Running of the Bulls Balconies. Sanfermin, Pamplona 2017

Travel Tips

Follow our advice to come to Sanfermin if you want to get the most out of the fiestas. You can find a hotel, a rented room or even come as a backpacker, but what you really need to know is how the party scene and the fiestas really thrill and buzz.

Dress in white color, it’s the Fiesta code
Make your reservation early in advance
Eat enough to stand alive!
Sleep and relax from time to time
Keep safe your luggage
In case you loose something, go to the Lost Items Office
Have a shower, or more, even if you avoid hotels
Show respect! There are rules even in Sanfermin

Dress in white color, it’s the Fiesta code

One of the characteristics of the fiesta is that everyone dresses up as they please…, but in white gear. This is not an inconvenience but rather one of the inside ways of becoming more intimate with the fiesta spirit and allowing you to party better by mixing in better with the rest of the crowd. So, the first piece of advice is to dress in white trousers or shorts or whatever, – in white – and also with a white shirt, tee shirt, or whatever. A minimum item and pretty much a must is the characteristic red necktie. All the clothes stores are selling in Kukuxumusu before and during the fiestas and they are also widely available at street markets.

In addition, it pays to wear some good quality footwear. Flip-flops and sandals are not very suitable as it is easy to step on broken glass or simply have people step on you as there are big crowds just about everywhere.

Make your reservation early in advance

Just as we advise you to let things unfold at their own time to enjoy the fiestas; we equally advise the opposite if you are planning a trip to Pamplona. You should make sure you have travel tickets to get to Pamplona well beforehand. It is also well worthwhile ensuring you have a place to sleep before you come.

Accommodation basically comes down to hotels, renting apartments or going to camping sites. We would heartily recommend going for regulated accommodation as service and quality are guaranteed. However, it may be necessary to fall back on private rented accommodation because demand is so high. You can make hotel bookings at Findor.com, with a 24 hour attention service and in your own language. You can also find some tourist package offers at Sanfermin Booking where you can book a balcony from which to watch the Running of the Bulls. You could also check out our own noticeboard for private apartment renting.

Eat enough to stand alive!

The best way of keeping in form during all the partying is to make sure to eat plenty. The best thing would be to follow the locals in their habits of eating a breakfast, a mid-morning snack, a meal, an evening snack and a late dinner. There is a very wide range of offers in food during Sanfermin. From Monday thru Friday supermarkets are open but on Sundays and on the 7th of July, they are closed to the public as this is a holiday in Pamplona. However, even on those two days some small food stores would be open around the old part of the city.

While there is a wide range of restaurants, there are also some street traders at places such as -Antoniutti and Barracas- and ordinary bars that would provide some basic food and snacks or pinchos. In Sanfermin, you can expect to pay a bit more than during the rest of the year so it is a good idea to ask the price before ordering.

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© Javier Martínez de la Puente

Sleep and relax from time to time

The city doubles its number of inhabitants during Sanfermin and the hotel vacancies are all filled, especially at weekends. It is permitted to sleep out in the parks and such public places but it can get cold at night (14-22 Cº) and sometimes it could rain. There are several options for sleeping in Sanfermin. From the most expensive to the cheapest in the following order: hotels, hostels, boarding-houses, camp sites, renting an apartment, renting a room and maybe just not sleeping or sleeping on the ground in some public park or similar. The best thing would be to make an early booking.

It is also quite customary to rent out apartments or rooms in Sanfermin. At our Notice-BoardSanfermin.com you can usually find people who are offering and searching for places. Sanfermin Booking (Powered by sanfermin by locals & Sanfermin.com) offers various packets that could be of interest as they are varied and open to different kinds of travelers. You can book the balconies to the running of the bulls too.

If you can book hotel rooms or flights to Pamplona you can visit travel.sanfermin.com (Powered by Findor & Orbitz). If ever an issue arises you can call or email Findor team at any time (Live Chat & Voice). They’re always available and ready to help.

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© Javier Martínez de la Puente

Keep safe your luggage

There is a good dependable left luggage office set up especially for the fiestas. It guarantees security and ease of mind about your things. Being able to drop off your backpack in a safe place allows you enjoy the fiestas with an easy mind as it is very hard to keep an eye on your things with such large crowds of people about

There are two Left Luggage Offices during Sanfermin where all sorts of equipment and baggage may be left. The biggest and cheapest is the one that Pamplona City Hall organizes each year at the public school of San Francisco, in the city center. It is always open from the 4th of July until the 16th of July. Spanish, English, Basque language and French and German are all spoken by some or other of the attendants. There are also changing rooms available there if you want to make a quick change of clothing. There is also a tourist information office.

