A Travellerspoint blog

Peuple en Marche

Gallery-hopping, a demonstration of over 20.000, an awards ceremony and a room full of bunk beds & a Belgian band

rain 10 °C
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Like I said, here's the update of last weekend (I'm running behind, I know).

Last weekend was quite interesting to say the least. I think that Saturday (30/11) was the most eventful day since I’ve been in the Basque Country, which must count for something. Most of it consisted of miles and miles of walking, but the journeys and destinations were definitely worth it.

On Saturday morning, I took the 9 o’clock bus to Bilbao to go on an early tour past some ateliers, studios and galleries. I had to do some research for a few school projects, so I was loaded with my notebooks and camera. Of course, I should’ve known that gallery owners aren’t really too fond of people taking pictures inside, so that backfired.

Gallery-hopping

I did however meet some interesting people, such as a photographer who welcomed me to his studio and at that moment didn’t really have time, but he will answer my questions through e-mail very soon. In the Museo Vasco they didn’t speak one word of English so I tried to help myself the best I could in Spanish and it worked out pretty well, because they were also happy to help me.
Later on, I bumped into PhotoGallery 20, which is owned by a young couple in their twenties. Lovely modern art photography, with a very open vibe. Galleries more than often make you feel like you have to be cautious and reserved, but that wasn’t the case at all here. Again, they were helpful and gave me a their e-mail address and phone number in case I had any questions.

PhotoGallery20

PhotoGallery20

By this time, I had already walked from Casco Viejo, up to Bilbao La Vieja and San Francisco, back through Casco Viejo, then to the centre (Moyua) and the area near the Guggenheim, and from there I went to the Museo de Bellas Artes. I’d never been there and it’s of course not nearly as known as the Guggenheim, but they have an amazing modern art collection. Actually, as far as paintings and sculptures go, I prefer the Museo de Bellas Artes.

Demonstration
At around 16:45, I went to a location close to the main bus stop to meet with Jon, who would take me to a demonstration. I had gotten in contact with him through a guy who closely follows the developments in the Basque Country. Jon is part of an Basque organization that is internationally involved in the supporting of suppressed population groups.

To clarify: last week, 34 people have been arrested in the Basque Country. They are accused of being involved in Segi, a radical Basque youth movement, which the authorities suspect to be tied to ETA, kind of as a recruiting pool. It's hard to know what is true and what isn't, but the fact is that up until now, these things haven't been proven right or wrong.
For all the details, I suggest you check some different news sources and blogs of the region. The relatives of these people had organised a demonstration against the arrests. I thought, as a foreign student, it was quite interesting to witness this at close hand, so I went to the demonstration – more than 20.000 people participated – which went all the way to the town hall. I couldn’t understand the slogans and speeches of course, but Jon translated most of it.

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Demonstration town hall

Demonstration town hall

Zinebi
Immediately after this, I had to hurry back to the Museo de Bellas Artes, because I wanted to catch the Algerian-French documentary – apposite title – Peuple En Marche, by Nacer Guenifi, Ahmed Rachedi and René Vautier, the latter being one of the pioneers in anti-colonial filmmaking. The film was on the program of Zinebi, the International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao, which took place this week. I had managed to get a press pass for it, because I’m using it as a subject for some school assignments.

After the film, it was 9 pm and I still had no idea where I was going to sleep that night. Everyone I know in Bilbao was out of town that night, so there were few options left. Eventually, I headed to the Akelarre hostel, where Niké has stayed a few times. I had to walk a few miles again before I got there, not even knowing if they would have any beds left at that time at night. Luckily, there was exactly one left in the largest room, which I had to share with – get this – 11 other Belgians. It’s such a tiny country and yet I still meet more Belgians here than any other nationality!

Hostel Akalarre

Hostel Akalarre

Access
Anyway, after some refreshing I headed to the Arriaga Theatre, where the Zinebi Awards Ceremony had to begin and since I had the press pass, I could attend it. Niké was in Bilbao too (her mother was visiting), so she accompanied me. It was great to finally see the theatre from the inside, with the classic interior and all. The awards show itself went by quite quickly, but afterwards all of the winning films were shown. We watched six of them, but by then we were so tired that we decided to head home – well, Niké to her hotel and I to the hostel.

