San Fermin, Pamplona - The celebration of Stupidity.

Sat 13 Jul 2013

San Fermin - The celebration of stupidity.

Seeking out first person experiences of the world is, in my opinion, the only way to know your truth of anything.

I have sometimes had the occasion to stop someone that might say "I don't like _____" (some celebrity). My response is, "So you have met them?" So often we judge from afar.

Thus, I have now explained my being in Pamplona for  San Fermin, with its questionable "Running of the bulls" - I wanted to see for myself before casting judgement.

Arriving at dusk with a group of friends by car, we had prebooked accommodation outside the centre of the city. We were easy able to board the 18 bus to the city centre already wearing the mandatory white clothes, with splashes of Red.

In town the 6th night of San Fermin was in full flight. A mass of White and Red people in various states of intoxication were having a fantastic time. Under foot, plastic cups, beer bottles and the odd sleepy head lay across the centre square, adjacent grass areas bars and dance floors.

Maybe the company made it even better than it was, but the atmosphere was fantastic. A massive celebration included the young and the old, the tubby and aging blonde, many Spanish, with echos of french and english, USA and the token Aussie.

Alternating between club dance floor and the band stand kept the party in motion with a light lubricating of alcohol.

Tick the box, a party experience akin to Cologne Karnival or a Woodford new year.

The looming 8am running of the bulls provided ample reason for my young cohorts to head home for 3 short hours of slumber.

Gathering oneself onto a bus at 7am is no mean feat, and considering stupidity and human sacrifice were on the breakfast menu, there was little reason to slouch.

Advised to head to the bullring, the 6 Euro ticket was an easy purchase for a second tier viewpoint with excellent angle toward the entrance that the Runners and Bulls would appear.

Big screens, old crackling speakers and a marching band brought the crowd to fever pitch as the celebration of stupidity started.

Runners could be seen on the TV making their way, with the occasional fallen being stood on by a 600kg hoof. In front of us the first runners, who sprinted arrived to the arena to be pelted with bottles from the crowd, undoubtedly for their cowardice.

The bulk of the runners then started to pour through the gate when hell descended.

A number of runners must have tripped at the arena gate, causing more to trip and in a matter of seconds a body crush number 200 or more blocked the entrance. Behind them 3.5 ton of beef steak armed with horns was minutes away.

It is simply the worst thing that I have ever witnessed. An outcome un-imagined by  the runners was now playing out as they would have run short of oxygen in their blood stream, and do little more than try and inch out. The celebration of stupidity reached a crescendo. Below other runners tried desperately to pull people out (yes, there were women that stupid too). In the bleachers, the mother in front looked away, but did little to shield the child beside her aged about 8 years.

It was sickening, one of my friends started to cry. "The humanity" would have been the cry back in the day, but for me now, "The stupidity".

The bulls careened into the human mass and a simple consideration of physics still showed no winners. The crushed being further crushed, the back of the pack smashed with horns and slightly aggrieved bulls. One bull even tried to mount his colleagues in an effort to reach their pre-programmed centre stage.

It must have been only been 3 to 4 minutes, but the pulling and the crawling eventually made way for people to be released and the bulls able to tromp the breathless and the almost lifeless into the arena.

Pandaemonium ensued with the able runners back to the  stupid sport of bull teasing. At the sides a number of crumpled bodies were passed over heads to somewhere for comfortable for them to be pronounced nearly dead.

I left.

I bought a coffee in the centre square to fully consider the memory I know owned and enjoy the stench of beer vomit piss shit and other juices about a site now been cleaned with pressure hoses and an army of city staff.

I left the square.

Back at the digs, a little bit of extra sleep was enough to inspire this story.

I will now leave stupidity behind in its home. San Fermin, Pamplona.

If you want to see it for yourself, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance with - +360,000,000 properties all over the world
. Pamplona swells from 250,000 to over a million people during the festival - so pre booking is essential.Sleeping off the stupidity
Story by:
John Nayler
John Nayler has been a flat-out-traveller for almost 20 years. 37 countries, but who's counting - he is likely to have been there, done that AND probably recorded something about it. You want entertaining answers? You have come to the right place.

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