Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 28: Pamplona, Spain

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

We got up in the morning and kind of half snuck out of the hostel.  We didn’t really need to though because the employees all knew us by then and without looking us up in their system, would have never known that we didn’t actually have a reservation.  We took our train to Pamplona but slept pretty much the whole way there (which was a good thing ‘cause we weren’t going to get a lot of sleep in the next few days).  Andy and I both only brought small soccer-bags with a water bottle, our wallets, train tickets and some food we bought that day.  No change of clothes or anything.  The train station was really packed with foreigners with Australian being by far the majority nationality (not sure if it’s because they tend to be more outdoorsy and adventurous or because it’s their winter so everyone wants to leave and come to Europe.  Either way, everyone around was pretty much in the same boat (so many Eurail pass travelers) so it wasn’t hard meeting people and making friends.  As soon as we got to the train station we tried to book our train back to Barcelona.  Because we didn’t have a place to stay and didn’t have any stuff with us, the original plan was to only stay for a night and take an evening train back the next day.  Very fortunately (you’ll find out why later) all trains the next day were full so we had to spend an extra day in Pamplona.

We walked into the city from the train station and got our first experience of the festival of San Fermin.  For those of you who know nothing about it, I’ll give you a quick rundown: Pamplona is the city.  San Fermin is the festival celebrated in order to honor Saint Fermin who was born in Pamplona and became a priest of the city a long time ago.  The Day of San Fermin is always July 7th and the festival always surrounds it.  The entire event varies in length from year to year (not sure why), but this year it was 8 days long.  The running of the bulls was originally used as a way to transport bulls from one side of the city to another in the 1300s and over time people started running with them.  Over time (and thanks to Ernst Hemingway) the event became very widely known and a very popular place to visit.  A very few percentage of people who partake in the festival actually run with the bulls; they mostly just party all night long for the entire week.  I am not exaggerating whatsoever.  It was unbelievable how many people were constantly drinking, partying, dancing and having a good time.  All the streets were crowded.  A ton of street performers, bands playing everywhere, it was amazing.  This is best showed with these pictures, but just know that this was just about the entire city, all the time.  With the exception of a few hours in the afternoon for the typical siesta, parties were going on at all hours.  The streets were just as crowded at 5 in the morning as they were at midnight.
As we walked around it was amazing how many people were wearing the typical San Fermin outfits.  I, at first, wasn’t sure if that was something I necessarily was going to buy and wear but the entire city was dressed up.  Taxi drivers, employees at the train station, bartenders, tourists, locals, kids, grandparents… everyone was wearing the: white pants, white shirt, red sash & red bandana around the neck (San Fermin was decapitated in France, which is why they wear the red).  So as soon as we could, Andy and I bought the entire outfits.  At the store we went to, the entire outfit cost 20euros but as we pulled out our wallets to pay, the lady in the store saw USD in Andy’s and my wallet.  She asked to see it and said that she’d take $20 instead of 20 euros.  We gladly accepted.

After we were properly dressed, we just walked around for a while taking in the sights and enjoying the culture of the festival.  I really love the fact that Spaniards love dancing.  It seems like everything they do revolves around it… whenever there was music around (which was all the time) you could find plenty of beautiful Spanish women dancing to it.  After a bit of that we went back to the train station, which had a nice grassy area outside it, to try to get some sleep before the big day.  It was a pretty warm night so sleeping outside on the grass wasn’t much of an issue, but in the middle of the night the wind picked up and we moved to right outside the train station to sleep on the ground there.  

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