Zinebi awards

Zinebi awards

Arriaga Theatre

Arriaga Theatre

When I arrived there, I met some of my roommates. They were part of a rock band – Opossum – and had played in an Irish pub in Bilbao that night. They invited me to go have a drink, but by then I was so tired that I could only think about sleeping, even if it was in a bunk bed with 11 other people surrounding me.

So well, that was about it for that weekend.

During this week, I haven't been doing anything worth mentioning, since I was working for school almost all the time. Up until now, I've been in time for all the deadlines (yes mum, dad, I'm talking to you), so I hope I can keep that up.
In these next weeks we will have to combine our final assignments here with the project for our Belgian school, so that could get a bit hectic.

I'll (try to) keep you informed!

Agur!

Some other snapshots from that weekend:

Against AHT in the Basque Country

Against AHT in the Basque Country

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

Access to Zinebi!

Access to Zinebi!

Boulevard Guggenheim

Boulevard Guggenheim

Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao

Riverside

Riverside

Posted by Sajeh 23:56 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Last week's report

Next one will follow soon!

rain 14 °C
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I'm copying you a blog that I wrote last week on EiTB. Sorry for the lack of updates these weeks, but there's just less time to do everything I'd want to do. A blog isn't really on the top of my list right now, since I'm focussing on school and on making the most of the few weeks we have left (and that's not an easy combination).

This is a post of last week, I modified it a bit, and I will soon write another post about this weekend, because yesterday may have been the best - but also most tiring - day I've had since I've been here.

But first:

Another week comes to an end and we’re starting to realize that there are only a few of them left. A few weeks to enjoy every moment we have and meanwhile trying to obey our upcoming deadlines. Last week didn’t really help, since one of my best friends, Zahra, arrived on Wednesday and stayed until Sunday. No complaints though, I really loved having her over!

While at first I thought Zahra would only be arriving on Thursday, she eventually arrived pretty late on Wednesday evening. The next day we took a bus to Donostia and I showed her around the city the best I could. We had plans to see everything and visit a museum, but that all changed when Zahra ate her first pintxos. She loved them of course, and eventually we spent a large part of the day in a pintxos bar in Donostia’s old part of town (pintxos-heaven).

With the weather being so beautiful this week, we even went to the beach for a while. In the midst of November, with Christmas decorations already present in the store windows, we still don’t have to take out our winter’s clothes. Way too lucky!

On Friday then, we had to go to Bilbao again for our internship. Zahra tagged along, planning to spend the day discovering the city. At 7 pm, we met each other again and together with Koen, Niké and Chiara (an Italian Erasmus student from our university) we had plans to go to a concert at Santana 27, a concert hall outside of the city centre.

But first: finding a place to stay! Zahra and I booked a room in Pension Serantes in Casco Viejo and the other three stayed in a hostel in the Deusto quarter. We went to drop our stuff, but finding the pension proved to be a little more difficult than expected. It was located in the main going out district of Casco Viejo, in Calle Somera, and it wasn’t noticeable from the outside. You had to enter through a door, then onto crooked old stairs to the second floor. Really old and kind of dubious at first, but on the inside it was quite nice with lively colours and friendly people and a room all to ourselves!

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We arrived at the concert a bit late, after making a detour in a very unknown and desolate part of the city. Santana 27 turned out to be a lot bigger than we had imagined, but the concert still had an intimate feel to it. The first act was Atlas Sound, of which we unfortunately only got to see the last half of the show. A good half though, I love the music (anyone who has the chance to check out their album Logos should definitely do so!) and at least I was on time to hear my favourite song Sheila. The second act was The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, a bit rougher than the first one but also very good and – in my opinion – 15 euros well spent.

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From the concert we went to Casco Viejo to continue our evening. We love this part of Bilbao, it’s filled with all kinds of cool bars and shops and in the weekends everyone is out on the streets having a drink. Coincidentally we even bumped into Cécile again, a girl from Leuven (Belgium) that we’ve met last month.

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The next day, Zahra and I walked through Casco Viejo, Bilbao La Vieja and San Francisco because I had to gather some information on these parts for a school assignment.

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On Saturday evening we returned to Bergara to have a drink there with a bunch of the other Erasmus students. On Sunday I had to drop off Zahra at the bus stop because she had to head back to Belgium. Unfortunately, it won’t be too long before we have to do the same :(.

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Well, that's it for now but I will update you on this weekend very soon.

A teaser: Gallery-hopping, getting chased, discovering the Museo de Bellas Artes, participating in a demonstration of over 20.000 people, getting into the Zinebi (film festival) awards ceremony, and crashing in a room with a touring Belgian rock band.

