Our delightful little 2020 mascot Factor Free visited in February the fabulous region of the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, discovering a glittering assortment of extraordinary locations, transformative hotels, vibrant culture and exquisite cuisine. Before following Free’s steps, we would like to introduce you some bits and bobs about the region.
Region of Traditions
The Basque Country is a region of fascinating secrets and paradoxes. Home to one of Europe’s oldest peoples and most mysterious language bearing no relation to any other in the world, with a unique folklore rich in rituals and dances, it also boasts a dynamic modern energy, with the reinvention of Bilbao being an avant-garde model of city.
Basque people cherish their traditions. One of the most widely-known of these is “pelota vasca”, the regional ball game. Instead of football pitches, villages have frontons, where locals play pelota and the violently quick jaialai (a hook-shaped basket worn on the hand) that can hurl a ball extremely fast.
Along the coastline, traditional rowing competitions in old-fashioned boats are also extremely popular. The image of muscular men and fibred women rowing fast through the cool Cantabrian Sea or indeed chopping wood in the mountains form an indelible part of their deep-rooted activities.
Culture and Arts
The Basque Country has made important contributions to modern culture, through sculptors like Eduardo Chillida, painters like Zuluoaga, and movie makers like Julio Medem. And of course Bilbao’s flagship museum, the Guggenheim, designed by Frank O. Gehry, may be the finest example of architecture in recent times. Here visitors can discover a magnificent permanent exhibition featuring great artists such as de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein and Richard Serra with his extraordinary installation called “The Matter of time”.
You can visit some of the main exhibition through Google Arts & Culture HERE.
Wine paradise and a Star Michelin cuisine.
Over the last few decades Spain has become one of the most exciting wine-producing countries in the world. San Sebastian offers dreamy vineyards specialising in a refreshing wine called Txacoli that anyone can enjoy as they savour the stunning landscapes between the green hills and the sea. If you are a wine lover, La Rioja is just a 90-minute drive from Bilbao. Here, a myriad of traditional and modern vineyards show their endless love for grapes. They open their doors for private tours and mouth-watering gastronomy. Furthermore, there are more Michelin stars in the Basque Country than almost anywhere else in the world! Travellers even make pilgrimages to the old town in San Sebastian for delicious local pintxos; the highly-recommended tapas speciality in the region.
Sustainability is simply part of Basque people’s way of life. Visiting the region you can sense how locals take care of their environment and protect their culture and people. There is no immediate ambition to promote uncontrolled growth in tourism if this means losing the uninterrupted rural landscapes or the authentic local atmosphere. If you talk to the Basques, they will tell you that enjoying regional produce is something that lives in their DNA. If you ask about nature, they will assure you they have great respect their cherished lands.
For many visitors, the Basque Country is reminiscent of the green lands of Ireland or the picturesque coasts of the south of England! Do not be fooled however, The Basque Country is totally unique and has a lot to share!
See the Sustainable Development Agenda of the Basque Country HERE