Bilbao – the heart of the Basque Country

While the Mediterranean coast of Spain is quite widely known and popular, the Atlantic coast remains somewhat neglected. The reason is quite clear, the water is cold, there are large waves and strong winds. If you want just to relax at the sea, then it’s not an ideal place for your vacation.

But the wild beauty of rugged cliffs, quaint fishing villages, and generally a bit special character of the landscape can be really interesting and charming for those who want to know more than just beaches in the Southern European countries.

North coast of Spain is washed by deep, cold and turbulent waters of the Bay of Biscay. Basque Country can be found near the border with France formed by the Pyrenees Mountains. It is an autonomous, quirky and unique region. Also the local language is unique.

Basque language does not belong to any language group, and is totally different from Spanish, French or any other popular language. It is considered a language isolate (that is, not known to be related to any other language of the world). The origin of Basque language and the Basques themselves is still not very clear.

This is why you can hear about the Basques that they have extraterrestrial origins. Some linguistic analysis hinted that the Basque language is similar to Burushaski language spoken by tribes from the Karakoram mountain range in northern Pakistan. But at least one thing is certain – the Basques are a unique nation and therefore require independence from Spain.

One of the major Basque cities is Bilbao, the administrative center of one of the three Basque provinces and one of the most industrialized urban areas.

Vizcaya Bridge photo
Photo by paula soler-moya

Vizcaya Bridge

Bilbao was founded in the year 1300 on the site of the original fishing village. Although it has never reached the fame of better-known Spanish cities, gradually grew up and developed. Probably the best known and most visited “monument” is a completely modern. It is the Guggenheim Museum, designed by U.S. based architect Frank Gehry.

This strange building resembles a bit like a battleship from the distance. It was opened to the public in 1997 and became a leading architectural representative of a direction called deconstructivism. Museum displays mainly the art of the 20th century and includes also various thematic exhibitions.

Another city’s attraction, Vizcaya Bridge, is a little older. The bridge over the estuary of the river Nervión is one of the symbols of the region already for over 100 years. Originally it was a part of Portugalete town, but this town practically grew together with Bilbao.

It was opened in 1893 and its only function was not just to connect the two banks of the river, but also not to obstruct the navigation of large ships. Its designer Alberto Palacio, a student of the famous Gustave Eiffel, therefore chose an unconventional solution – gondola bridge.

The bridge is 164 metres long and high enough to allow giant cargo ships to flow under it. Gondola can transport up to six cars and dozens of passengers. It runs relatively low over the water, it takes a minute and a half to move from one bank to another and runs every 8 minutes. On the 13th July 2006, this remarkable structure has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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