Running of the Bulls Festival

Trip Start Jun 06, 2009
Trip End Aug 31, 2009

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Navarra,
Saturday, July 4, 2009

I made it to Pamplona and will be spending 4 nights here. The opening ceremony for the festival starts on the 6th at 1200 and the first running of the bulls is the 7th at 7:30am. I will be running on the 8th more than likely. If I donīt post anything for awhile and you hear on the news about an American who is the last death since ī95, then itīs probably me.

Learn more about the festival-

Crazy Opening Ceremony-

Bull Running-

More to follow...

This place is CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY!!! Yesterday was the opening ceremony and it was insane. A guy and I got there about an hour early and tried to sqeeze our way into the middle. We made it there just in time before the crowds really surged. For the ceremony, you are in the little plaza in front of a building that the mayor comes outside of and declares the festival underway at 12 noon. The build up to that point is nuts. Everyone is dressed in white with a red scarf around their waist and a red scarf. Once noon hits, you take your scarf and tie it around your neck for the festival. During that hour up to it people are drinking, singing, and going crazy. People are pouring and spraying sangria, wine and champagne everywhere. Then the people on the balconies around the plaza are throwing buckets of water on the people below. About 15 minutes before noon hit, people starting pushing and shoving like crazy. Then the waves started to commence in the crowd. We were standing there then you would just get pushed really hard and so does everyone around you. Since you are touching the 10 other people around you, you canīt really fall. And if you did fall, all the glass from the champage bottles would have not been good for your hands or knees. There were a few couples that were crying and pushing their way out because it was too hot and crazy. I was fortunate enought to see the Mayor come out and announce the start. Once 12 hit, people started to push their way out and I was caught in the middle of it. I just went with it because I was tired of being crammed. I came out of the mess sticky and pink. That hour I was in the mix, is the only time I want to spend spooning a perfectly good stranger. Unfortunately a male stranger.

Iīm staying in a Spanish familyīs house here with 6 other Americans. Thankfully 2 of the people have a good handle on Spanish because they donīt know any English. We have a balcony right over the bull run street and all the madness. It is a pretty sweet spot that we were lucky to get. But if youīre a light sleeper, then it might be hard to sleep because we have a bar right below us and for some reason the marching bands and street performers like to stop right in front of the house at all hours of the day and night. Fortunately last night my friend Sangria helped me sleep through some of it.

Today will be an easy day because tomorrow morning I will run with the bulls. 4 of my roommates ran it this morning and had a great time.

I went to a bullfight on the first night.  My tour guide in Barcelona described what a bullfight was like so I kind of knew what would happen.  Iīm not one for animal rights but I must say it seemed kind of cruel to the bull!  According to my tour guide, first they pump the bulls full of drugs to get them all riled up.  Then they brought the bull out into the ring and they have 6 matador guys out there making him run back and forth and taunting him into exhaustion.  As soon as the bull would get close to them, they would run behind a wall and the bull would slam into it.  After about 5 minutes of him running around, they bring out 2 guys on horses and the horse has armor on him and a blindfold.  The bull would slam into the horse and try to lift him up, then the guy on top would use his big spear and stab him a few times.  It appeared they were aiming for the shoulder blade area to further weaken him.  Then 3 of the 6 matadors would each get 2 small hand spear things.  One by one they would run up to the bull and stab the bull with these spears and which would stay in him until the end.  When the bull was tired and had been stabbed 8-12 times, the main matador would come out and play with him.  Just making the bull run around him while he would do this dance thing.  The whole time they were acting like a badass over the bull.  After 10-15 minutes of dancing with the bull, he would get his sword and try to stab it into the heart in 1 try.  Sometimes it worked out but not that often.  Sometimes the bull would be down but not fully dead.  Then a different guy would walk over and stab it in the brain.  When the bull was fully dead, 3 horses would come out and drag the bull out of the ring.  The procession happened 6 different times.  One matador even got flipped by the bull which was pretty funny.  All in all it was cool to see but again, it didnīt seem like a fair fight between man and beast. 

Funny story:  As I was leaving the bullring, I saw the matadors in a van and people around them trying to get autographs.  I could see one of the matadors through the window and I gave him a wave and a smile that said "I just slept with your sister."  And after about a second, he  gave me a "whatīs up" head nod that says he was in a bad mood or he didnīt like me. 

Update to house:  We all donīt have keys to the house so we have to get buzzed in from whoever is in the house.  In the house weīre in lives grandma, mom and a 14 year old son who is shy around  us.  The boy probably speaks the best English but not really.  The grandma is always in the house and I have yet to see her leave.  I donīt think she has ever left the house because she keeps trying to talk to all of us but only a few of us speak Spanish.  She is always trying to talk to us about random stuff and I have to keep saying that I donīt understand in Spanish.  I think she is just really lonely and wants someone to talk too.  Poor granny!!

