A few months ago, I had the chance to do the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. It is the most famous festival of its kind in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people show up to watch or participate. Hemingway wrote ‘Sun Also Rises’ which revolved around it.
The Running of the Bulls long ago reached iconic status. All you need to say are the words, “Running of the Bulls” and people know what you are talking about.
The Donkey Race at the Sali Summer Festival
Then, there is… The Running of the Donkeys. The poor, red-headed stepchild of the Running of the Bulls, but I believe destined in its own way to become world famous.
It is an event that can only happen in a small town. And one that I am exceedingly grateful that I stumbled upon, during my month in Croatia.
At the beginning of August, the sleepy little town of Sali (population 1,688), on the island of Dugi Otok holds its three day summer festival. Sali is easily accessible from the mainland by means of a hour-long ferry ride from Zadar.
The festival consists of three days of food, drink, music, and assorted sporting competitions, such as sack races, scooter races and a tug-of-war competition, but the whole thing culminates with the soon-to-be-famous Donkey Races late Sunday afternoon.
The Real Competition: Donkey’s Distain verses Rider’s Intensity
The donkey races run a big U from one of side of the harbor to the other. I didn’t realize until I got this photos up on the computer what I enjoyed the most, which is the contrast of expressions and emotions you can feel from the donkeys and the riders.
Unlike the Running of the Bulls, the crowd in this particular endeavor can get much more up close and personal with the beasts. Just stand behind the white lines and get ready for all the high-speed racing excitement.
Before the race, the donkeys, their riders, the Donkey Band, and local dignitaries assemble on one side of the harbor for some speeches and merriment. They they march around to the starting line — donkeys, riders, and dozens of locals of all ages in costume.
The run a couple donkey races. The winners get a big prosciutto ham. Then, the Donkey Band takes a few tours around the harbor and everyone then gets back to the eating and drinking.
It was only a day trip, actually that turned into an unexpected overnight trip without my bag when I couldn’t get a ticket back on the return ferry, but it was one that I was happy to have stumbled across.
Nobody ever lives their life all the way up, except bull-fighters.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
I’m sorry Ernest, my old pal, but you never meet the fearless donkey riders.
The contrast between this and the Running of the Bulls makes me laugh. I love the quirkiness. I may need to go to Croatia just to see this- seems like quite the experience!
it was such an odd afternoon. Make sure you book a room that night at least a few days in advance. Not many rooms there and you don’t want to rely on the ferry to take you back that night, since it leaves in the middle of the races.
OMG! that’s hilarious! I’d really honestly rather see this than the bull version.
Both were fabulous. I have had a very lucky year, so far.
All I can say is poor donkeys! haha. Some of those guys are bigger than the donkeys themselves!
I know, isn’t that great! And the expression on the donkey’s face. “Dude, what do you think you are doing up there, exactly??”
Hahaha, this is awesome! That photo of the guy lying on top of his donkey is great! Looks like a really fun thing to have stumbled upon.
I wish I could have followed that particular guy all the way around the course.
LOL how cute! Had no idea this sport existed.. the poor donkeys look bewildered;)
the expression on the donkey’s faces, admittedly from a human’s point of view, makes me laugh. If you ascribe human emotions to those looks, they so clearly are saying “what the hell are you doing??!!”
This is re-donk-ulous 🙂
That will to win photo is priceless. I love finding random things like this when travelling. Makes me want to jump on a donkey and get the hell out of Dodge!
The Will to Win is my favorite also.
That dude riding the donkey is making an ass of himself… 🙂
Well played, Sir.
That looks amazing. I would much rather see this than Pamplona!
Man, those are small donkeys! Nice picture of the harbor in Sali – great reflections of the buildings.
Great shots! Your photos on the donkey race are very compelling. So much so that I badly want to see this festival next year! It looks so much fun.
Looks like a really fun festival! I like the pictures of the guy on his donkey 🙂
I wanted to see you riding a donkey!!!
So cute!! I wish I could have come across this when I was in Croatia. Great pics!!
It looks like that guy is hanging onto that donkey as if his life depends on it. And he’s bigger than that donkey!
The photos are brilliant, but your captions are hilarious. And I love the expression on that one guy’s face who is on the donkey…”Today’s the day we get this over with” (that’s what I imagine him thinking in his head) The donkeys are mini donkeys!
These are the best trips. When you go somewhere and what happens is completely unexpected. Why was the band in the water?
That’s completely adorable. I can’t believe I’ve never heard about this. I love the parading the horses like at the Kentucky derby.
Your donkey race may win for its band standing in water, but I think mine still may take the cake with its donkey costume parade that precedes the actual race… 🙂 https://www.midwesternerinmexico.com/2010/05/01/what-is-the-best-festival-ever-in-mexico-ask-the-burros/
I would totally rather watch Donkeys race. Mostly for the humor in it.
Shaun brings up a good point. Can you pick them up and carry them across the finish line?
Everyone enjoy except the donkey:) I will be having a business trip to Croatia end of this year, hope to experience something special there:)
I wish I could have followed that particular guy all the way around the course. Make sure you book a room that night at least a few days in advance. Not many rooms there and you don’t want to rely on the ferry to take you back that night, since it leaves in the middle of the races. Great pics!!
OMG! These are the best trips. I love the quirkiness.
I love this MIchael – and would totally go to see this! Great story!
Not many rooms there and you don’t want to rely on the ferry to take you back that night, since it leaves in the middle of the races. That looks amazing.