• Witness the spectacle of Gloucestershire's annual cheese rolling festival

    2012-03-06

    When most people ponder Europe travel, they may envision an elegant romp through ancient castles, museums and churches fit with classic artwork, delicious cuisine and a distinguished air that can only come from the Old World. While these adventures can be enlightening and captivating, some vacationers prefer to experience a bit of the wilder side of the local culture. Travelers heading to the U.K. this May can come face to face with this facet of British culture when they visit the annual Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake in Gloucestershire, England.

    This madcap event dates back more than 200 years and sees scores of brave – or foolish – runners barreling down the eponymous hill in pursuit of a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. The stated goal of the race is to catch the wheel, though as the steepness of the hill sends the cheese hurdling downward at speeds of up to 70 mph, the winner is typically the first person to cross the finish line at the bottom of the landmass.

    For all of their hard work and suffering, the winners are graciously rewarded with the same block of cheese that they raced down the hill, and a position of honor among the local townsfolk. Runners up receive a cash prize.

    As one might imagine, the course is fraught with perils, and injuries to competitors risking life and limb by running down the hill are common. As such, many spectators flock to the event each year to watch the avalanche of humanity that follows the tumbling cheese, and many competitors have begun to don bizarre and eye-catching costumes to add some flair to their performance.

    The origins of the event have been of considerable debate over the years, with some claiming that the race began as a bet between locals, others declaring that it is somehow connected to Roman fertility rites, while still others believe that the whole thing was an accidental creation of some unfortunate dairy farmer.

    Whatever the case, the event is now one of the most popular events in the region, and inspires many international thrill seekers to book Europe travel to attend the event each year. There is even a smaller race for children known as the "scramble for sweets," though the event asks the little ones to find hidden candies on the hill, rather than plummet down it.

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