Europe is known for a lot of things: cultural diversity, history, its vast array of landscapes, climates and accents, excellent universities and world-renowned artists, poets, novelists and musicians. What’s not so widely known about Europe, however, is that it's played host to a range of weird and wonderful sports over the years. Here are five of the most interesting lesser-known European pastimes.
Wife carrying (Eukonkanto), Finland
First introduced in Finland in 1992, this sport is exactly what you think it is. Competitors must carry their wives through an obstacle course in the fastest time possible without dropping her. There are a few theories surrounding the sports origin; one of which is that young Finnish men used to travel to nearby villages, steal the wives of other men and make them their own. One of the official rules of wife carrying is that all contestants must enjoy themselves which, all things considered, seems like a big ask.
Palant has its roots in the Middle Ages, but it’s fallen out of favour a little in recent years. The rules are very similar to modern day baseball, but instead of trying to catch the batsman out, the defending team must try and hit him with the ball, which is presumably quite hard. Grabów is home to the ‘King of Palant’, and supposedly the only village in Poland that still plays the game. The word ‘Palant’ loosely translates to ‘fool’ in English.
Water jousting, France
There are no horses and Sir Lancelot is nowhere in sight, but in parts of France, water jousting is a popular pastime. The premise is this: two competitors stand atop two platforms on two separate boats, armed with a wooden shield and lance each. The jousters are propelled towards each other by up to 8-10 rowers, and have to try and knock their opponent into the river or canal below. The competitors wear no protective clothing, so it's in their best interest to be a dab hand with that shield.
World Beard and Moustache Championships, Germany
This biennial competition, which first took place in Germany in 1990, sees competitors from all over the world convene and compare facial hair. It gets rather intense and there are - believe it or not - over 18 categories for participants to enter. According to the World Beard and Moustache Association website, their aim is "to promote the worldwide appreciation of beards and moustaches, and to co-ordinate international events, including competitions, held in such a manner as to encourage friendship among those with beards and moustaches."
Vinkensport - Belgium
This one involves the Dutch lining up a row of cages along a street and placing a single male chaffinch in each cage. Competitors then sit facing the cage and keep count of how many times their chaffinch chirps. Whoever records the most amounts of bird calls in one hour is crowned the winner. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sport has had its fair share of scandal. The owner of one overly-chirpy chaffinch (1,278 in an hour) was accused of doping the bird with testosterone, and a CD player was found in another competitor’s cage after he recorded the exact same amount of calls two rounds in a row.
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