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San Fermín 2014
San Fermín 2014

Four days in... Still around?

  • As you meet more and more people, there are so many other things going on that aren't part of the official programme

Baile de los Gigantes en la plaza Consistorial

Baile de los Gigantes en la plaza Consistorial

09/07/2014 a las 06:01
Four days in...still around? One of the beauties of coming here more than just a couple of times is you find out, as you meet more and more people, that there are so many other things going on that aren’t part of the official programme. There are all sorts of privately organised events throughout the 9 days that add so much to what is already the world’s greatest fiesta.

Yesterday for example, the unofficial peña that I call "The Lost Peña", of which I’m a part of, threw its yearly San Fermin Frenzy. I not allowed to tell you what it is or what we do or where we have it, but it’s just our way of saying a big "thank you" to Pamplona and its fiesta. And although it’s mostly foreigners that go, there are always a few brave locals ready to throw themselves into a huge crowd of outsiders.

It’s amazing what people will do for a free drink. But our Lost Peña Day and its fountain of free spirit- fizzed alcohol is one of my favourite days of the year, and yesterday’s event was our 22nd straight. But we only stole the idea from another party that has its traditions going way back to the 1950’s and the original bunch of post-war foreigners who showed up in Pamplona, and it’s them and their successors we owe a bit of a debt to.

And so today there is another one of those fabulous events that some foreigners who love this city have taken the time, money and effort to organise to give that little bit back to this fabulous place and its inhabitants. It is a little bit cleaner than our affair and perhaps a little bit more civilised too, but I always think that events like this complement each other.

There are also barbeques and lunches and dinners and massive breakfasts, mystery bar crawls and private house parties and impromptu fun and games and all sorts of fiendish fiesta goings-on that add immeasurably to what is already a fiesta without equal. I know of one bunch of friends who are having something I’ve dubbed The Golden Mule, (don’t ask!) and there are at least two Ladies Nights... Somewhere else there is what I’m calling The Maze... purely because once entered into, I have no idea how those taking part are going to get out. Una fiesta sin igual indeed.

Mornings of the Missed

Here’s something from the old days of the 1980’s that I want to share. Not because it’s part of fiesta folklore, (although it is to some of us) or because these people are or were famous in fiesta for running or writing, but because they are my friends. And they can very rarely come back to fiesta now but I know it’s in their hearts and they love it. And I love them all too and they’re in my heart and I miss them.

I’ve titled this “Mornings of the Missed” because there was always something special about staying up all night and partying with your friends, doing the run, and meeting afterwards at your local bar, in our case Txoko. So as it’s the start of mid-fiesta now and the madness of the first few days is over – unfortunately – I occasionally get a little bit melancholy about those first and original fiesta friends who either never or rarely come back. So this is for them and although I’ll only mention a few names, it is for all of them.

At my inaugural fiesta in 1984, when I plonked my backside down onto a piece of grass in the Plaza del Castillo, one of the first people I met was one Ike del Rosario from California. For about the next 10-15 years he was there every year and is still the first and original fiesta friend that I met. I haven’t seen you in a few years buddy, but hey, next year Ike, okay? Next year...

Another one I met in ’86 was the awesome Olaf from Hamburg, and he brought his friend the amazing Jorg along the next year. As they’re part of the unofficial "Lost Peña" that some of us belong to, I still see them elsewhere thank goodness, but fiesta just isn’t quite the same without these characters. And Guide Dog and Rhino, and Stitty and Tuna, and Iano Beano Not-So-Cleano, Dan, Dan the Pacharan Man, and Danish Poul and Old Harry...who was 50 when he was born...and Willem and Dick and Eric, Linda, Anouk, Kerry and Carzi...I could go on.

You are really missed. Ike, James and Jorg all had birthdays during fiesta and what we did to them still makes me laugh like crazy. Okay, we were younger then and so were they but my goodness, how did we ever find so much rubbish and liquid and flour and candles to cover you in? Walking, flaming, soaking, smelling human fiesta fiends...and all the time the laughter. Happy, happy daze...

I mention this because as much as I miss these guys, they are still around. Today, as happens every year, there is another one of those little events that goes on. This one remembers all those old timers, and some not so old, who have passed on to run or dance at those celestial fiestas in the sky.

