Category: Basque Country Tourism (page 1 of 5)

July 7, 2008: Three Basque Caves Declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

On July 7, 2008, UNESCO declared three Basque caves–Santimamiñe in Bizkaia and Ekain and Altxerri in Gipuzkoa–to be World Heritage Sites. The Basque Country is at the epicenter of arguably the most important cave complex in Europe, an area framed by the world famous caves of Lascaux, Dordogne in southwestern France and Altamira, Cantabria, in northern Spain. Their designation as World Heritage Sites implied official international recognition for the cultural value of the cave art discovered in the three sites.

In order to preserve the cave art in these locations, they are, naturally, closed to the public. However, we can still get a flavor of what treasures lie deep within their walls. As regards Santimamiñe, one can undertake an amazing online virtual visit (click here to start) as well as view a great photo gallery of the cave and its surrounding area (click here to see).  And when it comes to Ekain, as well as the option of a virtual visit (click here to start), those of you lucky enough to actually set foot in the Basque Country (congratulations by the way, it will be an unforgettable experience!), a replica of the original site exists, Ekainberri, which offers a unique opportunity to experience what it must have been like to live deep underground. Click here to visit the Ekainberri website.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, the only text in English that summarizes the key works of the most important Basque ethnographer of all time. Reflecting on the relationship between humans and animals, that intimate connection that underpins much of the cave art, Barandiarán observes (p. 148):

Among the species that inhabited the Basque Country during the Neolithic were cows, horses, deer, mountain goat, roebuck, chamois, wild boar, fox, mountain lion, the weasel, and the martin. Deer and especially wild boar were the animals most hunted by man.

Sheep already existed in Bizkaia, as we know from their remains in Santimamiñe; this is an indication that the practice of domesticating and using them had already reached this part of the Pyrenees.

*Images

Top: A horse depicted in Santimamiñe, image by ETOR Entziklopedia, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom: The neck and head of a saiga antelope looking left. A bit more to the right is the beginning outline of another antelope and its horn. Image by GipuzkoaKultura, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

The Basque Country “is basically paradise”!

“What is Basque Country?” … Just in case anyone out there didn’t see this great introduction to visiting the Basque Country then check it it out here.

So the Basque Country “is basically paradise”? We couldn’t agree more!

*Image: Gaztelugatxe, Bizkaia, at dusk. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lagunak Tour

Today, a small group of Basque-Americans will leave to the Basque Country to reconnect with their roots. I recently spoke to Florence Larraneta Frye, who organizes the Basque Women’s Luncheon I wrote about a few months back, about the trip.  Each laguna (friend) first had a family tree put together by Lisa Corcostegui (check out her website), and the itinerary was then designed around it. They will travel to their ancestral homes to visit their roots from the source. As Frye noted, “They see, and know they are indeed Basque, with pride that they can validate.”
The tour itself is composed of all things Basque, flexible within the 10 days they’ll be abroad on this intensely personal trip. Frye commented on the initiative:
As our Lagunak luncheon grew in size, it was not surprising to me that I realized how comfortable and bonded these women were–almost like joining a family reunion of relatives for the first time.  The noise and chatter was deafening, a Basque tradition I remember always, when Basques meet Basques!

I also sadly noticed some women feel only slightly Basque and not worthy to even to come to our luncheon as they are, say, 1/8th Basque… but all women of Basque decent are welcome to our luncheon.  We have name tags, they write their names, and also their Basque names, they always know that, and feel a great sense of pride for their Basque (grandfather, etc) name. We are a very proud culture, our blood line is diluting, and will be more so as time goes on…this diaspora is “falling between the cracks.”

What a life changing gift for many that only felt Basque because someone told them, now they have a picture in their minds and know they are indeed Basque. This first tour will be an experiment of what we will change in the future for our ladies.  My friends from Euskadi make me feel like I belong, and I hope to accomplish this for my lagunak.

We look forward to hearing more about the trip. Sorte eta bidaia on!

 

New exhibition celebrates Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 visit to the Basque Country

We’ve already discussed in a previous post how a lot of Hollywood royalty, like Charlie Chaplin for example, spent time in the Basque Country (and we’ve still to tell the tale of Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn’s time there…but for that, watch this space!). Now it has come to our attention that the Didam art gallery in Baiona recently premiered an exhibition (running through September 3) celebrating Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 visit to promote the movie Vertigo at the Donostia-San Sebastián international film festival that year.

Hitchcock in the Basque Country, from the Bayonne website.

After arriving at Biarritz airport, “Hitch” and his wife, Alma Reville, spent four and a half days taking in the sights of Donostia and Pasai Donibane in Hegoalde (dining in the famous Camara restaurant in the latter) as well as Hendaia, Biarritz, and Baiona in Iparralde, all accompanied, perhaps not unsurprisingly given that this was a promotional visit, by numerous (and prolific) photographers. The exhibition curator, photographer Pedro Usabiaga, researched the project for five years, checking out different archives and sources. Some of the photos, such as Hitchcock posing in the pulpit of Baiona Cathedral, reveal a playful side to the master of suspense but would most likely have been banned from appearing in any publication in Franco’s Spain at the time.

