of all the medium-to-large sized cities we walked through, nothing compared with the approach to Pamplona. it was damp during the last several kilometers, but not enough to properly be called “rain.” unlike later cities (looking at you, Burgos) the suburban sprawl to the east of Pamplona is limited and relatively picturesque. after crossing over the river, the walls of the city loom up suddenly behind the trees and demand a moment to take them in.
in 75-74 BCE, Pompey set up camp on the site of what is now Pamplona, establishing the village that over centuries grew into the city we see today. it later became the primary city of the Vascones (Basques), called Iruña. the intervening centuries saw the city controlled by all manner of rulers — Visigoths, Basques, Muslims. for a period after the Muslim conquest of Pamplona in 715, things remained stable as the Basques near the Pyrenees seemed disinterested in repulsing or ousting the Moorish troops and the city may have even flourished. as the 8th century progressed, however, control over Pamplona vacillated between Moorish and Frankish control with neither side able to gain satisfactory control. in 778 as he fled back towards the Pyrenees, Charlemagne is said to have destroyed the walls of the city (if not the entire city) in a bid, as mentioned, to prevent his enemies from using it in the future. this went counter to agreements he’d made not to attack the city walls and may have spurred Basque rebels into the ambush and battle that destroyed his rearguard in Roncevaux Pass.
city prospects revived again in the 11th century, helped by the flow of peregrinos along the Camino. the city enlarged with two additional boroughs in the 12th century — meaning three distinct (and often conflicting) towns existed within the city’s fortress walls. the king unified the boroughs into one city in 1423, which remained the capital of the autonomous kingdom of Navarra after its annexation to Spain in 1512. Castilian conquest a year later and advancements in military technology prompted enhancements to the city defenses, including the construction of a massive star for on the city’s south and fortification of the city walls. the walls we passed through date from the late 16th to 18th centuries.
because of the city’s military importance, the walls restricted growth — expansion had to go up rather than out, resulting in tall buildings, warren-like streets, and a dearth of open spaces and courtyards. by the end of the 19th century, housing density reached a critical limit and modifications to the star fort allowed an expansion by six city blocks. woo! three decades later, however, the advent of the First World War and its attendant military advancements rendered Pamplona’s existing defenses useless and in short order the southern wall was demolished to allow for rapid urbanization and expansion from the 1920s to the 1950s and into the present day.
Pamplona is the home to the University of Navarra (ranked as the best private university in Spain and the campus of which we walked through on our way out of the city) as well as the infamous Opus Dei, which operates the University. city industry is diversified with the automotive industry making up the largest part. renewable energies are also increasing their presence in the economic sector — which is evinced by the line of wind turbines dotting the ridge to the west of the city (about which more in my next post). nearby Sarriguren is home to the National Centre for Renewable Energies.
and of course there’s the (in)famous running of the bulls every year in July during the Festival of San Fermín. can’t say I’m sad we missed it — there’s no way we would have gotten a room at our awesome hotel and would have had to contend with thousands of people while we made our way wearily out of town just as they’re releasing the bulls.