Last weekend I went on my first trip and now you’ll get my as always affectionate but blunt travelogue. I went on a trip organised by ESN, accompanied by a few other exchange students I met beforehand. The whole thing had the flair of a school trip. We went to Bilbao on Saturday and to Donostia – San Sebastián the next morning and then back again that very night. For a complete report would be quite long I’ll split it and tell you about San Sebastián with the next post.
As mentioned, we started out on Saturday morning by driving to Bilbao. It was remarkable that all the students who carried suitcases were male, while we girls just squeezed our overnight stuff in backpacks or bags. ;) At arrival in Bilbao we were thrown out of the bus at the Basilica de Begoña and hobbled down a lovely old stone alley, which is passing the Arco del Triunfo De Mallona, to Miguel Unamuno Plaza where we met our walking tour guides. We passed the typical places for tourists: Palaza Nueva, the old train station, the city hall (Casa Consistorial) and Fuente Zubizuru, a modern bridge. The old part of Bilbao is quite adorable, but every now and then you encouter modern concrete monstrosities which unfortunately sabotage the charisma of this art metropolis.
Bilbao is one of the biggest cities in Spain and against general assumptions it is not the capital of País Vasco, the Spanish Basque region (there is a French one, too). Despite Bilbao being one of Spains leading art and culture metropoleis you can – unfortunately – still see quite obviously its former misconstruction and the city’s past as industrial town. Maybe I am spoiled by all the amazing cities I’ve seen, but I didn’t like Bilbao overly much. What I really loved where the Federico Moyúa Plaza (title picture), the Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar with its beautiful archways (pictuere above) and the Guggenheim museum.
The latter showcased a pop art exhibition, that didn’t quite spoke to my taste in art but was nevertheless very interesting. I was especially appealed by the huge works of Anselm Kiefer (look up „Die berühmten Orden der Nacht“) and of course one encoutered old friends as Chagall, Kandinsky and Picasso. I found a room most fascinating where they displayed a playing orchestra on screens, divided up in groups according to the instrument. The interesting thing was that you were kind of standing in the middle of the orchestra and all musician played without an instrument, so that they cannot behind them anymore. You can observe in detail what the musicians are doing. I also enjoyed stumbling across a book with pictures by Philippe Halsman of Salvador Dalí. I only started studying this photographer when I met his daughter by chance (long story ;) ) and ever since I am a fan of his work.
Apart from this are the typical Basque pintxos, a kind of extravagant tapas, amazing and worth a try. At night you can relax in or just outside of the cafés and bars although I got the feeling that there is not too much going on at night right in the city center. Night life seems to be taking place somewhere else. After walking the incredible distance of 11.5 miles that day we all fell into our beds at two a.m. which is considered quite early in Spain. Said beds where in the BBK Bilbao Good Hostel which is located somewhat outside of the city. Easy to reach via metro, big rooms, clean and the typical hostel breakfast is included in the price. Armed with earplugs against the noise from the metro station and the usual hostel noise you can stay there very well.
All in all I think Bilbao is quite nice, but unfortunately not much more. I don’t know if I feel this way because I didn’t do a lot of research beforehand or if it is just not for me, but I don’t really feel like going back there one day. One has to be big enough to admit that to oneself now and then. ;)