It’s a whole different ballgame in the Basque Country, where sporting obsessions are of a very distinct kind. Pelota (a version of which is known as jai alai, Basque for “happy party”) is played all over Spain, but in Euskal Herria even the smallest village has a pelota court or fronton, and betting on the sport is rife. Rowing is also hugely popular, and regattas are held every weekend in summer. During local fiestas, you’ll also see other unique Basque sports including aizkolaritza (log-chopping), harri-jasotzea (stone-lifting), soka-tira (tug-of-war) and segalaritza (grass-cutting). The finest exponents of the first two in particular are popular local heroes (the world champion stone-lifter Iñaki Perurena’s visit to Japan resulted in the sport being introduced there – he remains the only lifter to surpass the legendary 315kg barrier).


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