Tag: Vitoria-Gasteiz

February 16, 1980: Inauguration of Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport

Aena's official logo for Vitoria Airport, designed by Javier Mariscal. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Aena’s official logo for Vitoria Airport, designed by Javier Mariscal. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Many of you will be familiar with Bilbao Airport, based in Loiu, and you may also have arrived in the Basque Country via Biarritz Pays Basque Airport or the smaller Donostia-San Sebastián airport, based in Hondarribia, but did you know that Vitoria-Gasteiz is also served by an airport, in the nearby town of Foronda? Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport was inaugurated on February 16, 1980.

Antonov An-225 airplane at Vitoria Gasteiz Foronda airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antonov An-225 airplane at Vitoria Gasteiz Foronda airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport is located some 5 miles from the city center. In order to build the airport, the village of Otaza located at the end of the runway had to be demolished. The first plane to land at Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport was a Dassault Mystère fighter bomber of the Spanish Armed Forces that flew from Madrid. The first plane to take off was a charter flight to Palma de Mallorca and in April that same year the first regular Madrid-Vitoria-Gasteiz flight was established.

The check-in area at Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The check-in area at Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Since 1993, the airport has  specialized in cargo services and is currently the fourth main cargo hub in Spain behind Madrid Barajas, Barcelona, and Zaragoza. It has enjoyed sporadic passenger services, with Irish airline Ryanair operating two regular flights to London and Dublin between 2005 and 2007, and returning to Vitoria-Gasteiz Airport in 2016, initially with year-round services to Bergamo and Tenerife, and now also offering flights to Seville and Cologne/Bonn.

Check out the official website here.

 

 

June 21, 1813: Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz

On June 21, 1813, combined Iberian and British forces led by the Duke of Wellington defeated the French army under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan at the Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz, a turning point in the Peninsular War (1807-1814). Coming in the aftermath of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, it could be argued that this battle served to underscore the beginning of the end of Napoleonic dominance of Europe.

Monument to the battle in the Virgen Blanca Square, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Basotxerri. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, French forces had been forced to retreat northward. In May 1813, Wellington’s coalition forces moved quickly from northern Portugal toward the French border to cut off their escape route, and the French were forced to retreat to Burgos. And on June 21, the two sides engaged in the battle, about two miles outside the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in the valley of the River Zadorra.

Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz (1813). Map by Gregory Fremont-Barnes. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The French forces occupied the south side of the river, encircled by the coalition forces to the west and north. Wellington divided his attack into four columns, striking at the French from the south. west, and north, while the final assault was aimed at the French rearguard. Perhaps the key moment came when the column led by General Thomas Graham appeared from the north along the road to Bilbao, around noon. Seeing this, the French realized they were encircled and began to retreat toward Vitoria-Gasteiz. At the same time, their escape route toward the north-east (Pamplona-Iruñea and Baiona) was also cut off by troops commanded by the Bizkaian Colonel Francisco Tomás Anchia, aka Francisco Longa. Finally, the combined coalition forces managed to cross the Zadorra and push the French back further still. The morale of the latter collapsed, and tens of thousands fled the battle along the only escape route possible, toward the east and Agurain (Salvatierra).There were approximately 5,000 deaths on each side.

Model recreation of the battle in the Araba Armory Museum. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By the end of the year, Wellington’s forces had captured both Donostia-San Sebastián, Pamplona-Iruñea, and were encamped in France. The Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz had proved to be a turning point in the war.

Interestingly, the battle was the inspiration for Beethoven’s Opus 91, titled “Wellington’s Victory, or, the Battle of Vitoria” (Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria) or just the “Battle Symphony” or “Wellington’s Victory,” which portrays the battle as musical drama.

 

March 10, 1784: Birth of Basque Enlightenment Figure Maria del Pilar Acedo Sarria

Maria del Pilar de Acedo y Sarria, Countess of Echauz, Countess of Vado, Marchioness of Montehermoso (1784-1869). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On March 10, 1784, Maria del Pilar Acedo y Sarria was born in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, to José María Manuel Acedo y Atodo, Count of Echauz and Luisa de Sarria y Villafañe, Countess of Vado. Her father was a member of the renowned Royal Basque Society of Friends of the Country, an important eighteenth-century Enlightenment institution that fostered scientific, cultural, and economic learning with the aim of contributing to the improvement of Basque society. Raised in an Enlightened aristocratic environment, she spent most of her early years being educated in Vitoria-Gasteiz. In 1800 she married a nobleman, Ortuño María de Aguirre y del Corral, Marquis of Montehermoso, the head of the Provincial Council of Araba and also a member of the Royal Basque Society. They settled in a family palace in Vitoria-Gasteiz and would go on to have one daughter, Maria Amalia, in 1801. Domestic life, as befitted an aristocratic family so connected to the Royal Basque Society, was one of education, learning, debate, and numerous social gatherings. Maria del Pilar Acedo was fluent in several languages, wrote poetry, and played the guitar as well as being an enthusiastic participant in these gatherings with similarly Enlightened company.

