Navarra is the region that sits astride the Pyrenees and was historically comprised of both French and Spanish territory. The Romans once called the city Pompaelo, as a tribute to Pompey the Great. Over the centuries, warring factions and business-minded traders left their mark on the city’s buildings, culture and politics.
Today Pamplona is the capital of the extremely independent Kingdom of Navarra and political tension still exists amongst its Basque citizens and the rest of Spain. However, it’s the festival of Sanfermin that has attracted the world’s attention, if only for a few days each year during the month of July. This is the time when the bulls are let loose on the streets of the city and millions of people are drawn to the excitement and frequent bloodshed of those three short minutes on each of the eight days of the festival.
Who hasn’t heard of the ‘running of the bulls’ in Pamplona? Ernest Hemmingway helped to make the event famous and now journalists and television feed our fascination with this ‘sport’. Pamplona is a compact city of less than 200,000 citizens and outside of the festival in July, it doesn’t offer much to tempt the occasional foreign visitor. The city officials have made a great effort to mark the route of the running of the bulls so that tourists can walk the streets they’ve seen photographs of over the years.
However, even during the quiet months of the year, the shops are filled with souvenirs of the great event because Pamplona sits squarely on the Camino de Santiago and thousands of pilgrims pass through its streets, many looking for an interesting distraction from the daily slog of walking towards Galicia.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I knew that Pamplona would take only a couple of hours of our time, but I wanted to stop and see the route of the Sanfermin festival myself. In the past, when I’ve spoken with someone who has visited northern Spain, I’ve always asked if they visited Pamplona. Most have said no because they weren’t in Spain during the festival and I’ve been somewhat surprised at that reply.
I didn’t want to be one who answered a similar question in the same way, so naturally, we had to make our way to the city for the requisite visit. Considering we weren’t there for the craziness, and I don’t think I ever would go at that time anyway, the city did not disappoint.
Editor’s Note: And that’s no bull!