Failure is the mother of all success

My fortune cookie today said “Failure is the mother of all success” ….Somehow in the process of making our way to Fribourg, Switzerland from Basel we took a little detour when the lady at the train station misunderstood me and we ended up in Freiburg, Germany….

We walked around for four hours attempting to go to the locations that our cousin spoke of (examples: the river we would be able to swim in ended up being a creek we could sit and splash in, the music festival that was taking place ended up being a guy on the street corner playing his guitar and the Amazing artwork was nowhere to be found) We called our friend we were supposed to be meeting when we arrived at the McDonalds… the other end of the phone grew silent as we explained the landmarks around us…by the time we were finished she said “Are you in Germany?” …. that would explain why nothing was what it was supposed to be and why we kept seeing the German flag everywhere. We had to backtrack 3 hours and then head 4 hours in the correct direction.

We made it just in time to hear the last couple of bands playing at the music festival we were originally supposed to be at. We hung out with our cousin and his wife and I danced on stage with a guy dressed like Mario for his bachelor party. All in all it was a good day. Bad news was we wasted most of our day, Good news was we got to explore a new city in an unexpected country and finally arrived in Switzerland 7 hours later.

 

We hung out with our family for the next two days. Visiting castles, the Pre Alps, the town of Gruyères. Swimming in the Zürich and hanging out with the locals. It went by fast and sadly it was time to head back to the States. We took a 2:00am train to the Zürich Airport. When we arrived we had about 8 hours before our plan was scheduled to depart, so we did what we do best…Entertain ourselves 😀  

We hijacked a luggage cart and toured the airport, talking to all of the random people that we saw along the way. We got bored after a while and ended up Camping out for the night in a set of chairs in a corner near our gate. We built a little fortress of chairs, cart and tables and passed out for the night.

Running with the Bulls ~ Encierro

 

The carnal pulse of euphoric Latin music engulfs the cobble stone alleyways of Pamplona. A feeling of exhilaration washes over me as I wander amid the gyrating sea of punch-drunk, dancing bodies that fill the streets. Santo Domingo square is thriving and alive with the unbridled excitement of the unknown and
I can’t help but wonder if these feelings are a harbinger of things to come.

With the breaking dawn I step into the traditional white gauchos and shirt, accented by the infamous, beast taunting, bright red sash and rush down the creaking wooden stairs of my couch surfing host’s 3rd story flat. My heart nearly thumps out of my chest, while anxiously waiting for the screeching rocket to spark into the sky, marking the beginning of this dicey endeavor. Turning to see my brother’s face about to explode with excitement, I feel like we can take on the world!

The streets echo as several pastores raise their rolled newspapers and begin to chant  to the image of San Fermín placed in a small recess of brick wall at the Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Chanting “A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro dándonos su bendición. Entzun arren San Fermin zu zaitugu patroi zuzendu gure oinak entzierro hontan otoi.” (We ask San Fermín, our patron saint, to guide us in the bull run and give us his blessing). The bulls rush from their pen with powerful speed, the crowd screams and chaos ensues as the frantically enthralled masses push their way towards the arena of doom.

Starting a few hundred feet ahead I think to myself “It will be a while before they are near”, so I begin to jog. Within 40 seconds I am within arm’s reach of the enormous beasts! The ground trembles at what feels like the equivalent of a 9.6 earthquake on the Richter scale. The reek of sweating hide cannot conceal the smell of fear that consumes the air. It is madness! Avoiding bulls and dodging the fear crazed runners, my temples pulse as bursts of adrenaline give me strength to run like I’ve never ran before. We lock arms and hurdle a few piles of fallen people. Making our way into the arena we go straight to the back wall, check for injuries, hug and snap a few photos before the next round of bulls are released.

We realize the bull’s horn nearly clipped us as a gush of wind blows past. Looking around we see several people being taken down like rag dolls, limp and motionless as their eyes roll back when they fall to the ground. Quickly realizing we are not in a safe zone we climb into the stadium seating to become onlookers of this surreal experience. A spectacle that would be unimaginable anywhere else in the world is that of Encierro, the soul event of the Sanfermines. This act, unlike any other I’ve encountered leaves me with a deep appreciation for life.