Agur!

Posted by Sajeh 22:43 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Loooooong overdue

rain 15 °C
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I don't even want to know how long it's been since I last wrote and since it's been that long, I don't even know where to start. So to save you all from an incoherent session of rambling about the past weeks' events, I'll just summarize it a bit.

The past weekends:
1. Halloween!
We hadn’t expected people to celebrate it over here and we hadn’t seen too much Halloween decoration around either, so we thought it would pass by quite unnoticeable. But that Saturday evening, waiting in line at the supermarket, a boy with vampire make-up passed me. Hurray!

A bunch of us were going out for a drink at night, but of course we didn’t have anything at home to dress up. We did get the guys to agree on putting on a bit of nail polish… always a pleasure!
Bars were a lot more crowded than usual and people were walking around with orange Halloween-capes, so the atmosphere was actually pretty great.

Niké @ Halloween

Niké @ Halloween

2. Niké's birthday!
Two evenings of celebrating, with some funny scenarios. People falling off their bar stools, people disappearing and coming back, ... And I'm happy to say that this time I wasn't one of them.

Tiina, me and Niké at that last one's birthday bash

Tiina, me and Niké at that last one's birthday bash

The weather:
Rain, rain, thunderstorm, rain, rain, few rays of sun!, rain, rain, thunderstorm, rain, rain, ...
Looks like we're finally experiencing the typical Basque climate!

School:

We did some presentations and papers, on Basque media and on the marketing and launching of a self-chosen product into the Spanish/Basque market.
The one on Basque media turned out to be quite interesting, in my opinion. I'm planning on writing an article about it, because there have been a lot of newspapers that got shut down because they were accused of having ties with ETA, while in a lot of cases the accusations were false.

A scan of Euzkadi, one of the oldest Basque newspapers. It no longer exists

A scan of Euzkadi, one of the oldest Basque newspapers. It no longer exists

For my assignments in Belgium, I've chosen my topic and I've managed to find some people that are willing to do an interview. Still have to work out the details though, and hope that we can borrow recording equipment at school.

I've temporarily banished all other tasks to the back of my memory, so I can focus on the upcoming ones first.

Visits:

Here's where I'll just copy the last blog I've written for EiTB (their server was down for more than a week, it just got fixed, so not a lot of new posts there either).

Bad news: the flu has caught me by surprise, leaving me sick in bed at the moment. On the bright side: my cousin Anniek, my mum, and her boyfriend Jos came to visit me this week, making me their guide for a few days.

They arrived on Sunday evening in Santander, but I only went to see them on Monday morning in Bilbao. If they had been expecting a short sunny trip to the south, it was disappointing, because it had been raining almost non-stop for days and days. The Basque climate at its best! I took them for a long tour through the new and old part of Bilbao and of course introduced them to pintxos, which was greatly appreciated.

It’s great to see people arrive here and be as stunned about things as I was in those first days.
A glass of wine at less than 1 euro? Really?
What do you say when you leave somewhere, auwoert? No, it’s agur.

Bilbo – Gasteiz – Donostia – Bilbo
After Bilbao I told them to drive – they had rented a car – to Vitoria-Gasteiz for some late-night shopping (as most of us northern people, they were surprised by the siesta hours). Arriving in Vitoria, we had to sit out a long and heavy downpour, after which we went searching for umbrellas and new clothes. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but my visitors were surprised by the often very low prices of shoes and clothing here.

We drove to Bergara around 8 pm and went for dinner there. My mum and Jos stayed in a hotel here, while my cousin stayed over at our apartment, absorbing the student life. In the morning they left for Donostia and I stayed at home because I had to go to class in the afternoon to do a presentation. We met up again in the evening for pintxos in the Irish Pub. They were completely soaked because they had been walking through Donostia in the rain, but were nonetheless enthusiastic about the city and they discovered why it is so gastronomically known.

On Wednesday morning, we again drove to Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim, since it had been closed on Monday. And well, what’s not to like about the Guggenheim, especially with the current exposition of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I recommend that one to everyone; it’s definitely worth seeing!

From one visit to another
After that visit, I had to take the bus back home and they had to leave for the airport. It was a short visit, but a welcome one. And there’s more to come, since Zahra, one of my best friends, is coming here next week for four days! We will probably go to the first day of the Zinebi film festival in Bilbao on Saturday and a concert of Atlas Sound and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart on Friday. Yay!

