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Friday, August 24, 2012

Pamplona--Running of the Bulls

Pamplona, Spain--The Running of the Bulls

One of the items on my "Bucket List" was checked off a few weeks ago in Spain.  I have always wanted to go to the Running of the Bulls.  While Mel was in the US, a friend and I went to Pamplona for the San Fermin Festival. The festival runs from July 6 to July 14.  Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises helped make the festival more famous.  Hemingway enjoyed spending time in Pamplona and actually took lessons on bullfighting.

The encierro or Running of the Bulls, is held in a few cities in Spain, Portugal, and Mexico but Pamplona is the most famous.  Each morning during the festival, six bulls and six steers run from their corrals on the edge of town, down the sectioned off streets, and into the bullfighting ring.  The entire route is about 900 yards (a little more than 1/2 mile) and takes about 3 minutes (average).  Anyone over the age of 18 can participate as long as you are not under the influence of alcohol (and are willing to assume the risks). 

Spanish tradition says the origin began in North-eastern Spain during the early 14th century. 

The encierro begins with runners singing a benediction. It is sung twice, once in Spanish and once in Basque. ("We ask Saint Fermín, as our Patron, to guide us through the encierro and give us his blessing"). The benediction is a prayer given at a statue of Saint Fermin, patron of the festival and the city, to ask the saint's protection. The singers finish by shouting “Viva San Fermín!, Gora San Fermín!”.  Runners dress in the traditional clothing of the festival which consists of a white shirt and trousers with a red waistband and neckerchief.

A first rocket is set off at 8 a.m. to alert the runners that the corral gate is open. A second rocket signals that all six bulls have been released and are on the street. The third and fourth rockets are signals that all of the bulls have entered the bullring and finally, into the corral in the bullring, marking the end of the event. The herd is composed of the six bulls to be fought in the afternoon, six steers that run with the bulls, and three more steers that leave the corral two minutes after the first group. The function of the steers is to guide the herd. The average speed of the animals is 24 km/h (15 mph).

Every year, between 200 and 300 people are injured during the run although most injuries are bumps and bruises due to falls and are not serious. Some of the more serious injuries are from being gored by the horns of the bulls.  Since record-keeping began in 1924, 15 people have been killed in Pamplona–– most recently on 10 July 2009.

 The streets of Pamplona are filled with people enjoying the festival.
 Festival time
 Street band

 People pour water from the balconies onto the waiting crowds below
 The San Fermin Festival
 The Gringo in Spain-dressed like a native
 An old church in Pamplona--near the corrals where the Running of the Bulls begins
 A street band playing during the night.  The partying went on all night.
 Even the little ones come out to enjoy the fun.
 Senor Testes (that is his actual name)
 A young boy on his father's shoulders
 The carnival during the festival
 6 am--crowds already gathered for the 8 am Running of the Bulls
 Angus and friend getting ready for the run
 Many people rent the balconies to watch the run.  
The balconies provide a good vantage point to watch the action.
 Anticipation!!  A few minutes until show time.
The bulls are loose.  Time to get moving.
Here come the bulls

 Survived the Running of the Bulls-Day 1
 Found my friend--thankfully, he survived as well
 Statue of the Running of the Bulls

 Crowds on the streets before the bullfight
 Plenty of police to control the crowds

 Every afternoon between the 7th and 14th of July, there is a bullfight in which the 6 bulls that have been driven to the bullring during the bullrunning of that day are killed.  The bullring in Pamplona holds about 19,000 people and is the third largest in the world behind Madrid and Mexico City. It is said to be full every afternoon and tickets are hard to find.
 Inside the Bullring
 The Matadors and their entourage
 The Picadors

 Matador fighting the bull while the Picador watches
 Bull charging the mounted Picador

 On his knees

 A quick turn by the bull--oh, oh.....
 I love the pink pants

 The crowd shows its appreciation for the skills of the Matador
As mentioned, going to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona was on my bucket list.  My friend and I ran with the bulls twice.  On day two, 3 people were gored when one of the bulls slipped early in the run and became separated from the rest of the herd.  He ended up goring the runners when he became upset.  It took him about 5 minutes to make his way into the bullring.

Although not on my bucket list, I had never been to a bullfight before.  It was interesting to watch this part of Spanish culture and history.  Today's people have a hard time understanding and appreciating bullfighting but it is an art that takes years to perfect. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poland-Wieliczka Salt Mine

While we were visiting Krakow, we took a day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  The salt mine at Wieliczka is one of the most popular tourist sites in Poland.  Underground mining has taken place here for almost nine centuries.  This site was entered on UNESCO's first World Heritage List. 

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is amazing.  The miners here, over a 900 year period of time have created a system of tunnels and caverns by removing the salt as part of the mining process.  The salt mine has nine different levels at depths of 64 to 327 meters.  There are over 300 kilometers of tunnels with about 3000 chambers.  The miners have carved statues, stairways, flooring, and even salt chandeliers.  Tourists started visiting the mine as early as the 15th century.

Today's Tourist Route includes some beautiful chambers, underground chapels, and lakes.  It consists of 22 chambers connected by tunnels with a total distance of about 2 kilometers.  The route goes from levels 1 (depth of 64 meters) to level 3 (depth of 135 meters).

The pictures that we took are generally disappointing because of the lighting.  Most of them were of poor quality but I will put some of them in the blog so that you can get a taste of the experience.  Speaking of taste--after being in the mine for a short time, you could taste the salt on your lips.  Some of the pictures show reflections of light from the salt suspended in the air.  There is also a health spa in the mine.  Apparently, the air in the mine has medicinal properties and helps people with respiratory ailments.

 Getting ready to ride the bus to Wieliczka
 The Wieliczka Salt Mine
 To begin the tour, we went down 58 sets of stairs--down to a depth of 64 meters.  
Bumpa's arms were tired from carrying the little one.
 Someone was a little bit nervous about being underground.  She quickly got over it.
 The wooden cribbing works very well as it get saturated with the salt.  
Metal would not hold up over the years the way that wood does.
 Machinery used for lifting salt to the surface

 Salt in the rocks in the walls of the tunnels
 Statue of Nicholas Copernicus--the Polish astronomer who visited the mine in 1493
 Statues in the Janowice Chamber

 Statue of a soldier

 The Spalone Chamber
One of many chambers in the salt mine
 Casmir the Great
 Old mining transport devices
 Horses were used to haul salt

 Horses were also used to turn the treadmills
 Going down to the next level of the mine
 Steps cut into the salt rock that the miners used over the years
 St. Kinga's Chapel
The most impressive room that we saw on the tour.  The chamber is about 54 meters long, 15-18 meters wide, and 12 meters high.  All of the statues, floor, chandeliers, etc. are carved out of salt.  Weekly religious services are held here. 
 Enjoying St. Kinga's Chapel
 Salt Chandelier
 Salt Floor
 Salt steps leading down to St. Kinga's Chapel

 Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child

 Christ teaching in the Temple

 The Last Supper
 Alter in St. Kinga's Chapel
 Pope John Paul II
 Dwarves in the salt mine

 Large Chamber
 Walking through one of the tunnels
 UNESCO World Heritage Site--one of the originals
 Trying to take a picture
 Playing in the mine
St. John's Chapel