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A buzz in the air

Carnaval, the festival leading up to the beginning of Lent, is a really big do in Ciudad Rodrigo. The main focus is the bull running, where bulls are released in the street so that lads, of all ages and sexes, can show how brave and skilful they are. But it's also a big do for lots of other reasons. It's a fiesta, a time for friends to visit, the opportunity for the youngsters to hang around the fun fair, the chance to stroll the stalls run by Gypsies and Peruvians, an opportunity to eat food in the street, to drink too much and generally to have a good time.

The Carnaval de Toros, begins on the 20th February and lasts through till Shrove Tuesday so preparations have been under way for a while. The rails that guide the bulls and steers into the town's main square were the first things to appear, then a few of the fairground attractions and food stalls began to park up. Yesterday workmen started to put up the wooden fences that will form the bull ring in the  square and the shutters went up in the Plaza del Buen Alcalde to turn each of the arches into a temporary home for each of the official "peñas."

Peña just means a group really and lots of groups of friends rent a flat or a garage for their peña, so that they can have a place to drink, eat and meet closer to the main action. The longer established, official, ones have some sort of involvement in the running of the event and they all rent a space and, I think, build a part of the wooden stands, that make up the seating for the bull ring. On the two or three days that there are proper bull fights it costs money to get into the stands so the members of the peñas are able to recoup their investment by collecting the entrance fees to their chunk of the stands. I should say that the bull fights are actually called Capeas (from cape I suppose) and they differ from the big, professional fights in that there are none of the mounted picadores, no squads of expensively dressed bull fighters and, most importantly, the bulls walk away unhurt.

There are posters all over advertising this and that to do with Carnaval and there have been lots more people just idling around the town centre. Quite infectious really.

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