Every year from July 6th-July 14th, the town of Pamplona in the Basque region of Northern Spain celebrates the centuries old festival of San Fermín. The festival includes parades and processions, fireworks displays, songs and dance, bull fights, and most famously- the encierro, more commonly known as the running of the bulls. Over 1,000,000 attend annually, and the event has become famous around the world, appearing in movies, music, and literature. Here are some tips to enjoy it and come out intact.
1. Don’t run. Just don’t feel pressured to do it at all. That’s the simplest way to make sure you make it out of Pamplona in one piece. Quite often, those who are injured are young tourists who decide to run on a whim. But even seasoned runners and people who have trained for the event can be hurt or killed. Why? Because the running is just as much luck as it is skill. You could be a champion sprinter with all the speed and agility in the world, but it would not matter if someone tripped you from behind at the worst possible time…If you absolutely must run, stay towards the front of the line, away from bulls, because pile-ups have been known to happen. Click to watch how it can all go wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f2KnZ3iqhc
2. Bring as few personal items to the San Fermin festival as possible, and what you do bring, keep them on you at all times. As much as drinks, music, and revelry are associated with the festival, so too is theft. Many who have been will recount losing a camera or a wallet.
3. Monitor your alcohol intake. San Fermin is a drunken free for all that would exhaust even Hemingway (see: Sun Also Rises), and it’s best to have your senses about you if you’re not from the area. Make sure you have friends to watch over you if you have too much.
4. It is virtually impossible to find a hotel room during the festival- book early if you want to stay in one. But many don’t actually get a room there. Many take buses for the day, spend the night partying, and leave in the morning, or make their way to San Sebastian and other local hot spots.
5. Be sure to try Calimocho, an absurd mixture of Coca-Cola and Red Wine. Whether you enjoy it is another matter all together, but it is worth a taste.
6. Make friends! It is, by all accounts, one of the greatest parties in the world. You get to meet people from all over the world, as well as the locals from the Basque region. They have their own language and customs, and are every bit as interesting and fun to be around as their Spanish counterparts.