“You are not in France, nor in Spain. It is Basque Country.” This was written on a sign of a bar in one of the busiest streets of Bilbao, the biggest city of the Basque country, which is an autonomous community in northern Spain.
País Vasco (Basque Country) have always had a very special place in Spanish history and politics. Without going into detail I can tell you so much that the self defending type of patriotism you sense in this sign comes from a collective memory the Basque people carry with themselves since centuries.
Bilbao was heavily industrialised till 90s, the time Guggenheim Museum opened its doors to the culture and art scene of Europe. Deindustrialization of Bilbao has started and the tourists discovered the city located in the skirts of Pyrenees.
With its modern architecture this museum has become the symbol of modern Bilbao. There is maybe not much to do and see in Bilbao compared to other cities in Spain and Europe, but Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is definitely worth to organise a short trip to Bilbao.
The domination of titanium in the architecture, the fog producing pool, the huge spider statue, the fountain sculpture firing water, the colourful 12 meters tall Terrier figure covered by flowers, known as “El Poop” are the highlights you can’t miss when you visit Guggenheim Museum.
When you have enough of the modernism, take a walk to Bilbao’s old quarter, Casco Viejo. Here you’ll witness a totally different Bilbao. Stroll around the streets as if you’re in a french movie from 50s, go shopping in a store of Kukuxumusu (it means flea kiss in Basque language) to buy a t-shirt with a funny bull figure on it.
Catedral de Santiago
Visit the Gothic Catedral de Santiago for religious history of this part of Europe.
End your day in a bar in Plaza Nueva with lots of yummy pintxos (Basque tapas).
Which language to speak? Spanish?
Don’t make the mistake to think that Basque language is a dialect of Spanish. It is not. Nevertheless, all Basque people can speak Spanish. But don’t take it for granted by ordering in Spanish language to impress the waitress with your Spanish language skills. It might be perceived even as offensive. Be smart and ask the person which language they prefer.
For more info get Lonely Planet Travel Guide to Bilbao.
Don’t forget to check my Packing List for useful travel gear.
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