Every July our thoughts turn to Pamplona in northern Spain, and the famous running of the bulls during the San Fermin Festival. The festival was made famous worldwide after Ernest Hemingway wrote about it.
If you want to participate in the bull run, the best advice is: Don’t. It is dangerous. You could be gored by one of the bulls. Over the years, more than a dozen people have died, mostly by goring. You could also fall, be trampled on by a bull or fellow runner, or squeezed against a wall by the crowds of people running from the bulls.
But there are less dangerous ways to enjoy San Fermin. Be there at the start on July 6, wearing an old white shirt and a red kerchief around your neck. At noon, a fireworks rocket is launched and revelers douse each other with red wine.
Next day, join the crowds flooding the street to see the statue of San Fermin carried through narrow streets in the old part of the town. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a hotel room overlooking the route.
Every day of the festival, there is a parade of giant heads representing kings and queens from Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Some of these heads are 150 years old.
Then of course, there are the bullfights. The bulls chosen for the daily bull runs end up at the bullring to be killed. On your way in, tip your hat to the memorial stone to Hemingway. Then watch one of the few remaining blood sports in the world. Despite opposition to it by animal rights activists, bullfighting is so central to Spanish identity that it’s not just a national sport: It’s “a national festival.” (T)