The sports and games pictured here by John Groth's imaginative brush and pen are as indigenous to Europe as its ancient soil. These are the vigorous contests which Europeans stage among themselves as they have for many centuries. The rugged stone-lifting matches of the Basques, Holland's ring tilting, the horse race in Siena's lovely square are all imbued with traditions that lend them even greater color and excitement. "With all of the action, the color, the historical events," wrote Groth on his return, "the artist really has everything his heart desires. I would recommend to any friend who plans a European trip that he build his itinerary around the summer's sporting events."
"The Basques are a rugged people, and the sports at their festivals are close to the soil. Log chopping, stone lifting, stone drilling, scything and other country contests, music and folk dancing, are features of the games."
RING TILTING, HOLLAND
"This sport dates back to the Middle Ages when knights in full armor participated. Today in Walcheren, Dutch farmers riding saddleless workhorses carry on. This year's tilting falls on market day, lending it added color."
"A Spanish holiday is not complete without a bullfight. Villages without arenas use carts, barrels and wagons to make impromptu bull rings. The toreros are generally local boys."
July 15, 1956
THE 'PALIO,' ITALY
"This famous annual race is so popular that it has to be run twice each tourist season in Siena's beautiful square. Jockeys riding bareback race for the honor of their contrade. Losing jockeys were still fighting angry bettors when I left the square after the race."
'CONCOURS HIPPIQUE,' FRANCE
"Trotting races through the roped-off streets of Orthez featured a three-day carnival sport program that included bowling and pelota and created a colorful turmoil in this picturesque Pyrenees city. Bullfights and street dancing round out this joyous country fair."
"Teams of Swiss, Austrian, West German and Italian bowmen compete in international tournament in Gubbio's medieval square. In this uniquely situated mountain town, the century-old buildings are beautifully preserved, and when the entire population dresses up in costume for a pageant, like the figures in the background here, the whole town is a perfect stage."
RUNNING OF THE BULLS, SPAIN
"At dawn in Pamplona at festival time the fighting bulls chase the young men through the narrow streets. The course runs from the cattle cars at the railroad station to the Plaza de Toros. The San Fermin Fiesta is a religious festival, with bullfights, processions, games."
"Every village in northern Spain owns at least one pelota fronton. The game is similar to jai alai, and is passionately played. The courts are always busy—in the afternoon the boys, in the early evening the men. I sketched these priests playing in a village near Burgos."
PAMPLONA'S DANCING MEN
"No one sleeps in Pamplona during the festival. People stream down from villages in the hills to join the celebration. Pamplona's boys, at least those that survive the horns of the bulls, dance, sing and drink in endless festive joy for 24 hours of each of the 14 days."
HIGHLAND GAMES, SCOTLAND
"As an exhibition of brute strength and skill, nothing I saw equaled the tossing of the caber at the Scottish games. This was the feature event; it was preceded by contests in light and heavy hammer throwing (a 16-pound lead ball flying off its whirling shaft whizzed past my ear, nearly ending both my art and sport career)."
LOFTING THE VIADUCT, EIRE
"For being the first to loft a 16-ounce bowl over Cork's Chetwynd Viaduct Mick Barry was presented with a medal. A tourist strolling in counties Antrim and Cork on a quiet Sunday morning should be forewarned of these small cannon balls that may drop suddenly from the sky in this indigenous and vigorous Trish sport."
ROAD BOWLING, EIRE
"I followed a road bowling contest with a host of enthusiastic betting Irishmen on a road to Cork. The contestant reaching the end of the three-mile course with the fewest throws is the winner. Great skill is needed to keep the bowl on the twisting lanes. There are frequent refreshment stops like the Boot House pictured below."