I would venture to say that most people probably visit Pamplona because of its legendary festival, and, I must admit, we were no exception. With one day and one night in this enchanting city, we managed to see what it was all about…
Pamplona, located in the middle of the Navarra region of Spain, is home to the famous El Encierro, or “The Running of the Bulls.” El Encierro is part of the Festival of San Fermín (Sanfermines) that takes place from July 7-14 each year.
Saint Fermín, co-patron of Navarra, is actually the focus of this annual festival. Before the run begins, the runners gather in front of this small statue of the Saint and ask for his protection and guidance.
The Encierro begins each morning at 8am when two rockets are fired: the first signals the release of the bulls from the corral and the second to notify everyone the bulls are out running in the streets. Look out!
The entire course is about a half mile long and lasts approximately three minutes until the bulls reach their destination at La Plaza de Toros to conclude with a bullfight. At this time a third rocket is fired to announce their arrival to the ring. A fourth and final rocket is fired when the bulls have been rounded up and placed in stalls.
How these old, narrow streets accommodate the raging 1300+ pound animals and the hundreds of manic runners each year, we will never understand. We’re just glad our leisurely stroll through the course was sans the frenzied herd!
Aside from all the bull running, Kevin and I spent some time just wandering around the Old Quarter. With its beautiful public squares, Gothic buildings and old city walls, it is certainly Pamplona’s treasure as well as its historical heart. This plaza in particular, Plaza del Castillo, was a great place for us to relax on a bench and take in the city’s culture.
One thing I did not mention in our previous Spain posts, is a word about the siesta. In Spain, a siesta is a midday rest or lunch (or both) from 2pm to 5pm. Businesses close and people just disappear. It is definitely an amusing experience to see a city virtually empty. Most retail stores open back up at 5pm and stay open until 9pm or 10pm…just in time for dinner. Yep, that’s right. The earliest time people eat dinner in Spain is about 9:30pm, so if you would like to eat before then, you will be dining alone. Most of our meals, and this include pintxos-hopping, began at 10-10:30pm…and we loved every minute of it!
Pamplona is a fascinating place. We enjoyed our short time visiting here and learning more about one of the most famous festivals in the world.
And now off to Barcelona…