launched at this site and given the name “Kırkpınar” (Kırk = 40 and pınar = spring). The tournament has been held at this mystical site ever since. Read the full story here.
Today the tournament attracts wrestlers from across Turkey. The wrestlers, known as “Pehlivans”, wear traditional black trousers made of water buffalo hide. As they enter the arena, the men slather themselves in rich olive oil from surrounding farms. Much like other forms of wrestling, the winner is the first to pin their opponent to the ground. The sport requires massive amounts of strength, stamina and a focused mind.
The tournament takes place every June on the outskirts of Edirne city. For information (in English), see the official site @ http://www.edirnekirkpinar.com/en/anasayfa
Edirne is close to the capital of Turkey, Istanbul. Metro Turizm offer regular 3 hour bus connections for 30TL. It is also 2 hours from the city of Plovdiv, in Bulgaria. Both Istanbul and Plovdiv are served by dozens of international airlines (See Skyscanner)
The Adalı Hostel & Pansiyon offers modern comforts and outstanding Turkish hospitality in the heart of the city. Double Room: From €29
Hurling – Ireland
The ancient Irish sport of hurling is regarded as one of the most fast paced and voracious sports in the world. From its place in legendary Irish tales (such as Cú Chulainn), it has evolved into a modern day spectacle that takes the breath away.
Hurling is a grassroots sport organised by the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and is wholly amateur. That means no frenzied transfer deals or spiralling wages. Yes yes, that’s right – See that guy with his face splashed all over TV adverts, or his counterpart scoring a goal in front of 80,00 spectators? Yep he earns nothing and he’ll be sitting in the office or teaching your kids in school on Monday morning! Crazy, it’s all about local pride in hurling.
Games of hurling take place in villages, towns and cities throughout the island of Ireland. Players represent their home county and contest the All-Ireland Championship – the Champions League of hurling. The All-Ireland takes place during the summer, the final talking place in the impressive 82,500 capacity Croke Park in Dublin.
The All-Ireland Championship takes place from May through to September. Games take place across the country, and tickets are fairly priced (Available here). Smaller local games are played throughout the year, ask locals and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Dublin Airport is the main hub for Ireland – with flights arriving from around the world. Check Skyscanner for flights from your area.
Jacobs Inn is one of the oldest hostels in Dublin and offers great rates in a central city location. Dorm room bed – from €13.
Klootschieten (Road Bowling) – Germany / Holland / Ireland
One day on your travels you may be driving along a scenic country road and come across a bunch of rowdy folk chucking a metal ball at your car… WTF I hear you say! Klootschieten, known as road bowling in Ireland, is basically throwing a metal ball down a country road and see how far it gets. The game resembles golf in the sense that the players must reach a certain part of the road in the least number of throws.
The sport dates back to the 17th century and remains strong in the rural heartlands of eastern Holland and parts of Ireland. Players are proud to carry on the traditions of their forefathers and hundreds turn out for competitions. Games usually take place on quiet weekend afternoons, when traffic is minimal and there’s less of a chance of smashing a ball through a car windscreen!
The official Klootschieten website features information on fixtures and where to find the game in Holland and Germany. The Twente region of Holland is 2 hours from the capital, Amsterdam. Railway information here.
The Irish Road Bowling Facebook page has the latest information for fixtures in both the Republic and the North of Ireland.
Beautiful Clonakilty is the largest town in west Cork, where many games take place. Clonakilty is linked to Cork city by Bus Éireann route 237. Cork city is served by air (Domestic and International) as well as bus and train from major Irish cities. O’Donovans Hotel in the centre of town offers a warm welcome and a brilliant breakfast. (Double Room B&B from €80)
Do you have a sport to recommend? Or have you come across any unusual sports or events during your travellers? I would love to hear about it below!