The Sixteenth-Century Montehermoso Palace, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Today, the Montehermoso Cultural Center. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1807, Vitoria-Gasteiz was occupied by French troops as part of the Peninsular War (1807-1814), Napoleon’s campaign to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. And in 1808, Napoleon named his older brother, Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain. On a trip to Madrid that year, Acedo met the elder Bonaparte and he in turn visited Vitoria-Gasteiz, where he stayed at her palace.  The two became lovers and she accompanied him when he returned to Madrid, where she “officially” became his mistress. At the same time, her husband was also welcomed in the king’s trusted circle. But his rule was not a happy one. He was unpopular and had no influence in the ongoing Peninsular War. He ultimately abdicated and returned to France after the French defeat at the Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1813. He was accompanied once more, by Acedo, whose husband had died (while accompanying King Joseph on a trip to France) in 1811. However, shortly after arriving in France, their relationship ended.

Having inherited lands, wealth, and titles from both her parents, Acedo was free to live indepedently in France. She lived temporarily in several places there, including Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) in Lapurdi. In 1816, she remarried a French noble military officer Jacques Amádée de Carabène, and they settled in Carresse Castle in Bearn, where she lived off the income from her estates in Spain and spent the rest of her life carrying out charitable works. She lived a long and full life and died there in 1869.

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.

April 29, 1999: Juanito Oiarzabal reaches last eight-thousander summit

Born in 1956 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba, Juanito Oiarzabal is still one of the most renowned mountaineers in the world today.

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Juanito Oiarzabal (2007). Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela (crop and editing by Lucas, same licence). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 29, 1999, on reaching the summit of Annapurna in Nepal, he completed an odyssey that had begun way back in 1985: to reach all fourteen eight-thousander summits, that is, the fourteen mountains on earth that are more than 8,000 meters (26,247 ft) high above sea level. He was the sixth verified person ever to do so, behind Reinhold Messner (Italy, b. 1944), Jerzy Kukuczka (Poland, 1948-1989), Erhard Loretan (Switzerland, 1959-2011), Carlos Carsolio Larrea (Mexico, b. 1962), and Krzysztof Wielicki (Poland, b. 1950), and the third to reach all the summits without supplementary oxygen.

Additionally,  he went on to be the first person to conquer the top three summits  (Everest, K2, and Kangchenjunga) twice and, with  a record of twenty-seven successful eight-thousander ascents in total, is second only in ranking to the Nepalese mountaineer Phurba Tashi (on thirty).

Here are the figures for his successful ascents of all fourteen eight-thousander summits with the years he did so in parentheses.

  1. Everest (1993, 2001)
  2. K2 (1994, 2004)
  3. Kangchenjunga (1996, 2009)
  4. Lhotse (1995, 2011)
  5. Makalu (1995, 2008)
  6. Cho Oyu (1985, 2002, and 2003, the latter on two separate occasions)
  7. Dhaulagiri I (1998)
  8. Manaslu (1997, 2011)
  9. Nanga Parbat (1992)
  10. Annapurna I (1999, 2010)
  11. Gasherbrum I (aka Hidden Peak) (1997, 2003)
  12. Broad Peak (1995)
  13. Gasherbrum II (1987, 2003)
  14. Shishapangma (1998)

As if all this were not enough, Oiarzabal is now seeking to be the first person to complete all eight-thousander summits twice! As you can see from the list above, he is four ascents shy of reaching this amazing goal, and this year he’s planning ascents on Dhaulagiri I in May and, if successful there, on Broad Peak thereafter.

Just out of interest, Basques are pretty well represented in the order of mountaineers who have reached the summits of all eight-thousanders, with Alberto Iñurrategi (b. 1968) from Aretxabaleta, Gipuzkoa, coming in at tenth (being the youngest person, at thirty-three years of age, to accomplish the feat), and Edurne Pasaban (b. 1973), from Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, at twenty-first (and the first woman to do so).

Ken Follet and Vitoria-Gasteiz

Ken Follett is an author whose thrillers and historical novels have sold over 150 million copies worldwide and many of which have reached number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. One of these, World Without End (2007), the second in a trilogy of historical novels after The Pillars of the Earth (1989), was in part inspired by real historical events associated with the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of both the province of Araba (Álava) and the Basque Autonomous Community.

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Statue of Ken Follett in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Zarateman, via Wikimedia Commons

Specifically, as Follett notes in the acknowledgements of World Without End, the structural problems that force a rebuilding of the tower in his fictional Kingsbridge Cathedral were modeled after events at the Cathedral of Santa Maria. Indeed, Follett visited Vitoria-Gasteiz several times in order to do research for the book and he presented the Spanish translation in the Basque capital.

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Ken Follett next to his statue in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Mikelcg, via Wikimedia Commons

For more information on the Cathedral of Santa Maria click here. And check out this short video (in English) explaining the history of the cathedral.