Surviving San Fermín

Hello! I am back in Madrid after a weekend trip to Pamplona, Spain for San Fermín – or as you may know it, Running of the Bulls. It originally celebrated San Fermín, the first bishop of Pamplona, it is a festival that attracts millions. It was an interesting experience and I cannot wait to share a little more.

The weekend started on Thursday night, happy birthday, America! My group of American friends headed to Hard Rock Café for our “American meals.” Some people had burgers while others like myself has BBQ Pulled Pork. Not a bad way to celebrate. From there, we headed to a friend’s apartment before heading to dance the night away. It was such a great night and it was fun to celebrate from abroad!

However with late nights comes little sleep. I only slept about three hours or so before I woke up. I spent the day running around hot Madrid with one of my friends in preparation for San Fermín. That night, I had some friends over at my place so that we could leave at 2:30 am for Pamplona. After a long, five hour bus ride of people screaming and whistling, we were there. We started walking around to get a feel for the city before the festivities started.

It is traditional to wear white pants, a white shirt, red belt, and red scarf as the “official” attire of the event. Never in my life have I been in a place where everyone was dressed the same. It was insane. At noon, the festival kicked off with the Chupinazo. A fire is fired and it declares the beginning of the activities. At a short girl, going into the weekend, I was extremely nervous that this part of San Fermín may be the end of me. Why is that? Perhaps this video gives a little bit of an idea.

People spent this time throwing various things on other people – from sangria to flour to paint and so much more. Eventually, we found ourselves away from the chaos and headed towards the bus station to a large park.

After, we passed a fountain in Pamplona and a couple people from my group wanted to take full advantage of the water on this hot Saturday. What do they do? Run into the fountain to swim. Now, this started an uproar of people running into the fountain. It was in the middle of a driving circle, making it a little dangerous with the constant traffic. After many people joined and some swimming was enjoyed, the police decided to make an appearance. We all found it a little comical that the police were concerned about people being in a fountain when people do whatever they please during San Fermín.

Now, this is where the humor started for me. A few of my friends wanted to run with the bulls the following day, so they took various opportunities to take naps. The only issue? We didn’t have a hostal. Instead, we braved it and embraced the local outdoors. First and foremost, there was a group nap in a median of a road.

Being the “mom” of the group, I sat and watched everyone’s stuff as my large group slept away. As cars passed next to us, occasionally people would honk over and over or blare music to distract everyone. For me, this was a little humorous, but I still felt bad. Then… my favourite moment happened.

My friends slept through a parade. A parade. I didn’t know that was possible. I was laughing out loud so much as I witnessed this. Eventually, a few of them woke up, however others didn’t move an inch.

We eventually got up for dinner and other things. Then, as the night neared, we headed to the park. That night, there was thousands of people in various groups around the park listening to the live concert and enjoying fireworks. After missing 4th of July in the States this year, it was lovely to watch a firework show! We spent quite a bit of time in the park, and once again, the runners wanted to rest. So, a few people from our group fell asleep in the park.

The looks they received were priceless. NO one sleeps like this at San Fermín… oh well! As the sun went down, it got cold. In order to stay a little warm, we ventured to the bus station. There was one little section open at the station and we decided to make camp there. Once again, I was on watch all night to make sure my friends were okay! Props to them for sleeping on dirty, concrete floors.

We were ready to go by 4 am to get our spots for the running of the bulls. Our friends needed to be ready by 6 am at their spot. Our groups split up as we took our different positions. My smaller group headed towards the finish line. We could not quite find the seats we wanted, so we decided to invest 6€ to head into the bullfighting arena.

Slowly but surely, the stadium started to fill up completely of seas of white and red.

Instead of sitting inside, we wanted to see the run live. We headed to the 3rd level balcony and snuck a spot to watch. We may or may not have had the best spot for the entire race!

Ahh! We were SO nervous from afar!!!

We were able to watch the final parts of the run before the people and bulls entered the arena. I was able to capture a video (however the resolution on Facebook is horrible… sorry!)

Could you imagine being this man? I mean, he and the bull looked into each other’s eyes.

It was so crazy to be so close to the action! We were in shock and terrified of what could happen to our friends. Some of the videos from the past are terrifying.

This picture only shows about half of the people who participated in the run and made it to the finish line. After all the bulls from the run are away, a few additional bulls are released in the arena for “fun.” All of my friends who ran and made it to the arena said this was the most terrifying part. The bulls are more agressive and they simply charge after you.

But! My friends survived without any injuries. We were so proud afterwards. :)

While San Fermín was a rather interesting experience, I am not sure if I would return. My OCD self struggled a little with the ridiculous amounts of trash lingering around the city after a few hours. I stole this picture from my friend to give you a better idea.

I mean… that’s disgusting, right? And this is a cleaner part! I wish I had a better picture of the streets in the morning. The smell was horrid and dirty water found its way to your feet and into your shoes… gross.

Lastly, we headed on our 5 hour bus ride home dirty and exhausted. I was able to sneak a few hours of sleep for the first time all weekend. I’m still running on about 3 hours a night… so cheers to an easy week!

My friend also uploaded there pictures from Granada a few weekends ago of our group and they are too sweet not to share.

I’m real thankful for these people in my life. Spain does good. As always, thanks for reading and Happy Tuesday!

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2 responses to “Surviving San Fermín

  1. Wow! Amazing pictures ! What a wonderful experience to see. I agree, how do you sleep though a parade!!

  2. Pingback: The happenings | courtney rohde·

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