San Fermin is accompanied by dancers and street entertainers. The week-long celebration involves many other traditional and folkloric events. It is known locally as Sanfermines and is held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre. Its events were central to the plot of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, which brought it to the general attention to the World. It has become the most internationally renowned fiesta in Spain.

Tents, Trains, Friends & Fireworks

 As the sun peeked through the tent window, Andrew and I quickly began getting ready for the long day ahead. We packed up the tent, jumped the graffiti cover wall and booked it to the train station hoping we’d be able to make the 9:00am train to Pamplona. Unfortunately it was full and we could only purchase tickets for the 1:00pm train.

Today, July 6 was opening day! The beginning of The festival of San Fermín (or Sanfermines) festival, a deeply rooted celebration held annually in the city of Pamplona, Spain. Thousands of people accompany a replica of the statue of Saint Fermin along the streets in the old part of city. The celebration begins at noon, when the opening of the fiesta is marked by setting off the pyrotechnic chupinazo and carries on to midnight 14 July, with the singing of the Pobre de Mí.

As much as we wanted to be present for the opening ceremony, it just wasn’t going to happen….So we made due with what we had. We stopped in a small internet shop and sent e-mail to the family updating them on our whereabouts, got a few popsicles and hit the streets to continue exploring Barcelona.

We made our way back at the Train station around noon. I ran to the restroom while Andrew stood with our bags in the smoking area. When I came back outside Andrew was talking to a kiwi named Simon who was going in the same direction as us and was trying to get us to return our tickets and rent a car to drive 5 hours.

As much as I love a nice drive with friends, I really wanted to get to Pamplona. We spoke with a few car rental places and they were all out of our price range, so we improvised and snuck him onto the train. We made a pretty good team. After breaching the first security check point we now had to figure out how to pass through the next 2 check point with guards on either side….Simon went outside to the locked glass doors in the lobby area. After Andrew and I made it through I slipped my train ticket under the door. Simon made it through, now for the final security check…. as we got closer we noticed the lady at the desk checking all of the tickets and speaking to each person as they walked through….keeping my composure I handed her our tickets while Andrew stayed to my right Simon continued walking. The lady voice got louder as she tried to getSimon’s attention, she looked back at me and I just shrugged my shoulders, she kept speaking to us in spanish asking if he was with me and I just replied inglés, inglés! Luckily the guard that was on our right was assisting someone else so Andrew and I kept walking while she continued talking gibberish, we went down the escalator and onto the train. Found Simon, took his backpack and told him to wait in the bathroom. 30 minutes later after the coast was clear we slipped him a note under the door…..it was smooth sailing from there. Four and a half hours later we arrived at our long awaited destination!

A couple on the bus from the train station overheard us discussing plans for the rest of the day and asked if they could come along. Our motto is the more the merrier!! The 5 of us put our bags in a locker area underneath the bus station and hit the streets of Pamplona listening to all of the live music, looking at all of the booths set up on the sidewalk buying last minute pieces for the traditional outfit to run with the bulls (bandanas, sashes, etc.) dancing with everyone in the street, eating great food and ended the evening with an amazing firework show.

 

Once the firework finale had finished I contacted our Couchsurfing host and headed to his flat. After picking up extra travelers along our venture we couldn’t just let them sleep in the streets, but we didn’t want to take advantage of the couchsurfing opportunity and offend anyone, so everyone came with us and luckily our host was the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet and let everyone stay the night all week long. By the time our stay in Pamplona was over there had been five additional surfers to stay with all of us. It was an experience of a lifetime, a new tiny family that bonded, joked around, made dinner together, shared stories and explored the city together. Absolutely unforgettable!

España

  Hola! For those who don’t know me, I like to travel…. I’m a little addicted, and for this adventure I decided to bring my little brother Andrew along for the ride. I figured he’s probably the only one crazy enough to tough this one out.

