the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (senior wim hoof birthday in zwolle) - fast forward to the following trip (prague)

 

First weekend of July and time for the annual San Fermin festival in Pamplona. We were divided about going to this festival but decided that it was worth popping over to Spain to see what all the fuss is about. However after the experience we both have very different words to describe the festival....I am not sure that the Hoof'ess would ever go back as she thinks that it was a beautiful town destroyed by drunkeness and the orgins of the festival have long been lost and taken over by cheap tetra pack wine. While the Hoof would say it was a crazy place and a crazy festival to experience, and he'd definitely be keen to run next time.

 

The morning after the big night - the festival opens on Friday night and on the Sunday morning we headed into town to watch the second bull run. We were greeted by masses and masses of very drunken people, rubbish everywhere and a very odd smell that we will tamely describe as ''cheese'' which was actually a mixture of spilt tetra pack wine accompanied by other associated liquids that made the aroma rather unpleasant.

 

We arrived only an hour before the start of the run so found it really hard to find a spot to watch the race, so we settled for a point right near the start line before the bulls reached any runners.

 

After the bulls went past, the spectators were allowed out onto the course so we got the opportunity to walk a section of it. This stretch is one of the most dangerous...its an uphill stretch with a building on one side and a stone wall on the other meaning there is no escape route for the runners. It is also followed by a tight corner that is always the scene of run-ins.

 

The Hoof'ess decided to use her scarf as a mask in a vain attempt to try and block out the ''cheese smell''. She had a number of real princess moments and we decided to bail to the quite beach in San Sebastian for the day.

 

Monday morning and the Hoof managed to convince the Hoof'ess to put the princess moments behind her and return to downtown Pamplona to watch the third bull run - there are 8 bull runs in all. Our second attempt was much more successful, but it did mean getting up at 5am! Luckily they had had a chance to semi-clean the streets and the crowd had thinned a little. We headed straight for one of the corners on the track and waitied for the men to assemble the fence around us (and wait for the sun to rise!)

 

It didn't take long for the track area to fill up with keen runners, while we sat and watched from our safe vantage point.

 

The paramedics arrived (en-mass) and received their briefing and allocated positions along our stretch of track.

 

The runners were all eager to get the race started... one was so keen he held up a sign in anticipation of the bulls.

 

Here come the bulls. You have to look really carefully, but there are three bulls in this picute along with heaps of runners diving for the fences to take cover.

 

And there they go past us. Looking at the expressions and body language of the runners is quite telling - you have the experienced locals, the terrified tourists and the drunken and disorientated. But it was all over in a matter of seconds.

 

After the bull run it was off on a road trip south west to Vittoria. First stop was San Sebastian again... the weather yesterday hadn't been up to much and today didn't play the game much either.

 

A man alone with his thoughts in the waves?

 

We struggled coming to terms with the very late eating times of the Spanish when we were in Vittoria, and found ourselves sampling a few tapa's and several beers (for the Hoof) and Mojitos (for the Hoof'ess) while we waited for restaurants to open for dinner. Lucky the Hoof is never far away from his Lonely Planet and we were able to find our way from bar to bar with the greatest of ease!

 

After the party atmosphere of Pamplona and the San Fermin festival, a more romantic weekend in Prague was on the cards.