|San Fermín is probably Spain’s most famous fiesta. In fact, it is one of the best known festivals in the world, to a certain extent because of Ernest Hemingway’s enthusiasm for it, but also because it is one of the most exciting experiences in the life of anyone who attends — believe me. Is worthwile to rent a car in Pamplona airport or Pamplona city center to enjoy the fiesta and later take a rest o discover Navarra.|
|The Txupinazo, Rocket. The kick-off to San Fremín happens on July 6 at midday every year. Thousands of people gather in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where a rocket is let off to signal the start of the celebrations, and the traditional “Pamploneses, Viva San Fermín, Gora San Fermin!” (“People of Pamplona, Long Live San Fermín,” in Spanish and Basque”) is declaimed. The party then begins in earnest, people drinking, dancing, spraying each other with cava, and so on. Many will have experienced their last moment of sobriety until the fiesta is over.
The Encierro, Bull Run
If you are going to run, inform yourself properly first – this information is good but not enough. And don’t even think of it if you are drunk. If you intend to at least watch an encierro (and what are you doing here if you don’t?), you will need to find a vantage point well before 7.30 am. Don’t try to get too close, i.e., beyond the barriers, you will only get moved out by the police and have to start all over again.
The Corrida, Bullfight. To purists, this is even more central a part of the fiesta than the encierro, which after all would not exist if it were not for the bullfight. It is held every afternoon from July 7 to 14 at 6.30 pm. There are notable differences between standard bullfights and those in San Fermín.
The Procession. The Procession of San Fermín takes place on July 7 at 10 am. It is a religious affair, involving the statue of the saint and various official bodies, but is lively and photogenic.
Giants and Cabezudos, Bigheads. These are the most important figures carried by dancers in the comparsa, the parade which entertains people in the mornings of San Fermín.
Other Events. There is always something happening in San Fermín: a concert, a firework display, the (unofficial) struendo or drum banging… According to the municipal website, “158 programmed performances … happen 24 hours a day throughout the festival, every 90 minutes there is a different act.” The most unmissable is the Basque Rural Sports display, if only because you may never get another chance to see anything like them.
The Pobre de Mi, Poor Old Me. At midnight on July 14, Pamplona’s peñas, party clubs, gather in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to sing this only half-ironic tragic song, which goes “Pobre de mí, pobre de mi, que se han acabado las fiestas de San Fermín” (“Poor old me, the San Fermín fiesta has finished.” The “Poor Old Me” has a double meaning, not only grieving for the end of the fiesta, but also lamenting the sad state in which the singer finds himself after eight days of non-stop partying.
Practical San Fermín
What to Wear. July in Navarre is usually hot and close. You are not obliged to wear the traditional San Fermín red-and-white combo, but you will feel less conspicuous if you do and probably enjoy yourself more. It is very straightforward: white trousers and shirt, with a red neckerchief (the red waistband is probably overdoing it).
Food and Drink. San Fermín is not just a drunken revelry, in fact it is a thoroughly family oriented affair. But if you are drinking, and something tells me you might be, take my advice, eat as much as you can, when you can, and try not to get carried away with the drinking euphoria: the idea is to reach a level of intoxication and maintain it, not go over the top. Your staple food will probably be bocadillos and raciones, but Pamplona has taverns and restaurants aplenty. The problem there is timetables: remember, Spaniards, including Basques, all want to dine at the same time, 10, 10.30, or later, so getting a table at 11.00 can be tricky indeed
. This is the most emblematic part of San Fermín. Every morning at 8.00 am from July 7 to 14, the bulls which are to be used in that afternoon’s bullfight are run to the bull ring, and hundreds of mozos, young people, run with them. The runners assemble half an hour beforehand to take up their positions along the route – there are two ways for them to enter (the rest of the route being closed off), from the Plaza del Mercado or the Plaza Consistorial. A rocket is let off to signal that the gate should be opened and another when all the bulls have left their compound. The runners do not race the bulls, which would be impossible, but run ahead of them, trying to keep up with the pace, about 50 metres being as much as is recommendable to try before getting out of their way as cleanly as possible. Many runners carry a rolled up newspaper, to distract a bull if necessary.