Sunday, July 15, 2012


This past week, has been the week of the festival of Sanfermines in Pamplona, a celebration of the city's patron saint, San Fermín.  Every morning of Sanfermines begins with "el encierro," (the running of the bulls) at 8:00 am, followed by parades and "las corridas," (bullfights) later in the day.  The streets of Pamplona are filled with crowds of people dressed in the traditional white clothes with red scarves and belts.  Pamplona is a party 24/7 the entire week, with people hanging around and drinking in the streets all day and all night.  Our university group went to see "el encierro" on Wednesday, which meant we had to leave Bilbao at 4:30 am for the 2 hour bus ride so that we wouldn't miss the action.  We got seats in the arena where the bulls and crazy participants run to, and saw the people flood into the ring followed by huge charging bulls.  After the bulls are herded out of the ring, a young bull is brought out to run around the crowd and charge people.  It is a very unusual form of entertainment, but definitely a big part of the culture here.  Another Sanfermines tradition is to eat churros con chocolate after el encierro.  Sticks of fried dough dipped in thick, rich hot chocolate - of course this was my favorite part of the Sanfermines festival! We spent a few hours walking around the town visiting a flea-market area and watching a parade of "gigantes y cabezudos," which are giant puppets that people walk around with a sponge attached to a stick and try to whack kids on the head with it.  I think that would be considered borderline child abuse in the US, but here, it's just part of the fun!

After enjoying the festivities in Pamplona, we headed to San Sebastian. This is a city known for its beautiful beaches and exciting nightlife. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and cloudy that day, so we couldn't enjoy the beach, but we walked around visiting shops and got delicious gelato before returning to Bilbao.

Milan and I in the arena before el encierro

el encierro 
¡churros y chocolate!
gigantes y cabezudos

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