Trip to the Basque Country | #SpainUntravelled project | The Introduction
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about Spain? You are probably thinking of Barcelona, Madrid, tapas, Real Madrid C.F. (or FC Barcelona, I don’t know your preferences guys!), bullfights and Enrique Iglesias. This beautiful country of the Iberian Peninsula, however, has much more to show and offer its visitors than you think. To prove how multifaceted it is, I decided to travel to an almost unknown, to most of you, part of it and transfer you mentally to a place that looks like it came out from the Game of Thrones TV series.
So, I welcome you to another adventure, this time in the magnificent Basque Country!
Basque Country? Where is that?
Common question. What is the Basque Country? And where is it? When I announced my destination, many people said, “I’ve never heard of this country before. Where is it?”, while the ones of you who had heard of it, noted to me by moving your finger in front of my face and claimed the following “The Basque Country is not Spain!”. We will analyse that in a little while.
So, the Basque Country is one of the 17 autonomous regions of Spain and is located in the northern part of the country. In Basque it is called Euskadi, while in Spanish is known as Pais Vasco. This region includes the Basque regions, known as Historic Areas, Alava, Biscay and Gipuzkoa.
Attention! This autonomous region, should not be confused with the term Basque Country (Euskal herria) which is referring to the historical Basque speaking regions that are extending to the west Pyrenees and the coast of the Bay of Biscay including parts of northern Spain and southwestern France. In this ten day trip, I visited ONLY the Spanish region. I left the French part for future exploration.
Who are the Basques?
Both the origin of the Basques as a community, and the Basque language are a mystery for the scientific community. The majority claims that the Basques are natives of Europe and its oldest inhabitants. The thing, however, and what you should remember in the end, is that we are talking about the group of people who live in the Basque Country, and has its own culture and language which is like no other you’ve ever heard and has certainly nothing to do with the Spanish language.
The language with the many k’s and tx’s
Known as Euskara, the Basque language is incomprehensible and unique and nobody knows its exact origin. It’s been spoken for more than 4000 years, from around 700,000 people in northern Spain and southwestern France. It is said to be a very difficult language and it isn’t related to any other language in the world. To understand what I’m saying, I’m giving you some examples below which you will most probably use during your stay there.
Hi – Kaixo
Bye – Agur
Good morning – Egun on
Thank you – Eskerrik Asko
Well done and congratulations! You just learnt your first four Basque words!
So is the Basque Country, Spanish?
We already said that it is one of the 17 autonomous regions of Spain. But today, a large part of its population, shares the desire to be self-administered, either with further political autonomy or full independence. Hence the quote “The Basque Country is not Spain!” that was mentioned earlier. There are Basques although who feel more connected with the Spanish culture and not so much with the Basque and do not want to be independent.
Is it dangerous to travel to the Basque Country?
It is almost certain that you’ve heard the worst about ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna which means Basque Land and Freedom) the Basque nationalist and separatist organization that was founded in 1959 in Spain. It was initially created to preserve the cultural heritage of Basques, as well as to exert resistance against the dictatorship of Franco, but became an armed paramilitary organization, with Marxist ideology in order to achieve the self-determination and independence of the Basque Country.
So ETA is the reason why a large percentage of the global travel community, refuses to visit this region even today. Unfortunately there is still the belief that Basques are terrorists and that the Basque Country is a dangerous destination. According to my personal experience you have absolutely nothing to worry about. It is a safe destination, and all these stories and conflicts belong to the past.
How did I end up there?
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to meet the Spanish Ambassador of Cyprus, who made me a very tempting offer that I could never say no to. The offer included a trip to any part of Spain I wanted to visit, funded by the Spanish Embassy with a single purpose. To show you, my favorite traveler, a different Spain, avoiding the known paths that lead to Barcelona and Madrid. Would you say no to an offer like this? You wouldn’t.
That’s how I found myself walking along the medieval streets of Laguardia, eating pintxos in San Sebastian’s Casco Viejo and drinking txacoli in the bars of Bilbao. And all for this project named #SpainUntravelled.
Ten days and countless wine tastings later, came the time for me to describe you my experience in this unknown and mysterious destination through articles, colorful photos and fun videos that I will be uploading every week on the blog, and all my other accounts on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Youtube). All you have to do is use the hashtag #SpainUntravelled to find all the information about this project. Stay tuned until next week to find out what my impression of this ten day experience was. Until next time, stay safe and keep traveling! Un beso y un abrazo grande! xxx
P.S. A big thanks to the Spanish Ambassador of Cyprus for trusting me. Our Spanish Ambassador is better than yours!