This blue marble

– and yet it spins

País Vasco

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SS-14The Basque region, or Euskal Herria, stretches across the French-Spanish coastline border, from West of Bilbao to East of Bayonne; and South as far as the Spanish Navarra region goes.

In and around San Sebastián (or Donostia in Basque), all road signs and street signs are first in Basque and then in Castilian Spanish. Most restaurants have a Basque name. It seems to be widely spoken, as there even is a Basque language university. Yet, in San Sebastián the language seems to be buried under the tourists as I cannot hear it spoken on the streets at all. Maybe it is more spoken in villages?

The Basques have a simple but confident culture, with some pizzazz. Their idea of sports involve lifting 300-kilo blocks of stone. They love artesanal cheese, ciders, pintxos, pickles, meat, and fish. Food is obviously a big deal as San Sebastián as a city has the most Michelin stars in the world. Yet the gastronomic “sociedades” or clubs are still only open for men. Basque music sounds a little Celtic or Scottish, with flutes and percussion and bagpipes. Their rudimentary version of a wooden xylophone is played by two people using two wooden stick each, and the sound is a melodious percussion with a beautiful timbre, a little like a tribal beat from Africa. I was told Basque men do not like to dance, and move in tight-knit gangs from childhood called quadrillas which are impossible to join later in life.

The stereotype comes across as an introverted culture, either mountain-dwelling or seafaring and exploring. Quite something else as the passionate, flamenco-dancing culture of Andalusia in the South.SS-15(San Sebastián, Spain; August 2019)

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