Today we traversed the beautiful city of Pamplona, probably most famous for the Sanfermines festival, or the Running of the Bulls. Ernest Hemingway made this festival famous in his book, “The Sun Also Rises.” The festival originated in the 13th century and some legends suggest that St. Fermin himself was martyred by being dragged by bulls through the streets. Thankfully, today the streets were quiet for us when we passed through since the bulls only run during the festival – July 6-14.
We saw relatively few pilgrims today – surprising based on how many we have seen over the past few days. We got a fairly early start and just took it easy for most of the day, arriving at our destination of Cizur Menor – a dormitory town serving the nearby University of Navarre, located about 2 miles outside the city – a little past noon. We had a half-day of rest scheduled for this town which is why we stopped so early.We began to see signs of the suburbs almost immediately after leaving Arre. The wooded, rural landscape was quickly replaced with signs of urban sprawl. After an hour or two we entered Pamplona’s old, historic city center, crossing the Arga river on the Puenta de la Magdalena, a 12th century bridge that is a traditional symbol of the Camino. Moving further into the city through the city wall with its towering ramparts we entered the narrow streets where the bulls run. We stopped at the Cathedral, an austere Gothic structure, but unfortunately it was not yet open for the day so we moved on.
Pamplona has many lovely, well-tended parks and the people were very friendly. Many greeted us with “Buen Camino” as we passed or indicated the path of the Camino when it wasn’t so obvious and when we may have looked a bit confused. Overall, the route through Pamplona was very well marked, even though we had been cautioned that you could easily get lost if you didn’t pay attention to the signs. We came to believe that you would have to work at it to get lost! In addition to the usual signs, markers, and painted yellow arrows, there were metal scallop shells embedded in the sidewalk about every 5 meters or so throughout the city. Very easy to follow.
On the way out of town we walked through the campus of the University of Navarre. It was the first day of the new school session and the campus was busy, but we were able to obtain a stamp for our credencial at the administrative building marking our visit. For the next couple of kilometers there was no shade and the sun beat down on us without pity. Thankfully, Cizur Menor was not far away.
We are spending the night at an albergue operated by the Knights of St. John of Malta. We were so pleased with our stay in Arre and the care we received from Brother Domingo that are now going out of our way to stay only at albergues run by church-associated organizations, if possible. We are avoiding the noisy, crowded municipal albergues as much as possible. Brother Pedro took great care of us and made us feel abundantly welcome. The brothers worship in a venerable, old church opposite the albergue.