That's it again for now, agur!

Posted by Sajeh 14:42 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Concert night in Bilbao

sunny 22 °C
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A summary of this weekend's gains: the discovery of Kafe Antzokia - one of Bilbao's coolest music venues, a fun and entertaining Teenagers-concert, an insane revelation named Crystal Fighters - electronic music combined with traditional Basque instruments, the long-anticipated book The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave, and an insight in the gaps of the language education in the Basque Country.

On Friday, after completing our weekly duties at EiTB, we went to the Deusto quarter to meet Mikel, the guy with whom I'd been staying during my first weekend in Bilbao. That weekend, I had discovered that The Teenagers, a French, London-based indie electro-pop band, would be playing in Kafe Antzokia on the 23rd of this month. I was really craving a concert, it had been TOO LONG, and I knew that Michael and Niké would feel the same, so they tagged along.

Mikel, Tiina and Sami also joined us, and so it was that on Friday we headed to one of Bilbao's top alternative music venues. Kafe Antzokia used to be a small theatre, so just the setting itself was enough to make me giggle of happiness. Prices turned out to be a bit higher than what we're used to over here though: 3 euro for a simple tap beer! Luckily there was still the ever-cheap white wine at € 1.50!

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Niké, Michael, me, Sami and Tiina in front of the stage at Kafe Antzokia (photo by Mikel)

The Bilboloop festival night kicked off with a concert of Tom Boyle. It's a local band so I was curious but unfortunately for them and us, it was a true yawn-fest. I've rarely been that bored during a concert. My deepest apologies to their fans, but there was no stage presence, no chemistry between the band members and - most importantly - no interesting music.

Second to take the stage were The Teenagers. They greeted the audience with 'Kaixo!', so thumbs up for that. Easily accessible but nonetheless good music and a very energetic lead singer, who was mostly standing at literally only a meter away from the crowd, made sure that it was a very successful gig. Especially when people could go on stage during one of the last songs (The Homecoming), all teenage girls went wild.

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The Teenagers' lead singer
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The Teenagers: everyone on stage during The Homecoming

Rave & Basque folk

The biggest surprise of the evening was Crystal Fighters. Usually a five-member group, there were only three of them now, but they created so much noise that it was as if there were a lot more. How best to describe their music... It's heavy electro combined with traditional Basque instruments (txalaparta) at a high speed pace which resulted in something close to a rave concert. Insanity, but inventive insanity that we are more than willing to embrace and put on our iPods. The fact that some of them are of Basque descent and that they integrate Basque folk in their music makes it even better.

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Crystal Fighters: lovely insanity

We stuck around for the afterparty for a while and then headed back to Mikel's apartment, where five of us slept in the living room. In total, there were ten people sleeping in the flat that night, which apparently was a record. I feel obligated to mention the insane hospitality again!

Next day, schoolwork! Yes, that also has to happen (more often than I'm doing now actually, I feel like I've used all my spare time in the last two months, and that the next two will be all work and no play).
I stayed at Mikel's place to work, pondering about an article that - yes, you're reading this right - links a Korean movie to the Basque social conduct.

Education gaps

About that, I had a talk with Mikel and his flatmate about the way they teach English here in the Basque Country and I finally understand why almost no one speaks it properly. They told me that, for example, they would learn conjugations of verbs but didn't learn what the verbs mean. Or that they would just learn words and sentences by heart, but never how to apply them.
Also, they could not link the conjugations of English verbs to the Basque ones, because Basque simply doesn't have a connection to other European languages. I think, when teaching English here, it should be explained in Spanish, because it's just easier and more logical that way.

Anyway, those are my two cents on this. It just surprised me, because with a more efficient way of teaching English, I'm sure that the general level among the youth here would increase drastically.
Oh, and showing movies in their original language instead of dubbing would help. So far, I haven't found a single person here that actually likes the dubbing.

So, back to the weekend:
On Saturday evening I searched some bookstores for The Death of Bunny Munro, the new Nick Cave novel that I have been dying to read. I eventually found it in the Fnac store, my copy being one of the only two they had. Yay!

I stayed another night in Bilbao, sharing the Belgian chocolate that my grandparents brought. My hosts apparently loved it (how could you not)! Mikel told me about a festival with Basque bands in Arrasate on the 7th of November. We will definitely check that out and it would be a nice opportunity to be the host instead of the guest for once!