Price per item of baggage or equipment for each 24 hours is about 4,5 euro. If you do take it out to have a change of clothes or whatever, then you are charged again when you put it back for safekeeping. When you leave in your pack they make a photocopy of your passport and they give you a receipt and a tag and they will charge you for the first day. To take out the pack you will need to show your passport and your tag and they check off your data with the photocopy that goes with the pack. This is the safest and best system.

There are also two rows of automatic storage lockers at the Pamplona Coach Station which work with coin slots and if you arrive by coach this might be a handier option.

In case you loose something, go to the Lost Items Office

There is a lost property service available at the local police station where everything picked up in the city is handed in and the public can come to check the articles. When someone gets so caught up in all the partying, it is sometimes difficult to keep a close eye on one’s things. If something gets lost, hopefully some honest citizen who finds it will hand it over to the municipal police or to one of the collaborators in civil protection – those people wearing an orange-colored jacket – who will see that it finds it way to the Lost Property Office.

This office obviously works intensely over the eight days of fiestas, and afterwards it remains open some days more to facilitate the recovery of objects for the public. It is also possible to fill in a form on the Pamplona City Hall web site, giving a description of the lost property and a search will be made at the Lost Property Office for the object. Should it be found, contact will then be made with the owners. You can also telephone directly to the Lost Property Office at +34 948 420 612. You can fill an online form to register your lost property, but the web are only in spanish language (You can try)

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Oficina de objetos perdidos de Sanfermin. ©Sanfermin.com

Have a shower, or more, even if you avoid hotels

Pamplona during Sanfermin fiestas has some special premises, both public and private, where you can shower. After being out on the town during Sanfermin the moment comes when it is necessary to have a wash. There is a large public facility – the Casa de Baños y lavandería Pública available in the old part of town which where showers are available. This premises is located in the street – calle Hilarion Eslava 9, – very closet o the left luggage premises at San Francisco square. The best thing about using this public center is that towels and soap are also available so that it is not necessary to carry anything with you.

Many visitors avail of the public swimming pools to have a relaxing swim and do some sunbathing in the quieter hours of the day before the partying takes off again. The swimming pools in the Piscinas de Aranzadi, are public and reasonably close to the whole part of town. There you will find open air and indoor pools as well as a gym, dressing rooms, some green areas for sunbathing and even a restaurant.

piscinas de verano de aranzadi

Piscinas de Aranzadi.

Show respect! There are rules even in Sanfermin

Pamplona in San Fermin has a name for being anarchic -a place where- during the days of the Fiesta – anything goes. And that first impression, when you see the whole town in celebration, seems to conform this fact. However, it’s not quite true. Any misdemeanours are punished, just as in any other place, with a night in the caboose, or a fine or whatever. Proof that things are never too unruly is that you will see many young children with their families strolling among all the hustle and bustle. They can be seen, for example, at the exit of the “Peñas” to see how people “enjoy” themselves. Or at the “Dianas” to see the survivors from the all-night sessions.

Stepping over the line might sometimes depend on where and when you misbehave. It’s a question of using your instinct and being generally prudent at all times. Adapting and accepting the local norms and learning from what you see around you.

Funes. Navarra.

Deception, by Mat Dowsett

“The art of pleasing is the art of deception”, Luc de Clapiers

I have in my possession a beautiful photograph, taken of me by my wife on a basic digital SLR, running an encierro in Navarra a few years ago. To me the image is so good that it would be very difficult to improve upon it. In the shot I am running down the street, head over my shoulder as the horns of the bulls get closer behind me giving a strong air of danger but also beauty.

The buildings of the town and the wooden barriers all help to frame the moment. There is nobody in the shot – a runner and the animals, an encierro. What makes it more dramatic is the fact that it is shot in black and white, making it atmospheric and moody. If I ran a million encierros I could barely hope for a better picture and even the great Jimmy Hollander has remarked at the quality of that photo.

In fact this is only a part of the story. The picture is not a lie, but is not wholly honest either, and while I love it I am also loathe to make too much of it knowing that it doesn’t convey the entirety of that moment in Funes, Navarra, almost a decade ago.

“Photography has always been capable of manipulation” wrote Joel Stenfield, and he was absolutely correct. There is no Photoshop trickery afoot here. There is no airbrushing out or pasting in. There is no manipulation of the colour, contrast or brightness. The original has been unaltered except for the fact that it has been cropped. This makes all the difference.

