Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Vizcaya Bridge, Urdaibai, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo And Gernika Tour, Spain

On Saturday we did a half-day tour to see Vizcaya Bridge, San Juan De Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo and Gernika.  We got to see several Basque Country sights.  It was a long trip but well worth it.  

Our first stop was in Getxo for a 20-minute stop to take a look at the UNESCO transporter bridge.  Twenty minutes didn't leave people with enough time take a ride across the river and back but we were fine since we already did the bridge thing the day before when we went to Portugalete.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is an islet off the coast of the Bay of Biscay, about 35 km (22 miles) east of Bilbao.  There is a man-made stone bridge to the island with a 10th century hermitage on top dating back to 1051.

Many people take two hours to hike to the hermitage and ring a bell there three times to make a wish.  We only stopped at an overlook for 20 minutes to take some photos.

Akatz Island is a neighbouring island that is home to nesting birds.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe has become even more popular when HBO digitally created a castle on top of the islet and created Dragonstone for the seventh season of Game of Thrones.

The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1984.  

It covers an area of 220 km² (85 square miles) on the Bay of Biscay coast.  It is home to about 45.000 people and 80% of them around towns of Bermeo and Gernika.

Our next stop was the small fishing town of Bermeo about 11 km (7 miles) away.  Bermeo was founded in 1236 and is home to almost 17.000 people.

Bermeo was the provincial capital from 1476 to 1602.  However, once Bilbao was founded in 1300, Bermeo's importance started declining.  

We stayed here for about 40 minutes and even got to sample a local fish pintxo which is the Basque version of Spanish tapas.

Then it was on to Gernika, the Basque name for Guernica, about 40 km (25 miles) east of Bilbao, where we stayed for about an hour.

Guernica was founded in 1366 and is home to 17.000 people.  It is a small market town but it is very important to Basque culture and identity.

Our first stop here was at the Assembly House which is the Basque House of Parliament.  

The hall was built from 1826 - 1833.  The Assembly House is also part museum because there's the Hall of Stained Glass, the Library and the former office of the President.

The Tree of Gernika is a symbol of Basque independence and democratic ideals from The current oak tree was planted in 2015 and it replaced the tree that had been planted in 2004.  It was descended from the "Old Tree" (1792-1860) and from the "Father Tree" which died in 1792.

The Church of Santa Maria is the oldest building in the town dating back to the 15th century.

Guernica is most know for being bombed on 26 April 1937.  During the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco requested the Germans and Italians to help him overthrow the Basque Government and the Spanish Republic government.  The German Luftwaffe used it as an opportunity to experiment with its blitzkrieg tactics which it later unleashed on Europe in WWII.

The city was bombed for three hours and more than 1500 people were killed.

It's what inspired Picasso's Guernica which is on display at Madrid's Reina Sofía Museum.  A life-size reproduction of the piece was installed in 1997 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing.

Here's a short video I found on YouTube that helps interpret Picasso's masterpiece.

©BBC News

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