I was a civilian.
The Hotel Eslava, where I rested for some nights, was near to the Camino’s continuation out of Pamplona. Several times I gestured to pilgrims passing through, said things like ultreia!, bon chemin!, buen camino!. Some of them seemed to understand I was also a pilgrim…or had been. Damn.
It’s July as I write this, and yet another Australian has been badly injured in the corrida and been brought home for hospitalisation. Nonetheless, Pamplona must be a wonderful city for the young. I saw groups of youthful Americans arriving and knew they’d enjoy such a civil yet lively town. Lots of buzz and just enough grunge.
I experienced something like severe jet lag when I stopped walking. Does anyone else get that? Was it the altitude variations, the nine hundred kilometres advanced mainly from east to west? It proved to be limiting.
A personal rule about galleries and museums: no more than two hours every two days. Nothing makes me more hostile to culture than relentless cultural tramping, especially in these days of the hellish school group. Yet the jetless jet lag was so severe I neglected to visit any cultural centres – a disappointing oversight.
The externals of Pamplona made for very rewarding strolls. There’s an easy mix of styles, the colour is unabashed…and I love the way the tight Spanish architecture bursts open into crazy flourishes.
Of course, there’s the bullfighting thing. And Ernest Hemingway, who has his statue and his name about the place.
Let me digress a bit.
I remember an aboriginal soccer player, one who deeply resented Australia, speaking of his dismay when he saw an entire European mob chase a single referee. For all his resentment of us, he confessed that Australians would never form such a mob.
Am I explaining myself well? I like my sporting violence one-on-one, and prefer my bulls slaughtered as humanely and surreptitiously as possible…before they’re put on a plate.
So no bullfighting stuff. No Lorca, no blood on the sand, no poetry of death etc.
As for Hemingway, I just can’t get into him. That spare style and those staccato sentences are more distracting and fatiguing than the excesses they so deliberately avoid. It’s an excess of simplicity. The Hemingway themes – male potency, cathartic risk and violence etc – are a bore. In reading, I can’t excise the chest thumper, wife beater and Chivas Regal socialist from the text. (My love of America and things American is intense, but it’s the frankly popular which I admire: Sam Goldwyn and Richard Rodgers are towering cultural figures to me. Seriously.)
Pamplona began before Christ as a defensive settlement for Pompey the Great. It’s always been a resister, a fighter. Some say that as capital of Navarre it was the primary channel of European influence into the Iberian peninsular. Would the Camino exist without it?
Don’t know. I gave thanks, just in case.