Bull Run:  The running is a really big deal here.  All the balconies are filled with people, police, EMTīs everywhere, and cameras rigged on high-wires to catch the drama unfold.  The way the Running of the Bulls works is, they have 12 bulls in a pen on one end of the stretch and then at 8 am they open the door and let off a firework to let you know they opened it.  6 of the bulls are wild and the other 6 are tame and are used to help guide them to the bullring at the end.  The people running it have to meet up in a small plaza at 7 am and then they lock you in.  Then the police clear the streets of remaining drunks and of all the trash from the previous night.  They they put up the wood gates to keep you in and also the bulls.  At about 7:30, the people are released to go as they please.  They can go to the start or the end of the run.  There is no way that you can run the entire thing because there is just too many people in your way.  I woke up at about 6:30 and just layed there for a bit because I wasnīt feeling too well.  My stomach started to hurt the previous night and now felt worse-not from drinking.  And I was extremely tired from my 4 hours of sleep.  So I layed there debating to run or not.  Some of the house momsī friends and family started to show up to watch from the balcony.  I must say, I think that balcony is one of the best for the festival.  You can see all the way down the longest street of the run and you can see Dead Manīs Corner.  The corner that bulls like to slip and slide into the wall and crush any idiot in their way.  At about 7:30 I saw tons of people in the street below us preparing to run.  I debated internally for a few minutes and I said "screw it!"  Iīm only here once.  So I put on my white shirt and pants, red scarf, and red sash thing around my waist and walked down to the street.  I must say I heard a lot of English in the streets.  More so than Spanish.  Which tells you something of the kind of person that will try it.  People were doing the old stetching thing and getting psyched up.  Surprisingly I didnīt see anyone drunk.  Or maybe they hid it well.  There were also a few females out on the street too.  At about 5 minutes till, I was trying to think of my plan.  My plan was once I see the bulls, to not be in front of them and run beside them.  A good plan I thought.  Except that I couldnīt see down the street at all because there was a billion people on the street.  Being that Iīm a short guy, I tried to find something to lift myself up with. The next thing I knew, I heard the rocket go off and then a flood of people running towards me prematurely.  I knew this would happen because my roommates ran it the day prior.  So I waited a little bit and tried to see over people.  The next thing I knew a shit-load of bulls were right there and I was being pushed up against the wall by a lot of people.  I was probably about 10 feet from the bulls but didnīt have the chance to do anything at all.  I suppose I could have pushed my way in or stayed more in the middle of the street but I opted to not be in the middle and have the bulls trample me.  After they passed, I decided to just start running to the bullring.  Since the course is so short, I made it there quickly and we all ran into the middle of the bullring.  The stadium was packed with people watching all of us in the middle.  After about 2 minutes, another group of 4 bulls came running into the ring and were quickly penned in.  Apparently they are released at separate times or something.  So my big day of riding wild bulls like a cowboy wasnīt so!  Iīm sure I could have fought my way into the mix of things but I think I have a little bit of common sense not too.  I wasnīt really afraid of the bulls.  I was afraid of the people pushing and shoving their way so they can touch the bulls or run with them.  I was watching the run on the house tv afterward and the bulls looked like Moses parting the Red Sea with the people.  There were just so many people all around the bulls.  Youīre allowed to have a rolled up newspaper to smack the bulls in case something happens.  And you could see all these arms touching or smacking the bulls.  And a few idiots almost got trampled by the pack. 

Bottom Line:

Ease for Americans: Easy.  My 2 years of Spanish 10 years ago finally payed off.  I think I learned more Spanish in 10 or however many days Iīve been here for.  The Spanish love to fiesta!  My original plan was to do Spain and Portugal for a week a piece but I had to cut out Portugal all together because I stayed here too long.

Fun Factor: Awesome!  There are so many things to do here. 

Security: As long as you are smart, you are fine. 

THUMBS UP:   I enjoyed my time here.  Iīm even going to really learn Spanish now when I return to school in January.  La práctica hace la perfección

Thatīs all she wrote for now.  I have 6 hours or so until I head on a plane for Rome.  Adios!
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cwald on

Run Adam, Run!
Cool! Must be fun to be part of such a famous event. Have fun, be safe, can't wait to here the 'after' story!

quinn000 on all sounds Fabulous!!
Sounds like you are having quite an adventure! Some has me concerned but it sounds like you are being smart about it! Your travel logs are great to read and I love all the pictures. It would make a great book! :-) Stay healthy and smart!!

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