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"Remember what your mother said..." Spain Things to Do Tip by SeanPatrick

Spain Things to Do: 1,012 reviews and 1,613 photos

Remember what your mother said when you were found doing something you weren't supposed to? 'What if everybody did it?' Well, if you go to Spain, go in July and you'll find out. The Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona from the sixth through the fourteenth is not to be forgotten. To be sure, there is little crime beyond petty theft, and not much of that either, but the street is a mess. There's constant noise and shouts of drunken revelry. Everyone does as they please without bothering anyone. Part of the reason for this is that no one is bothered by anything. Street cleaners do an excellent job every morning to allow the city only to be filthied again the next day, but somehow this all fits. It's all part of the party. Unless you're a neat freak or someone who can't stand a little odor, you HAVE TO go!
This is by far the best party in the world. The opening of the Festival in front of the Mayor's house is a highlight. People are packed in like sardines and have no choice but to sway with the crowd. Food and beverages are thrown by the partiers and chants rise up every few minutes. People are cooled off as residents pour buckets of water requested from below with the 'agua' chant from below. This is not an event for anyone who prefers quiet to mayhem.

Once the Fiesta has opened, people flock to the local bars and clubs to continue the revelry. Language is no barrier as people from all over the world laugh, dance, drink, and celebrate with each other. Even those who don't speak your language are your close friends during these eight days. There are multiple concerts, shows and religious events throughout. I recommend that you go to at least one of each of these. Although religious events may not be your main concern, you can not fully appreciate the tradition, the pagentry, and the meaning of the festival without seeing at least one of the ceremonies. This further enhances the experience as you see the fuller picture of what this means to the locals.

Don't be disturbed by the people sleeping in parks, it's all part of the experience. You may even want to join them! Just leave your bags in one of the 'Left Luggage' offices for a small price and bring a warm sleeping bag with you. (Even though the days are hot, nights can be very cold. A water-proof sleeping bag is also recommended, regardless of the forecast, as street-cleaners and sprinklers are not welcome wake-up calls.) While this works for a couple of nights, a bed and shower are highly recommended for at least a night or two during the festival for recovery and a good rest for the rest.

The bullfights are also an integral part of the festival. If you want tickets, show up early. I stood on line for six hours and the ticket windows were open for five minutes, leaving many disappointed tourists waiting. The reason for this is that most of the tickets are owned by the locals. Either get to the front of the line or expect to pay $40-$50 American to a scalper to get in. (Incidentally, as I was told by some of the extremely friendly locals at the bullfight, it is customary to eat after the third bull is killed.)

Finally, and most important: RUN WITH THE BULLS! While you will want to turn in early the night or nights before you run, it is well worth it for the most exciting experience of your life. This, however, is only true if you run, rather than stand by a fence, wait until the signal is given that the bulls were released, and dodge under it. Don't run the full length. I don't care who you are, the bulls are faster. Also, don't run on the weekend. These runs are the most crowded as weekend vacationers join everyone else. In these cases, the people are as dangerous as the bulls. Tripping or getting pushed are all the more likely, all the more harmful, and, in some cases, all the more deadly. Provided that you follow the friendly advice of serious runners like myself, you'll be fine. Don't follow the advice, don't come asking for one of my viral organs!

Address: Pamplona

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  • Written Aug 25, 2002
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