Continuing my odyssey through the Basque Country, I departed San Sebastian and set my course for the bustling city of Bilbao, a place that had long intrigued me. As I ventured along the scenic coastal road, the Basque landscape unfolded like a storybook, revealing lush valleys, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque fishing villages.
Upon reaching Bilbao, my first stop was the Guggenheim Museum, an architectural masterpiece designed by Frank Gehry. Its undulating titanium curves shimmered in the sunlight, and I marveled at the interplay between art and architecture. Inside, I was immersed in a world of contemporary art, from monumental sculptures to thought-provoking installations. The stunning collection was a testament to Bilbao’s commitment to cultural enrichment.
Within the city, I crossed paths with Elena, a local artist, who was sketching the Guggenheim’s iconic form on the riverside promenade. She shared her passion for Bilbao’s transformation from an industrial hub to a cultural mecca, and we spent hours discussing the city’s thriving art scene, complete with galleries, street art, and creative collaborations.
Exploring the charming old town, Casco Viejo, I encountered a lively group of friends celebrating a traditional Basque festival. They invited me to join in the revelry, and I soon found myself dancing to the infectious rhythms of a Basque folk band. My newfound friends included Aitor, a jovial local who worked at a nearby pintxos bar, and Laura, a traveler from Italy who had come to Bilbao to immerse herself in the local culture.
A highlight of my Bilbao adventure was a visit to the Ribera Market, one of Europe’s largest covered markets. The air was thick with the scent of fresh produce, seafood, and spices. There, I met Maria, a vendor with a passion for sharing the Basque tradition of cider-making. She introduced me to the art of “sagardotegi,” or cider house visits, where locals gather to celebrate the apple harvest season with food, music, and merriment.
Eager to explore the natural wonders of the Basque Country, I ventured into the nearby Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, a pristine wilderness of marshlands, beaches, and oak forests. My guide, Iñaki, was a knowledgeable naturalist who shared tales of the region’s rich biodiversity. We spotted herons, wild horses, and even the elusive European mink during our tranquil hike through this unspoiled paradise.
On another day, I attended a traditional Basque music performance in a small village square, where musicians played the txalaparta, a wooden percussion instrument, and the accordion. The intimate setting allowed me to appreciate the soulful melodies that had been passed down through generations.
My journey through Bilbao was more than just sightseeing; it was an immersive experience that introduced me to the dynamic fusion of modernity and tradition that defined this Basque city. The people I met in Bilbao, from artists to locals reveling in their cultural heritage, shared their stories and passions, transforming my visit into an enriching exploration of Basque life and creativity.
As I continued my RV journey, I knew that Bilbao’s vibrant tapestry of art, culture, and nature would forever be a cherished chapter in my ongoing camping odyssey. The Basque Country, with its diverse landscapes and warm-hearted people, had left an indelible mark on my traveler’s soul.