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Hemingway Adventure

Pamplona, Spain (third day)

Pamplona, Spain 
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A dog runs loose after the streets have been cleared for the bull-run.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureStepping out of La Perla into that half-day, half-night just after the dawn breaks is like stepping into a time vacuum. All the people who were on the square last night are still there, wearing the same clothes. The same music is playing from the same bars. The same street-cleaners are cleaning the same patches of street. Only the smell is different. Fortified by the excesses of the night, the town radiates a sweet, sickly smell of stale booze. An indoor smell that's been let out. The soles of my shoes stick to the flagstones of the arcade. The religious and the bacchanalian seem to merge seamlessly at the festival of San Fermín.

The encierro is the name given to the driving of the bulls from their corral on the outskirts of town to the ring in which they will fight later in the day. Over the years it became a feature of the Pamplona encierro that locals and visitors would try and run before the bulls along a course of just over half a mile. The event was in full swing before Hemingway whetted the world's appetite by describing it in his first bestseller, The Sun Also Rises. Later, James Michener helped things along with his book, The Drifters.

With endorsements from authors like Hemingway and Michener, running with the bulls became one of the great international tests of maleness, a chance to participate in an ancient tribal rite, still surviving in the midst of modern Europe. More recently, women have been allowed to run. Whether this will eventually deal the macho tradition a mortal blow remains to be seen.

Not that I can see many women on the streets this chilly morning. The participants are almost exclusively male and range from the experts, mostly Spanish, who take it seriously and will remain as close to the bulls as possible, to the young, already drunk college kids for whom this is just another stop on the dangerous sports circuit.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Pamplona, Spain (third day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Pamplona
  • Book page no: 103

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