After a long week of teaching, tutoring, and studying, I needed an escape. An escape to the unknown. An escape for memory making. An escape from the stress. Just some kind of an escape.
Saturday morning began with a trip to Mungia, a small town about twenty minutes by bus from Bilbao. Emily, a friend from the Meddeas program, showed us around her second home. It’s quite the charming and traditional place, where you’ll find a total of two restaurants and only a few bars/cafes. Even though there are minimum options, the quality of the options is superb. After walking around the main streets of Mungia and devouring a couple of shrimp pintxos, we hopped on a bus to Gernika, an itty bitty town with a huge history. During our time in Gernika, we visited the Peace Museum, an interesting exhibit that asks visitors to ponder the question: What is peace? The museum includes a simulation of the bombing of Gernika that leaves you absolutely speechless after witnessing the devastation. More than 85% of the buildings were destroyed and over 1600 citizens were killed during the three hours of destruction. A replica of Picasso’s famous portrayal of the massacre of Gernika is randomly placed in a residential part of the town as well as two large memorial structures, the House of our Father and the Large Figure in a Shelter. If you veer left at the old, gothic church Santa Maria, you’ll discover the Biscayan Assembly House and the well-known symbol, an oak tree. The tree and building were the only things that fully survived the bombings, although don’t be fooled: the original tree died years after as well as four other replacement trees that supposedly come from related acorns. The one currently planted was only recently installed in 2014. My disappointment stems from my own ignorance of the history, but I was slightly disappointed nonetheless, hence my sad face in the picture.
Back in Bilbao on Saturday evening, curiosity got the best of us, so we lined up to enter the Oktoberfest tent. The Spanish take on a German event turned out to be quite lively and fun! The beers came in one size: massive; the portion sizes of food were huge as well. The music switched from a live band singing a Spanish song, to an old class like YMCA, to a foreign German tune. The tent was buzzing with energy well into midnight, and we’ve already decided we’ll be joining the masses again next weekend before the Germans pack up and leave Bilbao.
Sunday morning started off with a sunny bus ride to Bakio, where we caught a taxi with another group to the start of the trail to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Rosie and I conquered the 200 and something steps to reach the church and ring the bell three times for good luck. The views, although foggy, were magnificent. The crisp air and breaking waves were freeing; just the peace we needed. Don’t let the hike fool you though; the stairs are really the easy part. The truly tricky part of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is the climb back to the start of the trail. Once you make it back, huffing and puffing, you can treat yourself to a warm cup of tea and another stunning view opportunity from the restaurant Eneperi, which is situated at the trailhead. Don’t worry; if you come visit, I’ll definitely take you here. It’s a great half-day adventure!
On Monday morning, I bussed back to Gernika with my friend Susan to shop at the market. Traditionally, Gernika hosts a market in their square every Monday, where farmers sell their produce; however, this past Monday was the special once-a-year larger Gernika Monday Market, where men and women from all over Basque country set up booths to sell their baked goods, produce, crafts, and wine. There were over 100 booths set up and free tastings at practically every booth. We gorged ourselves on cheeses, pies, breads, and wines. I bought a small wedge of sheep cheese (one of the most popular kinds of cheese found in Basque country), a Basque custard pie, an apple jelly spread, raspberry jam, and a few other yummy items. To celebrate Halloween night, we watched a few scary movies, The Conjuring and its clapping creeping all of us out, and stuffed ourselves with the delicious treats from the market. It was a relaxing evening (minus the jumping out of our seats and hiding our faces behind pillows) to end the eventful weekend.
Today, November 1st, is the Spanish holiday All Saints Day. According to some Spaniards I have talked to, families gather together on this day to remember loved ones who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. It’s a very interesting holiday, and I admire them for not seeing death in such a negative light. Since it’s a bank holiday, all the stores are closed, so I’m spending it at a café catching up on work. I have tutoring soon, but I’ve managed to write this blog update, a few lesson plans, and an essay. I’d say it’s been a semi-productive morning for a day off. I hope you are also having a productive November 1st!
To end this post, I wanted to give a few special shout outs to some rather amazing people. Thank you Mom & Dad for keeping in touch often, sending me messages and pictures regularly, and supporting me on this crazy journey. Thanks bro for our weekly (even though short or broken up) video calls; I enjoy seeing your face and catching up throughout the week. Thank you Chris for sending me such a sweet care package and for making the distance seem not as far. Thank you Rissa for the sweet ‘open when’ letters that came in the mail yesterday; our friendship means the world to me. Thank you Dover for the encouraging messages and for sending those silly memes that keep me laughing; you’re wonderful. To all my friends and family, I sure do miss you! Last but not least, thank you to my readers! Please feel free to leave a comment and share how your Halloween weekend went; I’d love to hear about it! 🙂 I definitely got my much needed escape.Cheers!