The San Fermin Festival, commonly known as the Running of the Bulls, takes places in Pamplona, Spain from July 6th to 14th. Kick-off, or in the case bull-off, starts off at 8am when hundreds of drunken people (mostly men) sing and then get trampled and gorged by angry bulls. Sounds like a good time.
Located an hour and 15 minutes south from San Sebastian, it makes for an ideal day-trip to see what the terrain is like when it’s not slammed with people and snorting beasts.
The course is not long. I was expecting something like a 5K or a half-mile through long boulevards. The walk from the start-line to the bull arena is maybe seven minutes. Running it would take three minutes and I wouldn’t suggested running it as tour groups can be just as hazardous as bulls.
The other thing that struck me are the two sharps turns. I don’t care about the drunken masses, it’s the bulls who have to stop dead in their tracks and probably end up being overturned. If you have stance against the festival and bullfighting, I understand you’re point. Those turns can’t be good for anybody, but it’s a tradition that won’t end in our lifetime.
There are signposts along the way that explain the course, which starts at the “bull pen” at the beginning of Cuesta de Santo Domingo, which is a car lot when the festival is not running.
The masses run towards it city with the decorative balconies. The festival begins and ends there. There’s a cookie shop and eyeglasses store in case you’re hungry from sprinting away from certain death and need your eyes checked.
Then you make a left at the end of the street on Calle Curia and then a quick right on the main drag, Calle de la Estafeta. Those two turns is where most of the damage can occur. There’s also a Burger King which I found funny. “OMG, there’s a bull that wants to kill us! Let’s get a Whopper!”
Calle de la Estafeta is the main draw in your visit with loads of sweets shops, jamon bars, souvenir joints where you can buy those red bandannas the racers wear and lunch spots.
At the end of the street is a high-traffic, major two-lane street that leads into the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona. I hope they stop traffic for this during the festival. This is where they racers convene and act like fools by prodding the pulls. Notice the red door at the arena, since red attracts the bull.
By the stadium is a statue of Ernest Hemingway, who documented the festival in The Sun Also Rises.
I would not take part if the ritual and the hoards of spectators would be a turn off, but it was interesting to see the lay of the land. The lanes are pretty narrow. I’m rooting for the bulls in this case. Just like Wesley Snipes said in Passenger 57, “Always bet on black.”