Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Carnaval de Toro

Saturday I traveled to Ciudad Rodrigo to partake in Carnaval festivities. The city has a traditional running of the bulls and bull fight (I didn't watch the bull fight, just the run in the street). It was different than I expected: I was anticipating a rush of bulls chasing a mass of brave (or foolish?) people down the street and it all ending in a few minutes. That isn't exactly what I witnessed.

I took a bus (there were over 800 students from Salamanca traveling to Ciudad Rodrigo!) at 10:30 and arrived around 11:45. It was FREEZING. Smart tourist that I am, I forgot to bring my gloves. By the time the bull run finished around 2:00, I couldn't press the button on my camera to take a picture, my fingers were so cold.

In traditional "carnaval" fashion, almost everyone was wearing a costume. Here they dress up for carnaval like we dress up for Halloween. I saw many families (parents included) in matching costumes.

Anyway, the bulls commenced running at 1:00 so I had time to wander the city (wandering is what I do best) for awhile, before staking out my spot on the street. I secured a place on the fence, and just before 1:00 climbed up to get a good view. The crowds were intense.

Finally, I heard a bell ringing, the crowds closed in, and the bulls appeared. Many people chose to stand behind the guardrails. Other people chose to be in the street, until the bulls came, at which point they would throw themselves against the fence, trying to climb away from the angry beasts.

It was different from my expectations because first one bull went by, then two more, then another, then a group of three, etc. And there weren't a lot of people "running" with the bulls, just instigating them. And then, the crowd would get excited because a bull, or two, came from the opposite direction. I do not know if they were confused or what. For awhile there were two bulls just standing in the middle of the street right in front of my section. They were probably thinking: "Really, people? This hasn't gotten old for you yet?" Eventually, though, all the bulls reached the arena. The whole process lasted about an hour.

After the run, I wandered through the rest of the city: imagine any state fair or festival in the states. There were small rides, games to win stuffed animals (some to wine bottles of alcohol!), numerous booths where you could buy any sort of cheap souvenir, vendors selling all kinds of food-some traditional Spanish dishes and other traditional fair foods.

Despite the cold weather, it was quite an interesting spectacle. I certainly saw an important part of Spanish culture.

Pictures are on Picasa. I'm sorry, they aren't great-most are out of focus and off center, but my skills were impeded by the crowds and frozen fingers. Hopefully you will get an idea of the excited atmosphere.

I hope your Lenten season started well today!


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