Spain is divided into a number of provinces or regions, all of which are vastly different in culture, climate, traditions...While Spanish or "Castellano" is the official language of Spain and it's territories some autonomous regions, which is how they are referred to, have their own individual languages as well. At the Northeast corner of Spain lies the autonomous region know as "Pais Vasco" or Basque Country which borders France (that part of France also considered Basque Country) and the tiny little country of Andorra nestled in the Pyrenees mountains. To the North it is bordered by the beautiful Cantabrian Sea and the Bay of Biscay. The Basques have their own language, "euskara", which sounds absolutely nothing like Spanish...or French for that matter...and every word seems to have a k in it. Pais Vasco is best known in modern history by some sad unsavory incidents. During the Spanish civil war which took place from 1936-1939, the future dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco decided to obliterate all things in Spain that were not strictly Spanish including regional languages spoken in certain provinces along with their traditions and quite possibly their people. In 1937 he ordered the city of Gernika to be bombed therefore killing over 1600 civilians, in turn outlawing their language and the teaching of it in schools amongst other things. Which led Pablo Picasso to paint what is probably his best known and harrowing painting "Guernica". When Franco died in 1975 after 36 years in power and democracy returned to the country, it was eventually returned to the Basque people. Euskara is taught in schools today and spoken freely. Luckily for me they also speak Spanish.
So, a five hour train ride north from Madrid brought us to the very beautiful city of Bilbao,
As we all know we connect with people from everywhere in the world in our little blog community. Imagine the experience of actually meeting! When I emailed Alicia that we would be visiting Bilbao she didn't hesitate in suggesting we meet. It turns out that our hotel was right next door to where she studies
She suggested we go here, where we took the Metro
There will be a parte dos 1/2.