Wednesday, June 30, 2010

San Fermin (Running of the Bulls)

Today a friend of mine asked me for some info and recommendations on San Fermin, otherwise known as the Running of the Bulls and so I decided I should share my recommendations with everyone.

First off, San Fermin is crazy; crazy awesome. It is definitely one of the best parties I have ever been to and i highly recommend checking it out even if you have no intention of taking part in the running. Made famous by Earnest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises," the fiesta takes place annually from July 6th to 14th and is week long party of everything in excess. The festival is essentially a religious celebration of Saint Fermin, the patron saint of the Navarre region; however,over the centuries the religious aspects of the fiesta have become intertwined with excessive drinking, bull running and bull fights, culminating in a truly amazing experience.


The party begins at noon on the 6th with Chupinazo when thousands of people gather in front of the town hall to cover each other in Sangria, champagne, eggs, mustard, champagne, water, flour, and anything else someone thinks to bring.


The first Encierro(running of the bulls) takes place on the 7th, and is usually the busiest day. The length of the run is some 800 metres (about half a mile) and you don't have to sign up anywhere to take part; you just have to be in the town square by 7:00 am. At 8 a first rocket is fired and you'll be given a couple minutes to get a head start on the bulls and to choose a section that you'd like to run. A second rocket is fired to signal the release of the bulls and simultaneously sparks panic in the crowd of runners. In the midst of the panic the bulls charge their way down the narrow alleys taking out anything in their path (be sure not to be). If you manage to avoid injury during the running, make your way into the bull ring and give a shot a taunting a young bull with capped horns (a great deal of injuries actually occur here). I had a great experience with the running and personally I found the most frightening part of it all was the panic of everyone around me. I can certainly cay it was one of the best rushes i have ever had feeling of accomplishment after made the beer and sangria taste even better.


Most of the bullfight tickets are owned by club members leaving only 10% of the total tickets are officially on sale. These tickets are sold the day before each bullfight at special box offices just in front of the bullring and which open at nine o´clock in the evening. If you are prepared to queue up, you can get tickets in this way. If you don't feel like waiting, and you have some money you'd like to get rid of, tickets can be purchased from scalpers for double the regular price.


Hotels and accommodations in pamplona are really expensive and hard to find during San Fermin. I ended up renting a station wagon with 3 other guys in Barcelona, sleeping in the car in Pamplona, and then dropping the car off in San Sebastian. The drive from Barca to Pamplona is only about 4 hours and there are lots of overnight parking lots with outhouses and such.
Sleeping in a park is definitely an option and many people do that, they even have a bag storage in town where u can leave your stuff overnight. I'm not really sure about how difficult it is to get in and out of town with transit because I was driving but i assume that if you are gonna take the train you should try to book at least a couple days before.

Tips and Tricks

-If u have a money belt or anything, Pamplona is definitely the place to use it. It is the only place in Europe that I used one. There are tons of pickpockets attending San Fermin and they even cut through peoples shorts and pants to steal wallets.

-If you're gonna buy the white pants, red sash and scarf getup it's all easily available in Pamplona.

-Dont wear anything you don't want covered in Sangria.

-Wear good closed toe shoes(NO SANDALS). There is broken glass all over the ground and the last thing you want to do is get a foot full of stitches, especially if you are wanting to run.

Good Luck, and most importantly have fun!

Friday, June 25, 2010

International Beer of the Week: Japanese pseudo-beer

This week I'm doing something slightly different. I wanted to write something about Japan to ease the pain of their exit from the World Cup. Japan produces some great beers and beer has been produced in Japan since the 17th century. That being said, Japan also produces some other products which are similar to beer and to a tourist who can't read Japanese could be mistakenly purchased as beer. But BEWARE, these alternative products are not beer, in the purest sense, but are other malt beverages brewed to sidestep Japan's alcohol taxation laws (Japan's alcohol tax system divides beer-like malt beverages into four categories based on malt content: 67% or higher, 50 to 67%, 25 to 50%, and less than 25%). As a result of the strict alcohol laws, Japanese brewers have responded by subdividing the beer market into 3 different malt alcoholic beverages; Bīru (containing more than 67% malt), Happoshu (beer-like beverage with less than 67% malt), and the relatively new dai-san bīru (non-malt brews made from soybeans and other ingredients).

As was previously stated, Japanese beer can be great. The major national brands (Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo) are all capable of producing a fine range of bīru in addition to the many microbreweries putting out quality brew. Asahi's headliner is Asahi Super Dry but they also produce a range of beer styles from stout to German pilsener. Sapporo is now known for its signature Sapporo Beer, as well as Yebisu and its Black Label range. Kirin's main beers are Kirin Lager and Kirin Ichiban. A great craft beer which I had the pleasure of trying in Tokyo was Coedo, Shiro. Coedo is a small craft brewery that produces a range of foreign styles. The "Shiro"(white)beer which I tried was a non-filtered wheat beer. The beer was excellent and I found it refreshing with fruity overtones. Coedo is one of the hundreds of Craft breweries springing up all over Japan, So be sure to seek out some of the lesser known brews in addition to the big 3.