Talk soon! Gero arte!

Posted by Sajeh 19:43 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Commotion, visits and assignments

And chocolate!

semi-overcast 16 °C
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Wow... I think my blogging habits are lacking persistency these last weeks. Just a post to catch you up:

First of all, my article on Bilbao which I wrote for E!TB has been published on the website and they really liked it, so I'm proud to direct you to the website ;):
The alternative way to visit Bilbao

At the end of the last post I was coming back from a weekend in Bilbao. The days following my return, we did not do much except for the regular daily duties, but there have been some things going on at the university.

Some students got arrested on account of terrorism, but apparently there are a lot of disagreements to whether this is true. It’s for sure that the people at the university disagree with the authorities, because some students went on a hunger strike and there have been one-hour class suspensions every day. It’s hard to understand just what exactly is going on, because we don’t have enough baggage to interpret this the right way. Even when we asked one of our teachers for more insight, she couldn’t give a clearly defined explanation. I really wonder how this is going to turn out, because it’s the first extreme event that we’ve witnessed in regards to the Basque-Spanish conflict.

Last week, we also visited Eskoriatza's town museum, with a lot of interesting cultural and historical information and objects. The most interesting, in my opinion, was the music room, which was filled with ancient traditional instruments. Afterwards we went on a short, guided tour through the city.

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Museum tour in Eskoriatza
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Museum tour in Eskoriatza

Courses in Euskara
Apart from that, I’ve had my first session of the short film course on Thursday evening. I still somehow hoped that the course would be taught in Spanish, but alas, Euskara it was! Luckily, I already knew a large part of what was being covered today (basic camera stuff) and there were two women who could speak a bit of French and English. For tomorrow, we have to come up with some ideas for a short film story, but I’m not sure if I will continue the course. If it had been in Spanish it would’ve been a good opportunity to learn more about both a language and an art form, but no matter how much I’d love to learn Basque, I’m sure that I won’t be able to understand anything of it. We’ll see, I’ll keep you updated.

Visitors
On Friday, after our weekly internship at E!TB, we waited at the Bilbao bus stop for Sander and Davy, the former being a very close friend of Niké. They had spent a few days in Madrid and were now spending a few days in the Basque Country to visit Niké. That night, the three of them stayed in Bilbao to party, so we only saw them again the next evening, when they joined us to an Erasmus party in Eskoriatza on and thus they stayed at our place for one night. Our apartment got very crowded all of the sudden, but it was a lot of fun to have them around!
You’re probably sick of party reports but well, I didn’t do that much else this weekend. I can tell you that yet again it was very good, very late and it led to another Sunday spent in bed due to a hangover.

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Erasmus gang at Nathalie and Dexter's apartment in Eskoriatza
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Evelien and me outside, doing just fine ;)

Next up: my first Belgian visitors have arrived! No friends or parents yet, no, it are my 80-year-old grandparents that have jumped in their car and have driven all the way from Belgium to here!
A plea of insanity is maybe appropiate - I'm quite sure actually - but I don't care, I'm so lucky to have grandparents like that! They even brought me a whole box of Belgian chocolate, what more can one ask for :). For a few days this week I will probably be the most spoiled Erasmus student ever!
To comfort my conscience a bit, we even cleaned the apartment just so it at least seems that we are living somewhat responsibly.

Assignments, they're everywhere!
Other news: we've gotten some new information on our final assignments for our courses, and let me tell you: it's a lot.
On top of that, we will get the assignment for our project International Journalism from our school in Hasselt this week, and that will be a lot too. I hope we can get it done. The students in Hasselt get a complete week to spend in Paris and work on that project, but we don't have that much free time here, at least not enough to spend a week in Bilbao (where we have to do the project). Combined with all the work here (including a 25-page long paper), I'm a bit worried. And the 'all work and no play'-lifestyle doesn't really work when you're on Erasmus.

This weekend I'll probably go to a concert in Bilbao of The Teenagers and Crystal Fighters. Niké, Michael and I are thrilled, because we have seriously missed our regular concert nights!

Gero arte!

Posted by Sajeh 17:45 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Bilbao: the alternative way

sunny 20 °C
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I have the feeling that it's been a while since the last post. Let me assure you that I have a perfectly valid explanation for my absence these days: I spent the weekend in Bilbao, as I expected in the previous post. A great weekend, being able to discover the city in an alternative way that led me off the beaten tourist track.

