Sunday, March 6, 2011

3/5/11- Going out of order but Carnaval in Ciudad Rodrigo

Ok so I just got back from a long day in Ciudad Rodrigo. Today was the big day in Spain to celebrate Carnaval which is basically Halloween here and in Ciudad Rodrigo they celebrate it with a running of the bulls and a corrida in which the matadors or toreros face-off with the bulls and actually kill them. It was definitely an amazing cultural experience.

I woke up at 6:30am to meet my friends at 7:30 to take the 30min walk to the bus station. We got to the city at about 9:30 and the festivities didn’t start until 11am so we walked around and explored the city a little bit. Due to the corrida none of the historical monuments were open, but we got to walk around the outskirts of the old part of the city on the old walls.

Around 11 we finally found where the majority of the people had been hiding and where the bulls were actually running around. Some of my friends even decided to jump in the giant pen and run around with them. At 1:30 the real “running” of the bulls began, they let loose 6 baby bulls and then 4 big and mean black/brown ones. We were on the metal barricade watching as the stupid drunk young men and women ran from the charging bulls. All of the sudden one of the bulls decides to turn and ram into the barricade 2 down from where we were standing. He knocked into it about 3 times and was almost able to break loose, definitely an adrenaline rush.

Running with the bulls

After running with the bulls we went to find a place to have lunch. We found a cute little restaurant filled with locals and got to sample some of the local dishes. Nothing too different, but I had penne pasta with chorizo for my first plate and then almóndigas (basically turkey meatballs) with patatas fritas for my second and then ice cream and the five of us shared a bottle of wine all for 12 euro each. Gotta love the menú del día, cheap and usually a good amount of food and lets you taste what the locals have.

After lunch we went to stake out our seats in the plaza mayor where they had set up the stadium for the bull fight. We were early enough that we pretty much had the pick of any seat we wanted and so of course we chose the front row that way us short people could actually see. We had made sure we didn’t sit in a section that said reservado when an old woman walked up below us and started basically harassing us. We could understand everything she was saying, but she still wasn’t making any sense, she even tried to insult us while standing in front of us saying that we were dumb Americans who can’t speak Spanish in which Giovanna and I replied saying, “Podemos entender Señora” and the woman went quite and walked away. We turned around and asked a some local men who were sitting behind us what the deal was and they said we were fine to sit where we were so we didn’t sweat it (later they somewhat gave us a complaint/insult saying that “los chinos no entienden nada, pero los americanos un poco” always funny when people don’t think that you can understand what they are saying, but you do). Next this old man came over, whom I think was the woman’s husband, and told us that we could sit there and if she came back and bothered us again to ignore her and say that he gave us permission and to say that we were his “hijos,” basically he was super sweet and the cutest old man ever.

When the man came to collect the money for the seats it cost 15 euro to sit in the front row as opposed to 10 euro for every other row, but it was so worth it. Not only were we up close and personal with the bulls, but also with the toreros. As the corrida began we weren’t exactly sure to what to expect, but it turned out to be the whole shebang. The fancy moves, the use of the capes, the poles to prod the bull in the back, the man on horseback to spear the bull to make him bleed and to weaken him, then the man on bull part where eventually the torero places his sword in the bulls spine and then with a different sword pokes his head and the bull collapses. It was definitely difficult to watch the first one; I had to keep telling myself, this is part of their culture and you are here to experience every aspect. The next three were a little bit easier.

To top off the experience, we had the nicest Spaniards around us. There was one couple sitting in the third row, right behind Libby and Sammy that were continuously answering our questions about what everything meant and what was going on. Also, next to Natalie was an older gentleman who placed a matador cape with a Barcelona fútbol logo out infront of us girls, which Jeff was not too happy about. He knew everything about the corrida, even the names of all of the toreros. I think he was either really amused by us or he really liked us because after the second torero finished and he received his flowers the man reached over and touched the torero on his shoulder and asked if he would give us his flowers, and HE DID! So Rachel got to take home flowers from one of the matadors. Nuts right?

The fourth torero looked really young and so we were all giggling and joking about him, “oh que guapo” and joking to Giovanna that he was her counterpart and the man heard us and after the torero finished and came right infront of us to his crew to clean up our friend asked him how old he was (21). Then, when he received his two ears from the bull for his good performance, he looked directly at us and posed. Pretty cocky move, but pretty cool at the same time. We were almost sure he was going to throw one of his ears at Giovanna and we kept joking about it, but sadly he didn’t, I guess not really sadly because that’d be kind of gross.

The procession
Our Torero
Flores para las americanas from the Torero

All in all it was definitely a cultural experience to say the least. I enjoyed it, especially how close we were to the action, sometimes the bull ran right into the wall below us and we could feel it hit, but I don’t think I could go to another one. It was something I had to experience while here, that is for sure and I am so happy I did, besides if we were to go to one, it would be in a large stadium and we wouldn’t be as close to the action. I’ve never experienced something like Carnaval in Ciudad Rodrigo and I’m very happy I made the trip. 

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