“Everyone who has visited the Basque County longs to return; it is a blessed land.” Victor Hugo
Timeless is perhaps the best way to describe the experience of visiting the Basque Country. It’s the chance to come face to face with the Basques themselves, a people who have lived in Europe longer than any other, and whose language Euskara, predates any of the Indo-European languages that you hear spoken around the rest of the continent.
The region’s history with the ETA, the Basque Independence group, is complicated and has been at times, bloody. We saw a protest in Ordizia to send the prisoners in Spain for terrorism back to the Basque country. The ETA has disbanded and most Basque people are willing to share their views.
Our base was in Donostia (Basque for San Sebastian) and we did day trips to both the Spanish and French side.
We arrived on a dark windy and rainy day. Our goal was to see El Peine del Viento, three sculptures in steel by the artist Eduard Chillida, that are anchored into the rocks at the foot of Monte Igueldo. it is a half hour walk from the center of San Sebastian along the coast.
Actually it was really cool to see it in the wind and rain.
We took the funicular up to the top to see the views (?) and the old amusement park.
There is something very creepy about being in an empty amusement park in the rain. It felt like the beginning of Law and Order and we were about to find the body.
Many of the places we visited were on the Northern route of the Camino Del Santiago. Religious devotion was once the prime motivator for taking this 800 km long hike to see the relics of St. James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela.
These days the route is taken by travelers who want to experience Spain in a different way, challenge themselves or are on their own spiritual journey.
I would recommend joining the trail at some point and enjoying the rolling green hills of the Basque Country. dotted with monasteries.
We take the train to Zarautz. Zarautz is a coastal town with a beautiful beach famous for surfing.
We pick up the Camino in the hills.
The yellow arrow or shell in the ground (in towns) means you are on the Camino route.
We hike for a few hours passed txakoli and tomato vineyards, animals and green fields with crazy beautiful views over the Bay of Biscay.
When Imanol our guide almost fell in the creek because of the mud, we went with the fence. Nobody said there would be climbing.
Getaria is a small seaside town with a picturesque harbor and beautiful beach.
We have lunch at Asador Astillero. It is another best meal on a trip of best meals.
I have never tasted fish this moist and delicious and I cannot believe there is no butter.
They showed us the kitchen. Basque people love to show you how they cook.
We stop at a txakoli vineyard on our way home. Txakoli is the wine of the Basque country. (TX is pronounced CH). The wines are light, bubbly and low in alcohol content.
The most widely planted grape variety, by far is Zuri meaning white, with a very small amount of the red variety called Beltza.
The word txakoli means farm wine or homemade. It is hard to grow because the climate is cold and wet.
It goes well with the exquisitely fresh fish of Basque cuisine, except that the locals also drink Txakoli with red meat. Why? Because historically it was all that they had.
We had a great time with Imanol who’s knowledge of the the Basque culture, kindness, easy going nature, intelligence and great taste in food made San Sebastian and the Basque Country an unforgettable trip.