Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Party in Pamplona: San Fermin

Bulls as big as Volkswagen Beetles running wildly through the street through throngs of drunk revelers trying to tap their rears with rolled up newspapers, what a week. What a day!!! If you couldn't tell, this blog tells a tail of 7 Americans and their first experience with one of the great parties in the world, San Fermin or as it is lovingly called throughout the world as "The Running of the Bulls."
A practice run for San Fermin.
I can't figure out what this bull is chasing!!!

My homestead in Ciriza, Spain.
It all began one day as I sitting in home in a small town outside of Pamplona, Spain called Ciriza, The town was so small that you could see the entering Ciriza and the leaving Ciriza signs at the same time. The only things there were a few vacation homes and a small bar (naturally). My house was the largest being completely walled in with an in-ground pool, tennis court, 3 fountains, a garden, large paved patio and serenity garden with a comforting statue of a naked Venus. There were beautiful cherry trees and the home overlooked a valley filled with vineyards which rainbows traversed on a weekly basis. It was heaven. I received a phone call from a friend that heard I was living in Pamplona. He asked if he could visit with a couple of our other friends from the United States and enjoy the thrills of San Fermin. I loved the idea and eagerly began preparations and plans.

In Ciriza rainbows appeared almost daily
 in the valley. My favorite home in my
world travels.
After the uneventful arrival of my guests, I was informed that their exciting plans included getting drunk in Ernest Hemingway's favorite bar and of course, running with the bulls. I was amused and incredulous. After all, running in front an animal the size of a small car with a bad attitude was not only dangerous but people have died from this endeavor.

One of the greatest parties in the world,
San Fermin, "The Running of the Bulls."
The night before the first running there was trepidation and of course excitement on the part of my guests. I personally had purchased tickets to sit in one of the balconies overlooking the run route (smart). The course goes winding through the middle of the city with 8 foot high walls and the buildings to direct the bulls from the start, almost 1 km, to the finish in the world famous Pamplona bull ring. Once you are in you can't get out. You will have close interaction with some of the most dangerous animals in the world. I was going to have a great view of the proceedings.

Naturally, we stayed out drinking and eating till all hours of the night and got back home around 3 AM, the run started at 8 AM. We awoke around 6:30 still extremely hung over and my guests were still feeling the power of some of the local liquors (the Spanish prefer liquor and local wines to beer for the most part). We got to the city around 7 AM and my wife and I left to get to our seats while my 7 undeterred guests entered the beginning of the course.

Large animals running the streets during the festival.
Danger Will Robison!!!!
I heard the start rocket explode and I knew that my poor hungover friends were trapped and possibly in danger. Since 1910, 15 people have been killed and every year between 50 and 100 people are injured during the run. I watched with hope and anxious expectation for a glimpse of my friends as they dodged the hundreds of people (actually the most dangerous of the animals to be running as they trip and fall over one another) and evade the angry beasts quickly closing ground behind them. Of course I had my camera to document their incredible journey or possible demise.

The streets are narrow and the bulls are miffed. A formula for
disaster. 15 people have been killed during the running
 since 1910. 
By the time I caught a glimpse of them, they were being closely followed by small herd of death that was quickly closing from 15 yards. I missed my chance with my camera as I watched with dark curiosity. As the bulls past them they dove into the wooden walls of the fence narrowly avoiding the 10,000 lb. black mass of horns that have caused much pain and death in preceding years. With a burst of adrenalin they pried themselves off the fence and followed the bulls into the entrance of the bull ring. They were gone!?!?!

About an hour later, we meet up with them at our prearranged rendezvous. They were dirty, still hung over, and in shock by what they had accomplished. It was 10 Am and we headed for our favorite haunt for a celebratory drink and story time!!!!

One of my favorite pubs during my stay in Pamplona.
Like Paris and its bridges, you must find your own.

I personally never ran with bull during my 3 years of the festival, but memories of my friends confronting their possible death will always be ingrained in my blissful memories of Pamplona and San Fermin.

On a lighter note, the bulls end up on dinner plates in the best restaurants around the city. I always ordered Rabo, braised bulls tail, my favorite dish that I make to this day during the festival. The picture that I thought I had missed during my friends' running was on the front page of the Pamplona newspaper along with the list of injuries that occurred during the days run.

Rabo, braised bulls tail, was my favorite dish during the festival.
They were fighting during the day and dinner at night.
Try it!!! RECIPE LINK!!!

For more information regarding Pamplona and San Fermin click on the following hyperlink to the Pamplona Tourist Board.  
Watch a great video of the complete experience of San Fermin by follow the hyperlink to You Tube.