If you are interested in learning
how to prepare Traditional Spanish dishes but you do not have too much
time to dedicate to it, consider a morning in the kitchen, followed by
a three course lunch .....
locally as "Sanfermines", this raucous festival takes place in the Basque
town of Pamplona between July 6th-14th in honour of the city's patron saint,
San Fermin. It is the most popular and most famous of all Spanish fiestas
and is known throughout the world and visited each year by thousands of
fame is down to the infamous "Encierro" or the "Running of the Bulls",
a dangerous tradition where thousands of locals line the streets of Pamplona's
old town and run the gauntlet will six half ton bulls over an 800 metre
stretch. There is much more to the festival than just the "Encierro" and
they include a lot of other ancient traditions as well as a fair dose of
drinking and partying.
origins of the festival are somewhat convoluted; it seems that over the
centuries several traditions and festivals have amalgamated into one week-long
fiesta. The festival of San Fermin was originally held in September but
was transferred to July in 1591 due to the unpredictable nature of the
autumn weather. Bull running seems to date back to the 14th century and
there is a tradition of it all over Spain where numerous towns and villages
practice the ritual in their festivals.
festival all starts with the "chupizano"; the firing of a rocket which
indicates that the festival has officially begun. Thousands of locals gather
in the central square in front of the town hall and the uproar as the rocket
is fired can be deafening. Thousands of Cava corks are popped and bottles
are sprayed around with much cheer. The packed square then don their famous
red neckerchiefs and tie their red sashes around their waists. A week of
fully-fledged partying is only just beginning.
"Encierro" is clearly the most famous facet to the festival and is probably
the thing that has caused such a huge influx of foreign visitors to the
city in recent years wishing to take part in (or at least witness) the
famous spectacle. The course is just a shade over 800 metres and takes
the bulls to the bullring for the afternoon "corrida" (bullfight). Six
bulls are released every morning of the fiesta between the 7th and the
14th at 8am. The human runners pack the course, buzzing from nervous energy
and adrenalin and attired in white with their traditional red adornments.
A rocket is fired to indicate that the bulls have been released and three
minutes of white-knuckle madness begins as runners try to pick a suitable
point to exit the course without putting themselves in harms way.
no doubting the extremely dangerous nature of the "Encierro"; between 1924
and 1997 there have been fourteen deaths and over 200 serious injuries
with the last fatality occurring in 1995 when a young American tourist
was fatally gored. The "Encierro" is serious business and a rite of passage
for the young Spaniards, many claim that the influx of tourists (who's
experience of bulls, let alone running with them, is non-existent) is making
the "Encierro" even more dangerous.
focal point of much of the festival is the afternoon "Corridas" which take
place at Pamplona's bullring. Due to the late night partying many locals
don't resurface until the afternoon to begin the next round of festivities.
Other highlights of the festival include the "Comparsa de Gigantes" (the
company of Giants), a parade where enormous puppets file through the town
accompanied by brass bands and Guiri Day (Guiri is the Basque word for
foreigners) where the festival pays homage to the overseas visitors who
help make the festival what it is. The city of 200,000 is said to swell
to 2 million for the duration of the festival. Visitors can expect lots
of street parties advancing into the early hours and vast amounts of alcohol
to be flowing. It is in general a very good natured festival and trouble
and aggression are rarely met.
all comes to a dramatic and emotional close at midnight on July 14th with
a massive crowd singing the mournful dirge "Pobre di Mi" (Poor Me) - it's
a magical, candle-lit end to a week of bacchanalian revelry and, once experience,
we can see why it attracts foreign visitors in such vast numbers.