Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pamplona minus the bulls

Since I was in the mood for another day trip, my friend Charlotte and I decided to venture to Pamplona for the day. Charlotte is an English teacher as well and actually teaches in Hondarribia too...such a coincidence. She is British, is here for one year and speaks perfect English of course haha.

Pamplona, where they normally have Running of the Bulls, is only an hour away from San Sebastian by bus, and is another state of Basque Country - Navarra. For 6.50€ we jumped on a bus and were off early in the morning! When we arrived we wandered around a bit and after asking, found the tourist office. Convientley, there was a 3€ tour starting in 30 minutes - hooray! I seem to always have great luck with these cheap (barrato) tours! We poked around for a bit and then met in the Plaza de San Francisco. There were no trolley cars, rice or bread bowls, but did have some cute little houses. Turns out, there were two girls leading the tour, and they were about our age, and for our 3€ we actually got a personal tour because we were the only two on the whole tour! It was all in Spanish and was kind of like our Spanish lesson for the day.

We started off learning a little bit of history. Pamplona, which was founded by the Romans in 74 BC, was actually originally named Pompaelo but with the Spanish language changed to Pamplona. In Basque it is called Iruña, which means 'the city'. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Vascones (remember this from my blog about Hondarribia??) basically lived in Pamplona, but come the 12th century were in for a shock. Two new burgos (independant municipalities) were founded in the same area of Pamplona and created the problem of 3 burgos in one city! For the next two centuries, the Navarrese (the original Vascones), the people of San Cercin, and the people of San Nicolás were constantly fighting over the city. There are 3 distinct neighborhoods in Pamplona, which show where these 3 enemies lived. In 1423, King Charles III, decided to unify the 3 burgos and successfully did so and as a symbol of the peace of the 3 groups, built a town hall for all of them in the place where the 3 burgos intersected. It is still the Town Hall to this day! There are two statues on the top of the building on both sides of roof of Hercules with clubs in thier hands, which means to watch over the city and protect it. At the very top of the building there is an angel playing a trumpet, signifying the fame and splendor of the city. On both sides of the angel are two lions, one next to the coat of arms, and the other with the symbol of the flag. It was pretty bad weather outside, so it's hard to make out the statues perfectly. Once it started to sprinkle, our tour guides brought us to the 3 churches that used to be the churches of the 3 burgos. The first was the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. It also houses the Capilla de San Fermin (who is the Saint the the Running of the Bulls is for). This was the church for the burgo of San Cercin. The next church was the Church of Santa María, which is on the highest hill in Pamplona. It was for the Navarrese people and was built between the 12th and 19th century (quite a long construction ha). We had to walk up this rock/cobblestone to get to it. Once at the top, our tour guide (oh, I never told you her name - Itzibar - kind of pronounced like itsy-bar) told us that the church is built at the top of the cross of the streets. Like when you think of the Christian cross, the top of the Cross is where the Church of Santa María is, and there is a street in front of it to signify the cross part, and then this street that we walked up, is the bottom of the cross. The next chuch was the Chuch of San Nicolás, which was for the people of San Nicolás of course! We were able to walk in, but there was a service going on, so we just ran through, but something I found interesting is that the floor is actually one big gravesite and the whole church is built on hollowed ground. I snapped a quick picture and you can see the service but if you look closely at the floor you will see tha the the wooden floor is actually wooden graves with numbers of them.

We then made our way on the route that the Running of the Bulls goes on. The most famous street is Calle Estafeta. Every year this crazy festival goes on during June and Itzibar told us that millions of people come from all over the world to participate! They always wear white outfits and a red scarf to signify the blood of the bulls. After running through the streets of Pamplona, the people and bulls make thier way through a 3 meter-wide door into the Plaza de Toros (Bull Ring) for the Bull Fight! I hope that someday I can stay for this crazy party! Since I couldn't be there for the real thing, I reinacted what I think I would look like if a bunch of bulls were chasing after me on Calle Estafeta. Classic. I am sure I looked like the biggest tourist EVER when I took this picture...but I have no shame!
Once the rain fully commenced, we made our way to the last stop on the tour - a wine cellar. The state of Navarra is famous for its wine - mostly the Rosado (a blush wine). We tasted a glass of the local wine and from the wine cellar guide lady, she made sure to tell us that if you want to drink a blush wine, it is best to drink it chilled and from the current year. We were able to try a delicious glass of wine that warmed us up and got us out of the rain!

After finishing the tour, Charlotte and I grabbed a pintxo and then wandered around the town a bit. We ended up in the Plaza de Castillo (castle) which is the old area for the bull fights. It's not even a stadium, and instead people would watch from thier balconies that surround the Plaza. There was a little Christmas festival and I bought myself a cute turquoise ring woo hoo! We saw this funny sign in a store-front window, and I tink it sums up my view pretty well - Merry Crisismas! It kills me that San Sebastian is doing basically nothing for Christmas because of the economic crisis, and I love going to places like Bayonne or here in Pamplona because they realize that eventhough it is a tight Christmas, it will only hurt spirits if you take away the decorations and remind them we are in a bad spot economically. Might as well keep the morale up! We were happy to find a huge Christmas tree and Basque people singing what we think are Christmas songs, but we decided sounded more like revolutionary songs. Either way, it was nice to be in a Christmasy place that was decorated and hearing festive songs!

Later, we decided to head back to San Sebastian because siesta had started and everything was closed, it was pouring and we were freezing!

We finished our night with some dinner and Christmas movies! I found Disney Christmas AND Claymation Christmas on youtube - I was elated and watched them with a huge smile on my face like a 6 year old!

Nothing planned for my Sunday - just studying and looking up some fun things to do when I visit Rome and Brussels next week :D I hope you are having a great weekend!


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