Visit Pamplona in the midlle of a hot Summer
There is at first the San Fermin festival, but its well known. So if u are here in other time. Start ur Saturday night trip in the "Negro Sumbon" or in the "Marengo" and follow the people..... The open hearts of the humans living here. And the easy days at weekend at the about 12 a.m. in a cafes garden drinkin a cerveze and eating a boccadillo.
The Ayuntamiento is a bit of a phony. That is, the original building that was constructed in here was destroyed in the 1950s and only the façade remained. It was preserved as a historical monument, and the rest of the building was reconstructed in order to match the original design as best as possible. The original building, constructed in the 18th century, was of Baroque design, which is why the façade is much more embellished and pompous that many of the cities other, more somber structures. What’s actually pretty interesting about the building is that it had to be built on “no-man’s land” – Pamplona, like Siena, has longstanding rivalries between the various original neighbourhoods (Navarreria, San Nicolas and San Cernin), which were originally distinct towns. Navarreria was Basque, San Cernin was Frankish and San Nicolas mixed, and in the 13th century the people of San Cernin razed Navarreria and butchered the inhabitants. The result was longstanding animosity even after the King declared Pamplona a town composed of these three smaller towns, and that’s why the choice of location for the town hall was so controversial. My favourite part of the town hall, of course, is not the rivalry, but rather the statues along the top of the façade and all the frills and caprices that go part and parcel with Baroque architecture but seem terribly out of place in Pamplona.
The Parque Antoniutti is the third green space in a sort of leisure agglomeration near the remainders of Pamplona’s 16th century defensive walls. If I remember correctly, this part was devised along a French model in the 19th century, and was therefore meant to provide both leisure activities and educational activities for the citizens of Pamplona. There are some fenced off areas here, in between the remainders of lower defensive walls, where all sorts of domestic animals are kept. You should notice the shriek of the peacocks from afar (pleasant, as always), and you’ll also notice some chickens and sheep. Cats also like to spend time in the animals’ pen, although I don’t think that that was the plan of the caretakers. There’s a large pond for the animals as well, creating a bit of an idyllic scene that pleases children too. The Parque Antoniutti is connected to the Parque Larraina by a fancy little bridge, perfect for photo opportunities and pictures of the parts of the city below.
Surviving the Bull
"When running like hell is having a good time!"
I am getting too old for this stuff........
Like the guys jumping from the bull. And that is just one of the little 600 pound play bulls in the bullring after the run. Note the guys hanging on to the backs of some of the guys clinging to the wall.... or the feet of the guy who has plunged head first over the wall....
Six years ago you could not convince me that I would have run with the bulls in Pamplona. Since then I have gone four times, in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and will most likely do it again. I have tried to provide some insight from getting there, to eating, drinking, sleeping and partying. Hope to see you there as I am going again.
I have flown into Madrid a couple of days before the one hour flight to Pamplona as well as simply made a connection flight, but that makes for a long day from California. A few days in Madrid are necessary to aclimate one to fiestas at night and siestas in the afternoon. You can take the high speed train, but it is not much cheaper and takes four hours. You can also drive. It's about a five hour drive.
I stayed at the Hotel Leyre, near the Bull Ring and close to the action, but far away so that the reveling extremus was not within earshot and several times at the Hotel Albret, a 10 minute bus ride to the festivities.
You have to get up early to run or watch the running. If you want to run, get to the staging area at Plaza del Ayuntamiento no later than 7 am. The only thing you are allowed to run with are your clothes. So don't bring your backpack, camera, etc. Just before the 8 am start time, they let loose the runners to take their respective positions on the 900 yard course.
A rocket goes off at 8 am announcing they have let loose the six bulls and six steers. Another rocket announces that last of the beasts have left the holding pen and the third when the last bull makes it into the bullring.
After the first rocket there will be a surge of runners several hundred yards in front of the bulls. These runners have no huevos. You must wait until you see the whites of de bulls eyes, then you join in. Hopefully, the first herd will avoid you and you can run on their heels and follow them into the bullring.
While you are running, there are not rules. It is every man or woman for himself. Bear in mind the bulls are designed for kicking human ass. So while you are running as fast as you can, other runners are down on the groung and you are jumping them, while you are looking behind you for the bulls while you are knocking down slow pokes in front of you, while other runners are knocking you down because they think you are a slow poke. There are piles of runners littering the run. You have to go around or over them. Got the picture? If you get knocked down and Senor. Ole is bearing down on you, stay down.
It is over in 2-3 minutes, unless you are fortunate in getting into the bullring. After the fighting bulls are herded through the ring, they let out the 800 pound play bulls for half an hour. The picture above is just when they released one of the playbulls.
After the run is over, then you have to prepare yourself for 22 hours of partying.
There are many music programs going on almost non-stop. Pick up traditional Spanish for an hour in one square, then walk a few blocks for some pop at another. A blocks further will be a rock and roll group. Then there is jazz and even local Basque songs. Plus out of every bar there is music blaring and dancing and swaying.
The whole reason for running the bulls is to get them from the outskirts of the old town and into the bullring so that they can suffer an ignominious fate of being shafted for human entertainment later that evening.
There are two ways to see the bullfight. One, in the regular sections of the stands and two, "under the sun". I am an "under the sun" kind of guy.
Your expectations may be a bit confused when those sitting around you are doned in hospital whites or plastic ponchos over their festival attire and carrying a bucket of sangria. Reasons for this are soon made evident. Social protocol whilst "under the sun" is to dip your cup into your bucket of sangria, drink 2/3's of your cup, and then pitch the rest on those below you. Who in turn, dip their cup into their bucket of sangria, drink 1/2, then pitch theirs upwards. For the most part, all done with great fun and jest. And to be bonked with a wayward slice of orange or apple is cause for celebration.
And someplace along the line six bulls have been dispatched and it is time to head back to the old town and party some more.
"and in the evening....."
Have camera, make new friends. These "mucho guapas senoritas" insisted on being in my photograph para mi amigos. Please pardon my Spanish. They demonstrate the acceptable method of laying out their port-a-bar in The Plaza de Castellano one evening.
For more information on the running, go to www.sanfermin.com.