It’s a little gem of a party and I hope there’ll be more about it in a day or two. I think it’s a great way to remember those fiesta folk who went before us. Salud, Sanfermineros del pasado.

When Giants Roamed The Earth


There are Giants in Pamplona

Once upon a time it was said that giants roamed the earth. Well, you may have noticed during your time in the city that at a certain time of the day, they still do. For Giants indeed rule once more and roam amongst us, if only in fiesta. They are accompanied by their entourage of big-headed lesser giants and the mythical half horse, half-human figures, and are collectively known as La Comparsa, and are yet another embodiment of the magic which runs through the streets of Pamplona during fiesta.

They are made up of 8 Kings and Queens, a pair each from Europe, Africa, America and Asia. Their creator Tadeo Amorena, way back in 1860 forgot about making two representing Oceania...probably a good thing as they’d only try and jump off the Mussel Bar fountain. Accompanying Their Majesties are 5 "Cabuzedos", Big Heads: a mayor, a councillor, a grandmother and two Japanese characters.

These weren’t made until the early 1890’s, by one Felix Flores, 30 years after the Giants were made... but it can’t be any coincidence that the two men, although separated in age by a little over twenty years, lived for a small while at the same time in the same street, San Nicolas, just off the square. When Tadeo was in his mid-twenties and Felix was just a boy, the younger one lived at number 55, while the older one lived at number 56. One of fiestas happy coincidences, maybe? Or perhaps another small sign of a little of its magic...

Then there are the security detail, the Kilikis, another bunch of big heads, this time six in number...and they are armed. As are the six Zaldikos, half-men, half-horse figures. While the Big-headed Cabuzedos march formally and parsimoniously in front of their Monarchs, who dance and twirl magnificently, the others run around trying to whack the little, (and not so little...trust me, I’ve been there!) children with their armaments...what look like bloated sheep’s stomachs on the end of a cord tied to a stick.

They can give a ferocious looking whack to these youngsters...but they don’t hurt. Much crying is done and spectacles broken – the town even takes out insurance for this! – honestly, only in Pamplona. But laughter is the main noise heard and I used to not think too much about The Giants, but I love them to bits now. Just look at the faces of the children...and their parents!

Escape of the Day

Perhaps now it’s time to take a well-earned break and properly head out of the city. It helps if you have a car for this one, but there are buses. Navarra has some extraordinarily beautiful countryside, ranging from Europe’s only desert in the south to the mountains of the north. Its diversity is rich and about the only thing it doesn’t have is a beach, although it did have, once-upon-a-very-long-time ago. But it does have lakes to swim in.

But for today’s little excursion why not head up to Roncesvalles and the monastery there? There is the famous Pass of Roncesvalles where in 778 the rear guard of Charlemagne’s retreating army, led by his trusted nephew Roland, were ambushed and killed by Basques. That’s one version because as always when you go back in the mists of time...

But what is definite is the monastery is spectacular and set amongst wonderful countryside, and it’s a perfect place to take a drive and find any spot off the beaten track and sit and relax with friends over a long and leisurely picnic. Around Aurritz/Burguete is where Hemingway used to fish, too. The road from Pamplona winds up into the mountains, and what goes up, must come down...and straight back into Pamplona ready for the evening.

Fiesta or Feria Tale of the Day


The Lion Queen

Over the decades there has been the odd animal on the bull run that perhaps shouldn’t have been there. Dogs, cats, lions... Lions? Well, not quite, of course, but I have always said that in Pamplona during fiesta anything can happen, and time and time again it has. You see, the lion wasn’t on the bull run of course, but one did escape once.

In 1982 when the funfair and circus were where the new bus station is now, on a packed and rocking Saturday evening, a lioness escaped. It was July 10th chaos that followed. Pandemonium ensued as our lion joined everyone else at promenade time and had a bit of a wander.

But as so often in Pamplona, what could have turned into something very, very bad...didn’t. This cool cat found a below ground garage a few minutes walk away and decided to hang out there for a while. And so it was a couple of hours later, around 9 in the evening, she was recaptured by her trainers and circus folk and taken back. One more time...in Pamplona, anything can happen, and you just couldn’t script it.

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  • Beatriz
    (09/07/14 14:39)

    Keep it up! This is really good.


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