This past weekend we took a trip to the northern city of Pamplona in the province of Navarra for the annual San Fermin Festival of the Running of the Bulls. Each year the city holds a week long festival in honor of Saint Fermin, a co-patron of Navarra. It is one of the most international recognized festivals in Spain. Over the course of the week, the city with a population of under 300,000 grows to about 1,000,000.
We arrived on Friday to get a good look at the city right before the Opening Ceremonies the next day. We explored the city, bought our clothes for the festival and stayed in a hostel that night to energize for the next day.
Come Saturday morning, we headed to the Town Hall for the start of the celebration at noon, and it was some party. The streets were crowded with thousands of people, mostly tourists. At the sound of the cannon, the festivities began, people grabbed there wine or champagne and let it fly. Within seconds, nearly everyone in the crowd was covered with the wine.
Throughout the day, the city held parades, music played on the streets, vendors were out and about, and people were just enjoying themselves. The day concluded with a bull fight in the plaza de toros, which is an interesting event, but I do not support the abuse of bulls in any way. They killed nearly 6 to 8 bulls every day.
Now at this point, I would like to say the day ended, but during San Fermin, there is only one day, and that is the festival. The fireworks signaled another round of festivities in the street. This is one of the longest nights of the my life. We roamed the city taking a few naps throughout, but didn’t sleep. We were preparing for the running of the bulls the following morning at 7 am. While the temperatures dropped, we found a good place to watch and rested some more before the run. Sharp at 7 am, the cannons sounded and the bulls were out of their pens. I would like to say that it was a very intense experience, but in about 10 seconds it was all over and that was it. It was one of the less climatic events of the festival. The bulls knew where to go and ignored the runners. The pictures online make the event look a lot more climactic than it actually is.
While I enjoyed the festival, I would never go again. The streets were covered in garbage and the smell of urine filled the streets. If you are looking into coming to spain, I would recommend Barcelona for a better time. I’m just glad to be back in Madrid.