When i first went on my adventure to the UK, the plan was to write a blog on all my experiences….life got busy and so i didn’t write much…but this was one of the very first blogs that i did manage to write on my experience at the Running of the Bulls festival in 2009. I didn’t have a blogging site back then and just emailed it to my close friends and family. Every time i read this blog, i remember all those details about this adventure and it gives me the chills.
Let me start by saying this was definitely the craziest holiday I have ever been on!!!!! If you ever get the opportunity, then this is one festival you should experience. The excitement you feel your first time in Pamplona during the San Fermin Festival is something almost indescribable.
The Festival of San Fermin attracts thousands of visitors to Pamplona, Spain every year. The nine-day festival includes a carnival, bullfights and of course, the famous Running of the Bulls.
Every year on July 6th at twelve in the afternoon, the opening ceremony for the San Fermin Festival begins. This has been tradition for the Spanish since 1592 and hasn’t been cancelled since.
When we exited the coach bright and early on the morning of the 6th, we walked into the city and noticed that there were people everywhere wearing white and red outfits – this became a standard sight for the full duration of our tour. It’s traditional to dress in white and have a red scarf tied around your wrist, only when the clock strikes 12 are u allowed to tie the red scarf around your neck. Once we entered the main city the streets became small and they were tightly packed with people. The shops were so tiny and it looked like most of them had transformed from selling normal products to Sangria and Champagne.
Once we hit the town hall we could not see any more ground. It was filled shoulder to shoulder with people spraying sangria on each other and downing champagne. The chants echoed from the walls of the old Spanish buildings and the people, mainly twenty and thirty year olds, began to set ablaze with energy. As 11am hit we were squashed between thousands of men in the town centre (my friend and I were the only silly girls who decided to follow our fellow guy campers and head into the centre – our feeling is that if we were going to do this then we have to do it full force, little did we know what that meant at the time). Everyone was downing cheap 4 euro sangria like there was no tomorrow, we joined in, listen it would have been rude if we hadn’t. The whole time u are squashed between all these people that are chanting, the thrill is amazing, your heart is beating so fast and as it becomes closer to 12 o’clock the chants became louder and louder and the crowd became thicker and thicker. At this point most of the ground was covered in broken glass from the champagne and beer bottles. Falling was no option – You could hear the glass cracking every time you moved!!!
Once 12 o’clock hits, the cannons rumbled through the air and the city burst into screams of joy, praising the party. It’s the most amazing but also PAIN FULL experience of my life. The crowd of people are constantly pushing forward and pushing backwards and it’s a battle to keep your feet under you. People are standing on you, glass is cutting you. I was crying with pain!!!!! As streams of confetti dropped on us we also found out that more sangria was being poured on everyone. Nothing like this in the world exists anywhere else. So hard to sometimes describe in words!!!!!! As we walked away from the crowd’s, people from their balconies were pouring water from their apartments on to us to clean us off. Every time someone did this the crowd would cheer. FYI, Sangria stings allot if you don’t get it out of your eyes and it’s a battle to open and close your eyes without your eyelids sticking together.
I walked away from the opening ceremony with a very badly bruised arm, a massive bruise on my boob and badly bruised feet which were also cut up and had glass in them….this was nothing compared to some people. One of the girls in my camp had a metal bucket dropped on her from one of the balcony’s and it sliced her nose right off, she had to be rushed off to the hospital for plastic surgery. That same bucket bounced off that girls nose and hit her friends forehead, she had to have 10 staples in her forehead. Everywhere you seemed to look you saw people dripping with blood…it looked like a war movie….These are only 2 of the thousands of injuries. HECTIC. So I was lucky I got away so lightly even though i could hardly walk on my feet for days and they were so swollen that I could only wear slops!!
This is one of the chants that they sing at the festival:
Uno de enero, dos de febrero,
tres de marzo, cuatro de abril,
cinco de mayo, seis de junio,
siete de julio, ¡SAN FERMÍN!
A Pamplona hemos de ir,
por la fiesta, por la fiesta
a pamplona hemos de ir
por la fiesta y un buen botín.
First of January, second of February,
third of march, fourth of April,
fifth of may, sixth of June,
seventh of July, ¡SAN FERMÍN!
To Pamplona we will go
for the party, for the party,
To Pamplona we will go
for the party and a good time.
Tuesday we awake bright and early to head into town for the FIRST DAY OF RUNNING OF THE BULLS.
The act of “Running with the bulls” is by no means an easy task. As time goes by the number of injuries and deaths increase, the last mortality had been in 1995 when a young American, Peter Mathews Tasio, was dramatically killed on the horns of a bull. But sadly this year there was another death – a 27 year old British guy was gored in the neck and lung as he was trying to get to a protective barrier during the run. This is the risk you take when you decide to partake in such a dangerous festival.
The run itself is about half a mile long through cobbled, narrow streets marked out by a tall, sturdy double-lined fence so that the bulls know the route to follow. They run is actually over 7 days. It starts off with 6 bulls running and every day they add an extra bull to the run.
It’s mainly men that run as women are frowned upon running, but some women to manage to sneak onto the road to make the run. I opted not to do the bull run, as I’m not the fastest runner and I could see that running would probably end badly for me (even though I’m sure it’s the adrenaline rush that makes u run with all your might). As a rocket goes off, the bulls are let out onto the streets, a second rocket is then let off to make sure everyone knows the bulls are loose in the streets. The runners dash along in front of the bulls, aiming to feel the breath of the bulls on their backs, getting as close as possible – all whilst trying to avoid getting gored by their sharp horns. The runners look for a gap in the fence to slip through or jump over if the bulls get to close, some are lucky some are not!! When the bulls reach the end of the street they run into the bull ring and are steered into the pens.
After the bull run, the runners that have made it into the bull ring gather around and start to torment bulls that are let out one at a time. The bull runs around the bull ring trying to attack the people whilst the people gather around the bull trying to torment it. It’s actually a very cruel thing to watch. When the bull gets tired, they put it back into the pen and release a fresh bull. This carries on a few times. You are actually NOT allowed to touch the bulls with your bare hands, you are only allowed to touch/hit the bull with a rolled up newspaper. If the Spanish see you touching the bull at all they start attacking you…hitting, kicking, punching you….
That night we partied with all the Spanish people on a little road called Boogie Street in the heart of Pamplona. It’s basically a little street with lots of clubs and bars and everyone parties in the road outside all of these places.
So I know it sounds like a scary experience but it was soooo worth it. The energy is completely crazy and your heart is thumping in your chest non-stop!!! It a holiday I will never forget!!!