As I mentioned previously, I’d found someone on Couchsurfing that invited me to stay the weekend at his place and discover the city. Mikel Irastorza is a Biology student at the University of the Basque Country and shares an apartment in central Bilbao, not too far from the Guggenheim museum. After my internship at Eitb on Friday evening, I had arranged to meet him at the Deusto metro stop, from where we went to his flat. It was great to meet someone out of nowhere and share experiences and stories, more so because he had also gone on an Erasmus exchange last year (to the Czech Republic) and he was – like me – a huge Bruce Springsteen fan!

Hospitality
He had invited some friends (Beñat and Maialen) over for dinner so we went shopping for groceries and he made us a nice meal. I must say, it’s possible that I was just very lucky, but if everyone here is as hospitable as Mikel, I have to revise my cynicism on people in general. I got my own room, didn’t have to pay for any food – although I insisted multiple times – and he actually spent his whole weekend showing me around.
I know it may sound strange for some people that I’ve spent all this time in the company of complete strangers and actually fully trusting them, but I recommend you all to try it! It opens so many new perspectives.

On Friday, when his friends left (who were lovely people as well), we took a late night walk through Bilbao. A big city is just so interesting at night; seeing the Guggenheim seemed like a whole new experience in the dark and with the spotlights on it. We crossed a bridge to the other side of the river, meanwhile seeing many architectural highlights. We ended up at an abandoned playground where we stayed for a while; these are unexpected things that I really love to do.
Sitting there, we were briefly joined by two middle-age Basque and Argentinean women that also tried to climb the spider webs, quite hilarious.

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Guggenheim at night
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Mikel at the bridge while crossing the Nervión river
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Playgrounds are fun at night!

Art and coincidences
I had a great sleep that night, it was the first time in over a month that I slept in a room by myself (not that Niké is in any way a bad roommate, don’t worry! I was just enjoying the change). The next morning when I woke up, the cereals, milk and orange juice were already awaiting me – seriously, the hospitality is unbelievable! I actually got laughed at a bit by my host because I bought Solan de Cabras, a brand of water that is apparently considered to be a bit posh! Anyway, the atmosphere was good, because in a very short time of knowing each other, we got along quite well.

Mikel went to the Guggenheim with me around noon. Crazy but true, when walking up there, I bumped into Tiina (the Erasmus student from Finland) and her boyfriend Sami, while I had no idea that they were in Bilbao. Some coincidence in a city of over 300.000 people! We arranged to meet later that afternoon.
I had already been to the Guggenheim but I was hoping that there would be a new exposition; unfortunately there wasn’t. Anyway, walking around in there is always worth my time, and even Mikel – who is not such an art lover – did not bore himself to death, which kind of relieved me!

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Mikel walking through Richard Serra's work at the Guggenheim
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Beñat and a great dog!


True tales of San Francisco

Afterwards we went for some lunch and met up with Beñat and Maialen again. Mikel wanted to show me the old part of town, which is always more interesting than the modern and store chain-invaded new parts of a city. We crossed the river again, I called Tiina and Sami and all six of us went for some lunch and drinks (soja-burgers, hurray!).
Then we – without Beñat and Maialen who went home for a while – went to the San Francisco district of Bilbao, with high anticipations on my part. I knew it was an alternative neighbourhood that is primarily known to be a bit marginal and dangerous, but it are often these areas that hide the greatest treasures of a city.
And right I was. Arriving through Bilbao La Vieja, we passed lovely riverside houses in all kinds of colours, the most original tattoo shop I’ve ever seen – decorated as an abstract ghost house, I kid you not – and the area is home to a bunch of small art galleries.

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Tiina and Sami
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Riverside at Bilbao La Vieja

Ok, walking a bit further into San Francisco you notice more crooked buildings and every few meters people ask you if you want to buy drugs, but other than that I have not felt unsafe there. Of course, I wouldn’t go strolling around on my own at night, but then again, I don’t do that very often in any part of a big city. Mikel showed us the dorm room that he used to stay in, which was quite funny and supposedly provided him with some major flashbacks.
Everywhere you look you see façades covered in colourful artwork and many small bars each decorated according to the country it represents. A bit further, in Calle Dos de Mayo, we stumbled upon Anti-Librería, an amazing bookshop filled with rare books on art, music, design, cinema and so on. Next to that, a second hand vintage shop, narrow and dark but with unique stuff piling out everywhere! I was lucky not to have a lot of money on me, because I’m sure I would’ve spent it all.

