Postcard of the Week: Bullrunning and Festivals in Pamplona
A few weeks ago I headed back to Northern Spain for the first time in over 10 years (I spent 2 weeks on a school exchange, living with a family in Jaca, years ago) to attend the wedding of a Spanish family friend who introduced us all to the small town in Navarra where she grew up. Travelling to a place where I know a local is my favourite way to visit a new area – as they have anecdotes, they know what life is actually like for the locals and they give you insider restaurant tips!
As well as a browse around Bilbao’s city centre and a quick peek at the Guggenheim Museum, we spent a morning exploring Pamplona, a city almost every foreigner will know of for its legendary San Fermin bull-running through the streets of the city before entering the actual plaza de toros (the next one is 6-14th July 2014). The running of the bulls does take place in other towns as well and it’s not unique to Pamplona, so I’m not entirely sure why this city has gained such fame and others not. Even without the bulls, Pamplona is a lovely city to explore at other times of the year, and some parts of the city afford views over the river far below and into the countryside beyond.
I saw a bullrun for the first time aged 16 on a school trip to Salamanca for a language class. We girls climbed up onto the wooden fenches to get a good view, but the boys (of course, being teenage boys) jumped over and wanted to run with the bulls. They waited, and waited, and then when the bulls finally rounded the corner and came into view, they were a tad shocked by the sheer size of the beasts, and they sped to clamber over the fences back to safety. Not so brave after all! they are certainly a sight to behold from nearby!
But Pamplona is not only about the bullrunning – it’s also a lovely city to stroll through and you may even stumble upon a local Troupe of Giants and Heads festival, as we did (see the Spanish wikipedia page). They are enormous painted figures that parade throught the local streets, spinning around surrounded by dancing locals in traditional dress and marching bands. Below are the photos I took myself in Pamplona.