|Pamplona’s old town|
(Side-note: the title of this post was inspired by Not Hemingway’s Spain, a fine blog run by Valencia-based American expat—and fellow Texan—Zach Frohlich. He’s written against the stereotypes of what he calls the “Hemingway paradigm” and tries to break down the simplified images of Spain many people have that often originate in Hemingway’s writings.)
|Monument to the Encierro (Bull Run)|
HistoryModern bullfighting formally began in Spain about 300 years ago, but Pamplona’s past stretches back at least 1,700 years more. Settled in 74 BCE, it was named for its founder, the Roman general Pompey—a key figure in the conflicts that transformed the Roman Republic into an empire. After said empire fell apart/withdrew from then-Hispania, and after Charlemagne’s empire had lost control over the French borderlands, Pamplona became the capital of the independent Kingdom of Navarra, which spanned the Pyrenees and included most regions that speak the unique Basque language today. This country lasted for almost 1,000 years until the kings of Spain and France annexed its territory outright during the Renaissance era.
|Going for a Saturday morning stroll in the ciudadela (citadel)|
|Interior nave of the cathedral|
However, all the ideas that they had plastered on one wall that they claimed were the basis of Western civilization—things like liberty, equality, tolerance, democracy, etc.—had their origins in the Age of Enlightenment, and are ideals that the Catholic Church has only very recently come to embrace. Awkward. Still, the cloisters were truly gorgeous, and the joints of the ceilings in the naves were beautifully illuminated and decorated.
Nearby in the old town was the Museo de Navarra, a historical art museum with artifacts and pieces spanning from prehistoric times up to the present day—all from Navarrese artists and locations. Roman mosaics, medieval column capitals, and paintings from the last 1,000 years filled the museum’s four narrow floors. The place’s claim to fame is its Portrait of the Marquis of San Adrían, a work by master Spanish painter Francisco de Goya depicting a Navarrese nobleman.
FunI’m not sure if it had to do with impending Reyes (Epiphany) celebrations or if it was simply for the heck of it, but as I wandered around the Plaza del Castillo—the heart of the city—a large marching band entered the scene and paraded across the central square. It was great fun enjoying this silly diversion between supper pinchos (see below). But the band left to march into the old town, so I marched into Café Iruña, a turn-of-the-century establishment whose interior has changed little since it first opened in 1888. It was also Hemingway’s favorite haunt, but even without that dubious distinction, still served tasty pinchos and good coffee.
|Parade in Café Iruña|
As Navarra borders the Basque Country—home to the artsy appetizers called pintxos—Pamplona had its fair share of good bites, spelled “pinchos” here. I have to be honest and admit that, outside of touring the cathedral, art museum, and citadel park, I didn’t do much else but, uh, eat. Like, from 11am when I arrived in town to about 9pm, you couldn’t tell where my “lunch” pinchos ended and the “dinner” ones began. Haha!
|A Pamplona resident looks out from her apartment near the|
Monument to the Fueros (Charters) of Navarra
* tortilla (potato omelet)
* ham/fried zucchini roll on toast
* meat-stuffed pepper with cheese
* crab/smoked salmon roll on toast
* goat cheese, sauce, and tomato on toast
* boquerones (pickled anchovies) in essentially pico de gallo sauce
Have you ever gone to a place on its off-season? Do you enjoy the quiet calm of low season or the tourist-crammed energy of high season? Comment below!
For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.