It’s my third day in Spain, but I still have those moments where I think, “Holy crap, I’m on a whole different continent.” While Pamplona is nothing like Kansas City or Columbia, I still surprise myself when I remember that I get to live here for a whole six months.
On paper, Pamplona is a lot like Columbia. It’s a town of 200,000 people, equidistant from Barcelona and Madrid. And it’s home to two universities: the public University of Pamplona and the private Opus Dei-run University of Navarra where I will be attending.
But the landscape of the town couldn’t be more different. The biggest similarity is that they both have a large landmark stadium. Except that the one in Pamplona is for bullfighting, and if it ever used for futbol I’m sure it’s not the americano kind.
Every building is at least seven stories tall: the first floor is dedicated to store fronts and the upper floors are residential apartments. In Pamplona, everybody lives in apartments–families, students, young people, old people are all intermixed in buildings. It’s a cool, neighborhood-like atmosphere walking around the streets. Because everything is built up so much, the town is very walkable. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the downtown area which is actually at the northern edge of town to the Univ. of Navarra which is at the very southern edge.
Every few blocks there are plazas with playground equipment for children (Full disclosure: my friends and I do desire to play on this equipment). And every few blocks has it’s own famacia (pharmacy), grocery store, fruit and vegetable vendor, florist, papeleria (mini-office supply store), boutique. There is probably a bank store front for every ten Pamplona resident. So if the Spanish banks do fail, there will be lots of Pamplona real estate for rent.
Abbey, Bridget (two other girls from Mizzou who are studying in Pamplona with me) and I walked much of the eastern and southern parts of the city yesterday, and were struck by the beauty of everything. The “downtown” section of Pamplona is very old and european-looking with narrow, cobblestone streets, balconies, statues of deceased important people and beautiful plazas. The Univ. of Navarra in contrast is very modern looking with huge terraces and striking architecture with a great view of the Pyrenees mountains.
Many people are still on holiday in Pamplona, because the break from Christmas for many businesses extend until epiphany on Jan. 6. In Spain, many people receive there Christmas presents on this day to symbolize the gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. The Pamplona streets are bustling with last minute shoppers and families out enjoying the time off work.
Pamplona has lots of festivities to celebrate the holiday, including three camels you can ride in the main plaza (again, symbolizing the three wise men). Parades, concerts and performances. Yesterday we saw a small parade with a marching band and male flag twirlers dressed in leggings (I don’t think this was a direct reference to the wise men, but nevertheless a cool surprise). There are several more performances/events this evening that we look forward to attending. (Of course on the stipulation that we can find them. In typical Spanish fashion, logistical details are not a focus. So the advertisements for all these epiphany events don’t list a location).
For those of you who have searched for housing in Columbia, I cannot express how much easier it is to find a place to live in Pamplona. Landlords actually email you back in a timely manner. And these people operate on Spanish time! Today we plan to look at a few more apartments and hopefully be able to move into a place by tomorrow.