In the original, uncropped version, you can see that there are other runners to my left and right making it clear that I was not alone, not the only one in danger. The uncropped version also makes it clear that we were reaching the end of the run and the safety of the barriers was just a few dozen metres away. What is less evident is the actual distance that the bulls were behind us. The camera acts to foreshorten these distances meaning that they were not quite as close as the touching distance that the image suggests. That is not to say that they were not close, but we certainly had a little breathing space. But when it comes down to it, the uncropped version is not nearly as good as the modified one.

“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts”, Garry Winogrand.

So the beautiful image, cropped from the original is a deception. There is no crime here, but certainly a deception.

There is nothing unusual in this. Since the dawn of photography and even earlier to the origins of portrait art, we humans have sought to frame our experiences and our image in the most flattering way possible. We always want the artist or photographer to “get our good side”. Nobody likes an unflattering picture and is very unlikely to give it any publicity. Take a stroll through social media and this becomes evident – image is everything. The pressure on people to crop their lives on social media in order to portray a perfect life is overwhelming.

This is no different in Pamplona where the encierro, photographed to within an inch of its life, becomes the ultimate stage for ego, and also deception. In the mid to late afternoon after the drama of the run has drifted away into the heat, the photo shops are a hive of activity. In amongst the tourists and curious observers looking at the pictures with wide-eyed wonder, there are also a number of runners desperately seeking that perfect or near-perfect picture proving their worth as a bull runner, proving their worth within this family of aficionados who carry the burden of expectation like a modern day Atlas. To run the encierro as anything other than a novice first-timer is to bear a portion of this expectation. It becomes a need to prove, a need to display evidence, a need to justify and a need to satisfy self-worth. To go to Pamplona, run all week and enjoy it is magnificent, but to come away without evidence of the triumphs is a disaster for many, despite the views of philosophers from Marcus Aurelius to Kipling.

The perfect image. Photographer: Javier Martínez de la Puente
The perfect image. Photographer: Javier Martínez de la Puente

Small wonder that deception creeps in; it has a natural home – a very understandable host to cling to.

Howard Jacobson wrote; “…anyone who cannot bear to look at the reflection of his conscience in the mirror of a crime, has only to smash the mirror to feel innocent.”

Borrowing from this quote we could also say that anybody who cannot bear to accept a bad run has only to change the story to feel better. In this way the second element of deception is employed – manipulating the mental picture rather than the physical one.

“The truth is what I say it is,” said Jacob Kerns and thus, after the encierro, we make our subtle changes; cropping the actual run here and there to cut out the undesirable parts, adding a bit of extra colour to make it more attractive, changing the lens from a fish-eye to a narrow focus. In this way we end up with a more comfortable version and picture that we are happier to share than discard. All the time we forget that there is no crime in having a bad run. We don’t need to reinvent everything. Not every experience has to be portrayed in a positive light.

But we are human.

So how often have we heard runners claim that a bull’s horn missed them by centimetres when, in reality, it was feet? How often have we heard runners claim that they were right in front of the bulls when they were further ahead or off to the side? Small wonder that Bar Txoko after the encierro is sometimes known as “Liar’s Corner”.

Ray Mouton, writing in his book “Pamplona”, expressed it as follows:

“It seems exaggerations are the rule, not the exception, among Americans in Pamplona. Many exaggerate the number of times they have been to Pamplona, the number of times they have run with the bulls, as well as bumps, bruises, knicks, scratches, and minor run-ins with a horn. A kind of inexplicable compulsion overcomes some Americans in Pamplona who seize upon fiesta as an opportunity for self-promotion, and writers often act as their shills, making them out to be what they a Hemingwayesque figure is. The tradition may have begun with Hemingway himself who exaggerated in the news dispatches he filed from Pamplona and in letters to friends like Ezra Pound.”

“The petty man is eager to make boasts, yet desires that others should believe in him. He enthusiastically engages in deception, yet wants others to have affection for him. He conducts himself like an animal, yet wants others to think well of him”, Xun Kuang.

Therefore it is not unusual to hear an encierro story that has been dramatically embellished. It is far from unusual to see that the words of a mozo do not match the images on television, online or in the newspapers. The deception can be incredibly subtle, innocent, or it can be a grotesque lie.

So what?

What is the issue here and does it matter? In short it is wrong, and it is cheap to make claims that are not true. In such a noble event as the encierro of Pamplona, runners should maintain their integrity. This is not only for themselves but for the reputation of the encierro as a whole and the community around it. When you lie about your achievements you may get temporary gratification, but no more than this – the rest will be devalued. Which is better, a good runner who exaggerates or an average runner who is honest about their limitations? Social media seems to favour the former, sadly.

