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Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain
It's in the early morning hours of July 6th in Pamplona, Spain. Today marks the first day of the country's most notorious week-long festival: San Fermin. The origins of San Fermin festival AKA the running of the bulls, date back to the 14th century. Bulls needed to be transported from their corrals (sleeping quarters) to the bullring for a traditional bullfight, via the narrow streets of the city center. Bulls are still transported through these narrow streets today, but with a few more spectators, nearly 1,000,000 to be exact. Spectators and participants flood the city of Pamplona every year to be apart of the running of the bulls and the festivities in between.
"You have to run on your knees..."
I arrived before dawn on day two, half-asleep and stiff from trying to sleep on a bus. I came with no intent of partaking in the bull run and becoming one of the statistics...Headline reads: "another stupid American gets his face gored off by a bull in Pamplona this year." But things change. After switching out my morning coffee for a bottle of sangria, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with other white and red dressed participants. "Tienes que correr en sus rodillas..." is what I heard as I bent down to tie my shoe amongst the other runners. Looking up, a bloodshot-eyed Spaniard hovered above me and and laughed to himself at his witty comment. Sensing my disbelief in his bullshit advice (haha, bull-shit, get it), he continued to reassure me by adding "si, es verdad." His fermenting body odor and wobbled stance told me that it would be best to go against his advice and not "run on my knees." I shrugged it off, wet my tounge with sangria, and began to mentally prepared myself the best I could.
8AM and a firework explodes, the encierro (bull run) has begun. I could picture the six pissed-off, horned and half-ton bulls mobbing down the street and heading straight for us from the other side of town. I nervously waited for my time to run amongst thousands of others as I stared down the narrow street for a sign. Runners' heads began to bob up and down, like prarie dogs on the lookout for predators. Then it happened. The crowd shifted like a row of dominoes being toppled as the bulls charged around the corner, sending all those in their path running for their lives. When it was time, I did the same.
Running of the Bulls. Pamplona, Spain
Time to run
Focused and concentrating on nothing but the next step in front of me, I felt like a character in a video game. The only thing I had to worry about in this moment was running fast, dodging and not falling. I looked to my right and realized I was now running with the bulls, rather than from them. I kept arms distance from the bulls and witnessed an unfortunate few who had fallen and were now being trampled. I approached the entrance to the bullring as I ran alongside them. Reluctant to follow the bulls into tunnel-with-no-end-in-sight entrance to the ring, I bailed out and hurdled over a wood fence and away from danger. Happy to be alive and happy to be alive...did I say that twice?
Once the bulls made their way into the ring, I followed in behind to grab a seat. For those that make it, the morning allows time for the public to get in the ring show off their bravado by jumping, slapping, and generally pissing off the bulls. Later in the day, matador and bull pair up in the arena to slay, or be slain. The festivities rage on inside as well as outside the bullring for the subsequent week. The entire town is lit up, day and night, as visitors and locals alike stumble around the streets and bars, singing, dancing and consuming enough wine to fill the Mediterranean Sea.
Going to Pamplona?
- Stoke Travel: San Fermin Madness
Book your San Fermin trip through Stoke Travel and get unlimited beer, sangria and wine for free. Camping accommodations are just outside the city center.
- Getting to Pamplona: San Fermin Travel Central
San Fermin. Find Pamplona beds breakfasts, accommodations balconies, bullfight tickets, airport and city transfers to Pamplona
- Visiting Pamplona, Spain
The all-in-one web site about tourism and travel in Pamplona, Spain.
San Fermin...would you run?
Some of you may despise this part of Spanish culture. Yes I agree, for conscious people and animal lovers, it is cruel and inhumane 'sport'. For the citizens of Pamplona, the high influx of visitors means a jump in business, but it also means increased crime, lots of waste and a lingering smell of urine on their doorstep. For many reasons, it may be a tradition on the verge of abolishment. In fact, the region of Catalonia has put a ban on bullfighting which will go into effect January of 2012. Alas, for most of Spain it is still a tradition, and traditions are hard to get rid of. But while activists protest around spain ie: running of the nudes, and the rest of the world, bullfighting and running of the bulls is still a practiced tradition in the majority of Spainish culture.
- BBC News - Catalonia bans bullfighting in landmark Spain vote
The parliament of Catalonia votes to ban bullfighting - the first region of mainland Spain to do so.