Pais Vasco – ozeano, janari eta kultura

Travel

In search of the Atlantic Ocean, nature and culture this month I was lucky to visit Basque Country. Until the very end I was not sure if the trip will be possible, due to COVID-19 still present in our lives.

With all the precautions, I decided to take off and landed in sunny (!) Bilbao. I planned this trip in advance as a part of anniversary and birthday celebration with my boyfriend, knowing how much he loves the green landscapes of the North of Spain. As well, that Basque Country is one of the places no foodie can miss!

Travelling by air was not as dreadful as we expected – Malaga airport was almost empty on that day and we almost dreamt that air travel would look like this everyday. People being respectful and keeping the distance, simple as that. Similarly, the streets of Bilbao were spacious and only with some notion of tourism (people who were, unfortunately, the only ones not wearing masks). 

Bilbao anyhow is a living example of perfect rejuvenation of the post-industrial landscape. Awarded with the ‘urban Nobel prize’ in 2010, this city is perfectly friendly to breathe, walk and enjoy life. The sidewalks are broad, the road signals signs are melting ideally with the surroundings – to the point that at the back of them, you can find a depiction of tree leaves shapes!

We were very lucky with the weather, which is mostly rainy and windy throughout the year, and thus it is so beautifully green. Coming from Costa del Sol, where the climate is probably the sunniest and mildest on this planet, but largely affected by deforestation, green spaces are more of an oasis than regularity. 

We visited a few bars and restaurants in Bilbao and regardless of the pricing range, the experience was exquisite. There is no such thing as mediocre food, nor wine in Basque Country! As long as you are flexible and let yourself be surprised – most of the dishes contain fish or seafood, which is the zero Km dish there. We dream of pintxos for breakfast until today.

We also went to the famous Guggenheim Museum, where we visited permanent exhibitions, including the magnificent works of Jenny Holzer and Richard Serra, as well as some interesting temporary exhibitions of Olafur Eliason (the light!) and Richard Artschwager (the useless piano!). 

When talking about culture, it is hard not to mention the very separate language if the Basque. I’ve been fascinated by it and tried to grasp as much of it, as possible. Since my mother tongue, Polish, is often referred to as one of the most difficult languages to learn, why not trying to pick some Basque? My favourite word spotted in public space was probably komunak. I absolutely loved the idea of naming public toiler as a common place to go to, when needed.

Apart from the city, we took some time to visit the coastal town, even though we didn’t have too much time to wander about. Thanks to my colleague, we went to a coastal town Mundaka, famous for its picturesque landscape and one of the longest and strangest waves forming at its Atlantic shore, due to sedimentation of the river floating to the ocean. This attracts surfers from all over the world to practice. On the way, you can visit the town of Guernica and the natural park of Urdabai.

We needed this break, although the times are not perfect for any further travel. We are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful countries full of diverse cities, cultures, languages and landscapes to choose from, close and far. Even if we are confined again soon, we will have pictures to come back to and travel back in time. 

 

 

Cinematic dreams of Guadix

Travel

After spending almost 50 days fully confined, I have to admit my imagination leads me to the places I’ve visited even more often. Since yesterday, I have been allowed to go out for a walk or exercise during certain hours nearby, and this makes me already very contented. Although I know the pathway to the ‘new normality’ will take some time and who knows how long it will take, and how the new world will look like.

My imagination today takes me back to Guadix, a very special town I had pleasure to visit last year, touring around Andalucia. After months of intense work, I was craving for a remote, desolated place surrounded by stunning nature. Curiosity and a random cinematic guide brought me an idea of renting a few nights in a ‘human cave’. Houses underneath the soil were very popular in this part of Spain, especially during the great migration of mining and agriculture workers. Almodovar’s ‘Dolor y Gloria‘ depicts this period of time very accurately.

Upon my arrival, what surprised me more, is that Guadix used as a film stage for other movies I’d never think of! ‘Indiana Jones’ being probably the most famous one, and ‘Karol, un uomo diventato Papa’ about John Paul II – the most surprising one. Not sure if Guadix staged as Vatican City, or Wadowice – provincial town in Poland, judging by the looks: could be both.

It does not surprise when you get to know Guadix a bit more: the town consists of various neighbourhoods, varying greatly in their architecture, wealth and even: light. The ‘cave’ neighbourhood is full of red rocks and sand contrasted by the while houses, and scorching sun, while downtown is rather shady and full of winding, narrow streets with stray cats on every corner. There is also an impressive castle and cathedral in between.

This is why Guadix can pretend almost any Wild West, Roman or provincial town. I like it most for being Guadix though. Surrounded by stunning Sierra Nevada and deserts, the sunrise and sunset shed thousands shades over this special place. As you can see below, I could not help but stare and capture the most of its beautiful light.

I found peace there. Spending a few nights in the cave (thanks to renting it from the local owner, named Maria) made me realize about how important it was to design such a place to shelter from heat in the day as well as during freezing nights. Also, how spacious the caves are and how sustainably one could live in such a close connection to the nature.

I hope for discovering more gems in Andalucia at some point later in the year, when I might be able to live the city. For now, I am lucky to have lived the authentic, Guadix experience and stayed there longer than initially expected, doing absolutely nothing.

A sentimental journey back to Sevilla

Personal, Travel

Seville, known as ‘the prettier sister of Malaga’ is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This year, confined at home since over 4 weeks due to the devastating pandemic worldwide, and at the same time, very grateful to be healthy and safe, I am reminiscing some of my getaways to this charming place.

Sevilla (as I prefer to use the original naming convention) is the 4th largest city in Spain with the largest area of Casco Antiguo, the old city centre, and plethora of architectural gems coming from various centuries: from ancient times, romanticism to modern influences.

Famous for its oranges blossoming throughout the year, flamenco, unbearably hot summers and religious traditions, Sevilla attracts its spectators especially during Easter, for Semana Santa processions. I have never chosen this time to visit Sevilla, but instead, went there a couple of times in the colder months to live and breathe the city staying in the least touristy neighbourhoods.

Walking around the city is incredibly pleasant, as it offers a lot of shadow in its parks and is very green as for a city in deforested Andalucia, as well as there is plenty of tavernas and peculiar restaurants or bars, such as church-themed Garlochi. Cuisine is very varied and apart from traditional Spanish tapas, there is a lot of healthy options as well as Latin-American or gourmet options, such as Abantal. This restaurant is based on local ingredients only and uses a lot of symbolic, including the NO8DO ‘No me deja-do’ – the loyalty for the city.

Sevilla, apart from being a monumental testimony for the Spanish crown, is also very lively nowadays, and its modern architecture and art is very intriguing, including the Setas installation as well as the neighbourhood built for the Expo 1992. There are various guides to discover Sevilla by its azulejos picturing the scenes from the old times and referring to universal topics like death, festivities and changing seasons.

And even for a non-religious person like me, the mysticism of Sevilla makes me shiver down the spine. As I accidentally witnessed the procession of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación carried by dozens of men and followed by a local orchestra, I was in awe for cultivating such a beautiful tradition for ages.

And this is Sevilla for me, really. The beauty of the sunshine in the day, and the unbelievable light of the night, with mystical secrets almost in every corner, mixing up with more ludic traditions and customs.

I am grateful to be living in a vicinity of such a different city only 2 hours away and today I reminisce the fact how much I love exploring the region I am lucky to be currently living, Andalucia.