Avoiding the Crowds

Certain events are popular travel destinations for a reason. They’re fun, they don’t happen every day of the year, and typically they involve alcohol. I can totally understand this, but I’ve realized over the past couple of years that I don’t like crowds. It’s not that I’m claustrophobic or anything, but being stuck in a big crowd makes me uncomfortable and impatient. Andy and I have been to several events that have shown me just how much I dislike crowds, and after a few I finally started to adjusting my travel goals.

Crowds at Tomatina

A little town called Buñol, about an hour or so from Valencia, Spain, holds a giant tomato fight on the last Wednesday of August every year. Tomatina was something I wanted to participate in since I first read about it while doing a project for my Spanish class about holidays in Spain. Chucking tomatoes at people sounded like so much fun! Of course, I was 19 at the time, and by the time I got around to actually going, I was 31. My perspective had changed without my realizing it, and I hated Tomatina.

Thousands and thousands of people were crammed into a narrow street for hours. The fight itself only lasts for one hour, but everyone gets there early, and many people were drunk by 8AM. When the tomatoes finally arrived, it didn’t take me long to decide this wasn’t for me. But then I had to fight my way through the crowd to get out. I think I’m easy to overlook in situations like this because I’m so short. I’m only 5’1″ or 155cm, and not only did I get pushed and shoved as I tried to get out, but I even got elbowed in the head once because someone just didn’t see me.

avoiding the crowds

Crowds at Carnivale

The timing of my return to Europe after my round the world trip worked out perfectly for us to go to Venice for Carnivale. Since this festival isn’t about throwing food, it was a little more civilized. I really did enjoy seeing all of the elaborate costumes people were wearing. But since it’s such a popular event, and we were there for the last couple of days, the crowds were hard to avoid.

I realize St. Marks Square in Venice is the center of the action no matter what time of year it is, but I still wanted to see it. I hadn’t been there since I was 16, so we made our way over for some pictures. Unfortunately this meant dealing with shoulder to shoulder crowds. After about 15 minutes, I was done with it all and we found the quickest way out to an empty side street.

avoiding the crowds

Crowds at the Christmas Markets

I loved the Frankfurt Christmas Markets. The atmosphere was very festive, there was tons of food to try, and I do enjoy some Glühwein. But so does everyone else. Trying to get through the crowd to order a sausage can be a challenge. We wanted to see as much of the markets as possible, so we fought our way through the hoards of people for two days hoping the Glühwein would make the crowds a little more tolerable.

I’m sure I’ll keep going to Christmas Markets because they are fun. But I have to remember that they’re crowded events and prepare myself mentally for it. We actually wanted to go to a few other Christmas Markets besides the ones in Frankfurt and at home in Freiburg, but the thought of dealing with those crowds several weekends in a row kept us away. Maybe just going to the ones in Freiburg and one other city is enough for one season.

avoiding the crowds

All of this has taught me that going to a popular event that is sure to be filled with people probably isn’t the best decision for me. As much fun as Oktoberfest sounds, I doubt I will ever attend. I like the relaxing aspect of travel, and being in a crowd has the opposite effect on me. I’m sure at some point the desire to attend something will override my distaste for large gatherings of people, but for the most part I will avoid the crowds.