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Anti-Librería, lovely bookshop!

Belgium represented
Tiina and Sami returned home after that, while Mikel and I went to the supermarket to buy some food – he had planned on making tortilla de patatas himself – and we stacked up on Belgian beers. My treat, since Mikel took such good care of me!
Beñat and Maialen joined us for dinner again and Morten, the Danish Erasmus student that also studies at Mondragón University, was planning on passing by later.
We had to wait for the last one for a long time – Beñat and Maialen had even gone home by then – but when he arrived, him, Mikel and me chatted into the night until 4 o'clock, accompanied by our cherished Belgian beers.

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Morten and Delirium
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Mikel and Duvel

Bilbao's outskirts
Next day, Mikel, Beñat, Maialen and I took the metro to the suburbs of Bilbao. We walked around Getxo and Portugalete, having to cross the river on a platform that was held up by steel cables. It’s an area where – according to Mikel – not a lot of non-locals come, but I really liked it there. When you go towards the coast, you end up at a harbour (the biggest port of this region) and a small beach where we saw some sand sculptures.
Other than walking, eating some Chinese food and having a few coffees, we didn’t do much – it was a Sunday, go figure – but it was a very peaceful day and perfect to end a more than successful weekend. In the evening Morten and I took the bus back home. I’ll start reporting from there on in the next post, because this one is turning out to be the size of a novel and I should really stop typing.

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Platform and bridge that connect Getxo and Portugalete
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Maialen and Beñat
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Getxo beach

Good thing is, Mikel told me I could stay in Bilbao whenever I wanted, as long as he was at the apartment. A great offer and since I really enjoyed his company, I’ll probably take him up on that! I can’t thank him enough for what a wonderful weekend I've had!

That’s it for now (I’d be surprised if you haven’t fallen asleep already).

Gero arte!

Posted by Sajeh 02:59 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Rain + boredom => delirium

rain 20 °C
View Basque Country on Sajeh's travel map.

I have a startling confession to make, after all the - often way too long - posts I’ve written here. I don’t know what to write you. And I’m not talking writer’s block, I just don’t know anything that has happened in the past days that is worth telling you about. Only option is to tell you a few things that did happen but are just not so tremendously exciting. So if you’re reading further than this and you get bored out of your mind, don’t come nagging to me, I just gave you a five-sentence long warning.

Signed up!
I’ve finally officially signed up for the short film course I was planning on taking here in Bergara. One of my professors at the university had to call the town hall to explain that I wanted to take the course, since there was no way I would be able to communicate in Spanish over the phone - you have no idea how helpful sign language has been here. As for the photography course, I’m not yet sure, since there may be too many candidates and then they just throw our name cards in a hat and pick at random who gets to play! (I’m only half serious, but as a dedicated reader you should’ve figured that out.)

Rainy shopping
Apart from that, my roomies wanted to take a trip to Vitoria-Gasteiz today, since our classes got cancelled. Although the weather was horrible, we got on the bus so we wouldn’t waste our day in the apartment (which had maybe been a better idea, seeing the schoolwork I still have to finish because I probably won’t be home this weekend). Shopping is no use with a budget that’s as pitifully low as mine at the moment, but the weather didn’t give us any other options. Not enough time to go to the fine arts museum (which I really want to visit sometime soon), too wet to check out the city’s architecture (Michael hadn’t been there up till now).

Belgian hallucinations
But while wandering around in El Corte Inglés, the two guys bumped into something that made our day. DELIRIUM. Doesn’t sound familiar? It’s the best beer in the world (to my humble opinion, but a few years ago also to the opinion of the people that officially determine the best beer in the world)! I haven’t really missed anything from Belgium so far, but this was just something from home that made me intrinsically happy. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not because it’s from Belgium or because I’m suffering from homesickness, it’s just really, really good. A recommendation to all of you who haven’t ever tried it!

Tomorrow another day at Eitb awaits us and afterwards I might stay in Bilbao for the weekend. I’ve found someone on Couchsurfing that is willing to host me for a few days; I’m still waiting for the confirmation. A little adventure is needed now and then, it’s like a drug to me, and sleeping over at a stranger’s apartment does the trick most of the time.

I’m going to enjoy my precious Delirium now; probably talk to you when I get back from Bilbao!

Agur!

Posted by Sajeh 00:05 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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