Happoshu is a slightly different animal. Introduced in Japan in the 1990's and steadily gaining poularity, today, the majority of happoshu contains less than 25% malt thus allowing up to 75% adjuncts including rice, corn, potato, starch, and sugar). I tried several Hopposhu products while in Japan and as one might expect they were not particularly good. To the un-informed beer drinker, these beverages taste like regular (bad)beer but have the extra appeal of a lower price.

Dai-san bīru is just terrible. Containing no malt, these beverages are not technically classified as beer. They contain soy, corn, or pea protein instead of malt. The advantage to drinking Dai-san bīru is price, even cheaper than Happoshu it is the perfect for the extremely money conscious drinker.

So what's the takeaway from all of this? If you are in Japan and looking for a few casual and nice tasting beers try a premium beer from one of the major brands or look for a craft brew; however, if your looking to get pissed up I recommend starting with a nice beer and moving on to a dai-san bīru as the drunkenness deplets your sense of taste along with the thickness of your wallet.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cambodian Street Food

Looking for a hangover cure to kick off your site seeing in Phnom Penh. Try the local take on a French Classic. Frog Legs (with the rest of the body included as well).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

'Magic' drink that claims to reduce drunkenness

If the claims of these French magicians are true then I will be ordering at least a years supply.

"A “magic” drink claiming to reduce drunkenness and ease hangovers launches in France this week, its makers said on Tuesday, prompting scepticism and alarm among experts and health and safety campaigners.

The makers of Outox, a sparkling canned drink, claim it is a “revolutionary” product that “greatly speeds up” the breakdown of alcohol in the blood, according to an invitation to the media launch on Friday.

Sceptics say the drink has not been scientifically proven and could encourage people to drink more or to drive while drunk."

Full Article

International Beer of the Week: Mythos

Country: Greece

Best Enjoyed: On a beach on one of Greece's many beautiful islands.

In honour of Greece's first ever win at the World Cup finals I have decided to review a beer described as the world’s most famous Hellenic beer.

Named for the Greek word meaning "story" Mythos Brewery was founded in 1997 and is brewed in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece. Under the expertise of a Greek Master brewer, Mythos Brewery produces a light straw-coloured, medium bodied, pilsner style lager.

To taste, Mythos tells a story indeed. The initial flavour is slightly grainy with the sweetness relatively low. It has a distinct "skunky" flavour resulting from the Saaz hops and some notes of citrus. Overall quite a herbal beer, with a bready finish.

This beer didn't particularly impress me but it was enjoyable and refreshing when I sipped one on the beach in front of the Pink Palace Hostel on the insland of Corfu.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Favourite Travel Photos: Dalat, Vietnam

Thursday, June 10, 2010

International Beer of the Week: BeerLao

This week’s featured beer: Beerlao Lager (5% Alc./Vol.)

Country: Laos

Best Enjoyed: In the cool shade of a café on the banks of the Mekong in Vientiane. Or for the more adventurous (read: partier), while riding a tube down the Nam Song river in Vang Vieng, stopping at each riverside bar for fresh one.

Lao Brewery Co. has been brewing in Vientiane since 1973 and their original product, Beerlao, is one of the most successful Lao exports , currently available in 13 countries worldwide.
Beerlao lager is made from Pilsen malt imported from France, Hallertauer Magnum hops and dry yeast from Germany, and local rice and springwater treated by sand filter and activated carbon. These ingredients combine to create a beer with tastes of light pale malts and rice with a light cereal sweetness and minor hop character and bitterness. Available in 330 ml and 640 ml bottles and since mid 2009, 330 ml cans this is Not the greatest beer in the world, but certainly one of the best in the region. If you are in Laos and craving a beer, Beerlao is likely to be your only option, and on a hot day you should find it to be an extremely refreshing beverage.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beer of the Week: Sarajevsko Pivo

So this is a new segment that I plan to update weekly: International Beer of the Week.

This week’s beer: Sarajevsko Pivo

Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Best enjoyed: At a café or bar in the Bascarsija (old town of Sarajevo)

Sarajevska pivara, the brewery that produces Sarajevsko Pivo, has been in operation for over 150 years in the capital city of Sarajevo and along with the rest of the city Sarajevsko Pivara has seen its share of tough times. During the Serbian siege of Sarajevo, taking place from 1992 through 1996, nearly 10,000 people were killed in what would be the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Throughout this devastating period of Sarajevo’s history Sarajevska pivara’s doors remained open, beer production continued and the natural springs which flows out of the Sarajevska brewery became the only source of drinkable water in the entire city.
With such an remarkable history one hopes that beer produced by such a brewery would be equally as intriguing. This particular Pale lager is light yellow in colour with a big bubbled, to fluffy transparent-white head. The flavor isn’t anything to be remembered dry, bitter ans a slight corn flavor with a long and bitter finish. The corn flavor comes as no surprise as this beer does contain some corn. Overall not a great beer, but that being said it is the perfect beer to sip while sitting in the astonishing Turkish quarter of Sarajevo. And what the hell, that brewery’s got character, so pick a litre from the closest grocery, or head to a quaint old town cafe and enjoy!
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