The celebrations kicked off yesterday at noon with the traditional Chupinazo, which consists basically of as many people as is humanly possible cramming themselves into the square in front of the city hall to wait for the launching of a giant firecracker from the balcony, signaling the start of the festivities. To get an idea of just how packed the square is, check out this video. It doesn't really show the firecracker, but it gives you a great idea of what the crowd is doing.
Needless to say, I was not there. There's no way anyone could get me in there, not for a million bucks (Well, maybe for a million...if anyone wants to make me an offer for next year, send me an e-mail and we'll talk). No, I was in another square, Plaza de los Fueros, where there's usually a smaller crowd, mostly made up of families, and people who don't like getting covered in wine, eggs, flour, and Cola Cao (powdered chocolate). I'm weird that way too, so I opted for the quieter spot and watched the Chupinazo with The Professor and Catgirl on one of the huge tv screens that have been set up around the city. Once our scarves were firmly in place, we headed towards the city center to have a drink to celebrate the start of nine days of generalized craziness.
|Me with Catgirl|
We didn't actually go into the the thick of things, but that didn't stop us getting splattered with wine by people shaking the wine off their clothes like a dog might shake his coat after a bath. Every year I wonder if their clothes will ever be white again, or if they just throw them away when it's all over. Somehow I don't think those stains will come out, not even with all the bleach in the world.
But stains are the least of what can happen to you if you dare enter the heart of the party. If you're brave enough (and drunk enough), you might end up doing something as stupid as this:
Kids, don't try this at home...better yet, don't try it at all. Only yesterday there were two serious injuries, and almost every year someone ends up paraplegic because no one catches them before they hit the ground. Of course, if you're a girl you stand a much better chance of being caught than if you're a guy, and so far no girl who has taken off her shirt before jumping has ever hit the ground.
We decided that fountain jumping was not for us, so we headed home after a couple of beers. After dinner we were lucky enough to be invited by the mother of one of Catgirl's friends to watch the fireworks from her office, which just happens to be right in front of the park. It was pretty nice to look out the window at all the people sitting in the grass in the chilly night air, and enjoy a perfect view of the show. No people standing up and blocking our view, drunken young people (and not so young people) tripping over us, or blowing smoke in our faces. Excellent!
And this morning we actually made it to the procession, when San Fermin gets taken out for his yearly walkies. Oh, and just to remind you, San Fermin is not the patron saint of Pamplona. That would be San Saturnino. I kind of feel sorry for him. Here this San Fermin character gets all the attention, and a big party, but the patron saint, meh, hardly anyone even knows who he is. But San Fermin is the man of the day, so we went to pay homage to him, just like everybody else. We got there half an hour ahead of time, but the street was already packed, so we squeezed into the only empty spot available, which means the photos I got aren't all that great.
|The lucky ones|
|Giants dancing. These guys just wouldn't stand still for the photo.|
|The man of the hour|
At some point during the whole parade, someone sings a "saeta" (a type of religious song) to the saint, and everyone starts shushing everyone else, which is kind of amusing because the shushing is actually noisier than the people talking to start with.
And right now Catgirl is out with her friends. Kind of scary to think of her in the midst of all the craziness, but she's sixteen and it had to happen sooner or later. At least there's no more boyfriend to worry about. Although that may actually be all the more reason to be concerned....