Basque Country will always hold a special place in my heart. When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to live in western Basque Country over the course of three year. Each summer I spent a few months living with the locals in Bilbao and Ea. I spent my time hiking the mountains, swimming in the ocean, and, of course, enjoying the Basque’s never ending summer fiestas.
It’s been three years since I’ve been back. I’ve been writing posts here and there ranting and raving about various aspects of Basque culture that I enjoyed. There were parties, singing and dancing. The people are very joyous and proud of their heritage. I miss the country and cannot wait to go back.
It was a delight living there and I’m excited to share with you a few of the reasons why I love Basque Country:
When Emilio Estevez’s movie “The Way” came out, I immediately recognized the countryside in the film as northern Spain. There are very few places that I can identify so easily. The architecture style of the Basque region in northern Spain is distinct. Although Basque Country is in the middle of eastern Europe, it’s language predates latin. The culture is old and somewhat independent of its neighbors.
Immediately what comes to mind when I think about Basque Country is its muddy brown and orange rooftops. They are everywhere! In the large cities, there is a haze of orange roofs. Out in the tiny villages, the orange contrasts heavily with the lush green mountainsides.
Most of the buildings are an off white with bright red trim. The streets in the villages and the sidewalks in the cities are cobblestone. Every town has a center where the one road that goes through the mountainside comes through. From the windows, people hang flowers. Not just here-and-there, but everywhere.
The Basques know how to throw a party. Almost every week of the summer there is a fiesta in a different village. Each one is distinct from the others. Some of them are full day parties, where you spend the day cooking omelettes and drinking at night (Natxitua). Others are all night with large concerts (Gernika). I’ve run around cities in my underwear at 3 in the morning and danced in buildings older than the USA. No matter how you look at it, Basque Country knows how to throw a party!
There couldn’t be a better location for a country. Basque Country is found in northern Spain and southwestern France. Much of this land is mountainous and filled with lush greens. Many of the cities reach towards the ocean and are almost built around it (see Elantxobe above). No matter where you are, you’re surrounded in beauty. Whether it be the countryside where you can see for miles or in the wild (see Oma Forest).
This could be its own category. The food is mind-blowing. Kokotxas, percebes, markitako, txipirones, and kalimotxo to drink. It’s enough to visit the country with only the purpose of eating. Even though it’s not distinctly Basque, Padrón peppers are incredible as well. This country has engineered food to a different level. One that makes cooking into a fine art.
The number one reason why I love Basque Country is definitely the people. After all, they make the cities and cook the food. The Basque people are energetic. Being around them feels liberating. They have a strong sense of patriotism and love for the area that they live.
BLOGtober day fourteen!
Edit: Added pictures and more text! Hope you enjoy!
Big thanks to Jagoba and his family for hosting me each year. They shared their culture, their home, and so many wonderful experiences with me. You have all impacted me in ways that will last a lifetime. Thank you.