“A journalist is supposed to present an unbiased portrait of an event, a view devoid of intimate emotions. This is impossible, of course. The framing of an image, by its very composition, represents a choice. The photographer chooses what to show and what to exclude”, Alexandra Kerry.

Should we not also be unbiased about our own claims?

Before we employ too much righteous indignation, ask who has not done this? Anyone? Ever? Who is not guilty of this even if in some small way? And what is so terrible about the use of slightly more descriptive language when talking about something that is visceral, intense and profoundly personal? Before we condemn let us first remember that it is human nature to exaggerate. Rufus Wainwright talked about making the mundane fabulous and Marina Tsvetaeva wrote:

“A deception that elevates us is dearer than a host of low truths.”

What then is the solution? Do we try to change this or do we accept that humans will always employ deception and there is nothing we can do about it? Ultimately it is down to our own conscience as, when we deceive in the encierro, we are not making any financial gains and we are open to contradiction thanks to media coverage and many other witnesses. When it comes down to it we are only deceiving ourselves.

Meanwhile my own photograph remains in an album, rather than proudly on display.

Sanfermines 2017, the most vindicated fiestas

Photos: Javier Martínez de la Puente

Hard though it is to accept, the fact is that Sanfermin 2017 is all over. After the final Pobre de Mí event took place at midnight, in City Hall square, the teardrops – yes, even the most hardened of us let slip a tear or two, let’s admit it – the time has come to put away the red sash and necktie and let our bodies recognize and accept the tiredness and fatigue that inevitably comes once the fiestas have come to a close.

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More people and bigger partying than ever at the Encierro of the 15th

Fotos: Mónica Sarasa

More people. Bigger Partying. Even greater fun. And no wish for the fiestas to finish. As always, in the early morning of the 15th – this event, which started out as the “Running of the City Bus”- many years ago and which seems to attract more and more people each year, took place once again this year. The general comment going round was that this event has more runners than the correct Running of the Bulls on the 14th and final day of the proper event.

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Two runners share the same destiny

Photo: Iñigo Alzugaray

Even the best runners can find themselves in a tight spot. Especially, when the bulls fly along the course, as was the case today with the Miura bulls in this eighth and last Running of the Bulls of Sanfermin 2017. These two guys are habitual runners with lots of experience on this stretch of Telefonica and on the final run down into the bullring. They shared the run, the fall and, in the case of one of them, a visit “just in case” to the surgery located inside the bullring, a precautionary removal to hospital for a more intensive check-up

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A bulldozing charge on the Telefonica stretch

Photos: Iñaki Vergara

The eighth and last Running of the Bulls of Sanfermin 2017 was unfolding in a predictable form, with the bulls running at a frenetic pace. The Miura bulls had knocked over several runners on the Mercaderes and Estafeta stretches, although without attempting to gore any of the runners. But when the bulls entered the Telefonica stretch, they raced along the fencing on the right side almost in file at a ferocious pace.

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Sweeping up along the fence

Photo: Javier Ibáñez

The greatest danger in the seventh Running of the Bulls of Sanfermin 2017,with the Núñez del Cuvillo bulls were those several moments when the bulls, one of them especially, stuck tight to the right side of the fencing. This bull made an early move to the right side on the first stretch at Santo Domingo, where it gored one of the runners, and again, on the Telefónica stretch, where some runners got wedged together and where the bull caused more than a few frights to the runners.

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A forced landing in Mercaderes

Foto: Ignacio Rubio

The Núñez Del Cuvillo bulls featured in an exciting seventh Running of the Bulls of Sanfermin 2017 where two runners received gorings. Unlike these previous days, today there were few slips-ups and falls. However, this spectacular fall took place at the Mercaderes stretch where the runner falls on his face, just as the bull’s snout is on top of him.
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Hooked by the armpit at the top of Estafeta Street

Photo: Iñigo Alzugaray

The rapid pace of the bulls over the second half of this sixth Running of the Bulls of 2017, did not allow for much fancywork or frills. Only those runners who were in an excellent physical condition were able to keep up to the pace of the steamrolling Victoriano de Rio bulls and even then, not for very long. This can be clearly seen in this sequence of shots with the runner in the green necktie, a regular experienced runner on this stretch. He displays some fine running in front of the horns of the bulls at the end of the Estafeta stretch but he is soon caught by the bulls as they charge ahead.

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