Read the exhibition program (and see some of the pictures) here.

See a report on the exhibition (in French) in Sud-Ouest here.

Great new video guide to Kakueta Gorge

There’s somewhat of an end-of-term feeling around here and our thoughts have turned to the approaching summer, travels, and of course the beautiful Basque Country. And once again we will shamelessly borrow a video from our good friends at About Basque Country, this time one that showcases the amazing Kakueta Gorge.

We did already write about this landmark site in a previous post but we also think it’s well worth revisiting one of the truly remarkable spots in the Basque Country, a little piece of Amazonia in Xiberoa/Zuberoa!

This also got us to thinking about other interesting or emblematic sites … especially those off the beaten track somewhat.  So if you have any suggestions why not let us know? We’d be happy to share your thoughts!

New York Times celebrates Biarritz

Biarritz, photo by Gilles Guillamot via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times has published an article on the flourishing life of Biarritz on the Basque coast in France. Makes me want to go for a visit!!!

Read the article here!

A video journey to the heart of the Basque Country

Check out these great introductory videos charting a recent journey to the heart of the Basque Country, Xiberoa, from our friends at About Basque Country:

According to the blog, this was in part a journey made by Basques from the South in order to connect with their cousins in the North, a trip through the Basque Country and the variety of cultures, dialects, and landscapes that make up these distinct parts of Euskal Herria.

 

Anthony Bourdain visits the Basque Country

Anthony Bourdain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The well-known travel and food show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which aired on CNN on Sunday, May 7, explored the Basque culinary tradition. Bourdain is a long-time champion of Basque cuisine. As he himself notes:

San Sebastián and the surrounding region has more outrageously good restaurants per square mile than just about anywhere in Europe. Even the bad restaurants are good … The Basque can’t seem to help but make good food from great ingredients … My love for the Basque, for Basque culture, for my Basque friends, is absolute. I hope I will be forgiven for this. But if not, I can live with it.

Check out Bourdain’s field notes here.  These offer up a rich introduction to the main aspects of Basque gastronomy and are well worth a read for anyone interested in this fascinating aspect of Basque culture.

 

Easter vacation festivities come to the Basque Country

The Baiona Ham Festival

The Easter vacation is becoming an increasingly important time for the growing leisure sector in the Basque Country. This week, traditional religious celebrations coinciding with Easter itself will be held,  in which towns like Durango (with its famous pasinue) and Balmaseda in Bizkaia as well as others all over the Basque Country take center stage.  But there are also a number of other activities taking place to cater for the increasing number of tourists who visit at this time of year. One of the biggest events takes place in Bilbao. The Basque Fest is a specially designed festival combining Basque traditions and gastronomy that seeks to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of Basque culture in all its facets, from traditional Basque sports to music and dance as well as, of course, food and drink. Staying on a similar theme, Baiona also hosts a wonderful festival of its own this week: the Baiona Ham Festival, a must see event for all aficionados of this famous Basque delicacy. Such festivities are, though, just the tip of the iceberg. Towns and cities all over the Basque Country will be celebrating this important holiday season in many and varied ways.

From sea to mountain, some beautiful aerial views of Iparralde

The pretty village of Ainhoa, Lapurdi, captured in some stunning video images below. Photo by Harrieta171, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The newspaper Sud-Ouest recently posted the following video of the bay of Donibane Lohizune/Ziburu (Saint-Jean-de-Luz/Ciboure) in winter and we liked it so much we’d  like to share it with you all. Of course, the bay of Donibane Lohizune/Ziburu is one of the most significant points on the Basque map, with its rich maritime history sprinkled with the odd exotic tale of pirates and corsairs.

This got us to thinking that there are so many great visual portraits of the Basque Country out there, so why not include a few more? Who not, indeed!? Moving inland a little, then, here are some great images, from both yesteryear and today, of the hamlet of Dantxaria and the village of Ainhoa, undoubtedly one of the most picturesque corners of our beloved Basque Country. This is borderland country between Lapurdi and Nafarroa (and between France and Spain), the Xareta region, so it once had a reputation for quite a bit of gau lana (night work) – what some people would call smuggling and others a little local entrepreneurship:

Farther east, inland into deep into mountain territory, check out this dramatic portrait of Aldude (Les Aldudes) in Baxe Nafarroa (Nafarroa Beherea, Lower Navarre), the original terrain of so many Basque sheepherders in the American West.

 

Finally we’ll head even more inland, to the Wild East of the Basque Country, the timeless, almost mythical province of Xiberoa (Zuberoa), where the people sing rather than speak Basque!

These two videos are part of a wider collection available here via Xibero Telebista.

If all of this has inspired you to delve more deeply into the wonders of Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country, then check out Philippe Veyrin’s classic The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and Their Traditions. And see, too, our very own Sandy Ott’s The Circle of Mountains: A Basque Shepherding Community, a marvelously evocative ethnography that recounts the traditional way of life, and how people tenaciously hold onto it despite the changes taking place all around them, in a small Basque mountain community in Xiberoa.

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