Continuing on our Eurotrip adventures… On the home stretch now!
From Bordeaux we took a train into Basque Country, which spans the border between France and Spain. The Basque region is autonomous community of Spain, with its own very unique language and culture – I made the mistake of asking a sales assistant for a phone card to use ‘whilst in Spain’, and he corrected me saying that we were not in Spain but in Basque Country. I thought this was a little pedantic until I learned more about the culture and history of the region, which really is quite different to the Spanish cities we visited.
Our first stop was Donostia-San Sebastián (usually referred to as San Sebastián), a beautiful town with great beaches and a big reputation for food (which I’m going to have to write about in a separate post). The town is easy to travel on foot, and we spent a bit of time walking all the way along the La Concha beach. The funicular up Monte Igueldo was out of action for the winter, so we did the short hike up, said hello to the big Jesus statue that overlooks the city and enjoyed the views.
We were feeling pretty burnt out on museums and cathedrals, but our B&B host told us about a great exhibition at the San Telmo Museum. Originally a 16th century cathedral, the museum houses collections showing the Basque Country’s history, art and culture, from ancient to current times. The museum had gone under extensive renovations a big modern extension before reopening in 2011, which is a stunning piece of contemporary architecture which I managed to not take a single decent photo of! In one church was showing what I can only call an audio visual experience (wanky as that might sound) detailing the evolution of the museum, which was projected onto various huge walls showing how it looked when it was originally built.
The exhibition we were told to go and see was housed in the extension, and was about about language and in particular Basque, which is not a dialect of Spanish but a completely unique language that actually has little in common with any other modern languages. The number of people who speak Basque is shrinking, but efforts are being made to preserve the language and continue to teach new generations.
As a designer, I was in heaven at this exhibition. It was colourful, textural, immersive and clearly illustrated the points (in three languages!). It was so refreshing after visiting so many dry and overwhelming museums, and was one of my favourites that we visited.
Coming up soon – foodie notes on San Sebastian!