Running with the Bulls (Encierro) has been on my bucket list for quite a while now….I was tired of watching time pass by and figured I better put my legs to good use while I’m still young. I’m excited for the trip, bonding time with Andrew, exploring new cites/countries and meeting new smiling faces.

Flying out on Independence Day was a bit of a bummer. Fireworks remind me that I’m about to be another year older, but it really doesn’t matter because we are on our way to España!!
We arrived in Spain the morning of my birthday. Plane ride was good, food…pretty sure they robbed an elementary school cafeteria, bags arrived as scheduled, exchanged our US dollars to Euros, changed in the airport bathroom and then caught a bus into Barcelona. Arriving in Placa de Catalunya, we were ready to Explore!

After walking around admiring all of the detailed architecture, we took a break in front of Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral. We sat down beside a small tree on the corner of a busy intersection. I had failed to explain to Andrew how thieves work in Europe. They’re professionals and they’re fast! While I was checking out our map of the city I looked up to find my brother about 15 feet away chatting with a guy that needed “help.” He had supposedly dropped something into the drain and needed assistance getting it out.

So while I am explaining to Andrew that he didn’t really need help and either wants money or wants to rob us….I hear a voice on my right saying “Tu bulsa! Tu Bulsa!” I looked over to see a taxi driver pointing at the spot in between my feet where my purse used to be. Then he pointed across the intersection to the subway. Without thinking (don’t ever do this. It isn’t smart to leave your travel partner) I ran across the intersection dodging cars, ran down the stairs to the subway, jumped the gate, ran down the right side of the 1st train looking like a crazed lady, didn’t see anyone with my purse,went back to the main level and back down to the left side of the 2nd train, no luck….sweating and out of breathe, I ran to the security on the main level asking them for help, but they said that there is nothing that they could do.I walked over to Andrew who had come down into the subway and apologized for leaving him. We did a quick check through of our bags to make sure we still had the important things (Money, passports & Camera) I told him we still had each other and the necessities, so it was still a good day.

We hopped on the metro and headed to Barceloneta beach to relax after our eventful hour. The beach was crowded and full of life. Just what we were looking for. Half a mile down the shore line we saw people jumping off of a rock wall. Since we both like to keep our bodies in constant motion we headed straight for the wall.

After jumping off a few times, my leg felt like it was on fire. I looked down to find sea urchin barbs sticking out of it. We packed up and started heading to the lifeguard station. The lifeguard didn’t speak much english, but he cleaned me up and had me back on my feet in no time.

 We headed back towards the Estacio-Sants main train station where we had originally planned to ride on to Pamplona. I stopped at a tiny internet shop to write my friend in Madrid to let him know about the events in Barcelona and depending on how the rest of the trip goes we may be delayed getting to him. I logged onto my e-mail account and low and behold was an uplifting unexpected message from my friend that read “don’t leave Barcelona tonight. The police found my business card in you purse and called me to see if you can pick up your purse” I jumped for joy! Even though deep down I knew that anything of value was no longer inside of my purse, the simple fact that I was able to get it back was amazing. So we headed to the nearest police station. What we didn’t realize is there are two types of police that work in Barcelona….one is the Mossos d’Esquadra (civilian, non military) police force and the other are Policía Nacional. Their function relates particularly to issues that affect Spain as a country, and Spain’s relations with the rest of the world.

Needless to say several hours and 6 police stations later we finally arrived at the correct station that had my purse. They told me a family picked up my purse from an alley where they had seen the robber throw my purse…as expected there were only a few items left inside. By the time we arrived at the train station our train was long gone and there weren’t any more running until the next morning.

 Lucky for us we packed a tent!! We walked half a mile until we stumbled across an abandoned lot in the middle of the city. Keeping an eye out for a clear moment that people weren’t passing by, we climbed the 10 ft. wall and set up camp for the night. Listening to sirens screaming, dogs howling and people chatting as they passed by, I closed my eyes thankful that this eventful birthday was over and a new day was coming….

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