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!
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