Tuesday, May 13, 2003

:: Going places 2 ::

We had excellent weather last weekend: lots of sun, a light breeze blowing most of the day and I used up most of Saturday to go out for a long leisurely walk.

First stop was the university campus, as it was also the day of the university sports fest. The way they organize the sportsfest here is impressive, with more than 50 activities going on all over the campus the whole day. There were soccer games, street basketball, football sala, table tennis, volleyball, tennis, handball, track and field events; fencing and taekwondo exhibitions; traditional rural ‘sports’ like bale pitching and log-splitting; children’s activities like parlor games, a train ride, and a huge trampoline; a karting track was also set up in one of the larger parking lots.

After a brief walk through the campus, I went to the central park in Pamplona, the Ciudadela. The Ciudadela is a, a fortress built in the 16th century—in 1571, to be more exact, although construction finished in 1645— to provide city inhabitants protection from invaders and marauders. Think of it as Intramuros but with lots of open spaces, greenery and trees, and park benches instead of buildings.

The fortress is built in the shape of a five-pointed star, and is surrounded by a huge, well-kept garden called the Vuelta del Castillo. The two areas together cover some 28,000 square kilometers. The garden is a popular place for jogging (or “footing,” as it is called here), walking, or football games. When the sun comes out, people congregate in the park to take in the sun.

From the park, you pass through three gates to enter the fortress proper. Crossing the first gate leads you to a large area that most likely used to be a moat. Crossing the second gate leads you to a small bridge that crosses another part of the moat. The last gate leads you to the interior of the fortress, which has been turned into a huge park, with thirty species of trees, park benches, and a number of outdoor sculptures by modern artists (which were not exactly my cup of tea). There are four old buildings in this area—the polvorin, the horno, and the pabellón de mixtos. They have been renovated and serve as exhibition halls, and they feature different exhibits on a monthly basis.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So I settled down in a park bench drenched by warm, golden sunshine, put on my earphones to listen to Norah Jones and John Mayer, and then took out a copy of Fiesta, Ernest Hemingways’s novel about life in Paris and in Pamplona at the beginning of the century, and spent the next hour reading and enjoying the sun and the breeze.