Days 12 and 13 In Spain: El Encierro, Running of the Bulls

Yesterday was the first day of the running of the bulls, also called “encierro” (from the verb encerrar, meaning to fence in) of the 2012 year, here in Pamplona Spain. Each year, the opening ceremony commences on July 6th and the 7th marks the first of a seven-day celebration, otherwise known as the festival of Sanfermines. The festival is from July 6th to 14th every year, and the first bull run of the festival is always the most crowded and anticipated one. Spectators line up hours before the run to get a good spot (similar to the dropping of the ball every New Year), and at 8:00 a.m., a rocket is set off to alert the runners that the gate containing the bulls has been opened. A second rocket is then set off to inform people that the bulls have been released to run. A third and fourth rocket are later set off to inform people across town that the event has concluded, seeing as the bulls made it to the bull ring. The runs don’t usually last more than four minutes, and those who stand by to watch the run don’t get a chance to see more than a few seconds of it since it is so high paced.

My friends and I took a two and a half hour train to a city called Soria, and then from there took a three-hour bus to Pamplona, where craziness was residing. Swarms of people were dressed in all white clothing with red bandanas around their necks and red scarfs around their waists. By this time (one in the morning), everyone was beyond drunk, partying in the streets, inside and outside the bars, and anywhere else where there was room to party. My friends and I walked around for a while to acquaint ourselves with the city (meaning we weren’t sure where we were and didn’t know where to go), but eventually found a place to change into the proper attire, bought whatever food we could, and bought containers of sangria to join the party. By the time we accomplished all of the above, it was already 2:30 am, so we made our way over to the start of where the run takes place to get a good spot for the morning. We sat on the side of the street from 3:00 am until the start of the run, 8:00 am. and two hours before the run commenced, the streets were getting even crazier than the night before. Spectators were lining up where we were to watch the run, and people were crowding the streets, preparing themselves to run as fast as they could from numerous bulls who would soon be close behind.

At around 7:50 am, prayers were being conducted throughout the town, and people were getting ready for this incredible event. When 8:00 hit, the rockets were set off, and before we knew it, the bulls had been released and ran right past us! Not to mention, the whole crowd on the street was running for their lives! Before we knew it, the bulls had turned the corner and we saw all that we could.

Once the bulls left our vicinity, we were allowed to walk on the streets again, and tried scouting out restaurants, but everything was packed and people began drinking again, so we decided to go back home. Of course there were plenty of injuries, and I don’t think I have ever seen so many EMT’s in my life, but seeing as I didn’t get injured and I got to experience a once in a lifetime event, I had a blast!

The first run of 2012 that we were at: