When I applied for my Year Abroad placement with the British Council, País Vasco didn’t make the cut for my first or second regional preference. I actually ranked it as my last choice, and as I had done zero research into the region was fairly disappointed when I received my allocation. But since, I have fallen in love with Bilbao ( European City of the Year 2018, didn’t you know?) and all of its surrounding towns and can’t wait to see more of it. Here are five things the Basque Country does well:
Basque food is great. You only have to wander the cobbled streets of Casco Viejo to stumble across dozens of bars and restaurants (my favourite is La Olla) serving pintxos, the Basque variation of tapas. According to Huffington Post pintxos are “small, composed bites that unlike tapas, aren’t meant to be shared“. And what’s not to love about keeping food that probably should be shared, all to yourself?
2. Cleaning the city
In comparison to my time living in Paris, Bilbao is spotless! You can’t fault the city for having clean public transport systems and streets, all the time. In fact a massive clean-up operation takes place between 3am and 7am every night, when the Bilbao garbi vans take to the streets. By morning, long gone are the remnants of botellón from the night before; the city is once again pristine.
Nothing makes a Brit feel more at home than the sensation of endless rainy days, practical shoes and a waterproof coat. Although we were blessed with an extended summer season until mid-October, it seems the rain has arrived and is here to stay. Whether you choose to see the rainfall as a glass half-full or half-empty, it brings great greenery to the region’s landscapes making the Basque Country stand out from other drier areas of Spain.
And with the rain comes greenery all around. You can spot the mountains from many parts across Bilbao, and the beach is only a short metro ride away. The Basque Country really is a region which has everything: the metropolitan city, the long stretches of sandy beaches and the mountains looking down over the city. One of the teachers at my school said she loves the safety that comes with the surrounding mountains; wherever you go you are never too far away.
The people of the Basque Country speak Euskera, so of course the language is something they do well! But it’s interesting to hear it so widely spoken across not only the smaller towns like Gernika where I work, but also in the heart of the city. All of the teachers at my school converse in Euskera, as do the children to one another. In my youngest classes, they often don’t fully understand Castellano yet as Euskera is the language spoken at home. Here’s a few of phrases in Euskera, and there are more over in my post Euskera and the luck of the draw.
Kaixo! – Hello
Egun ona izan dezazula – Have a nice day
Ingelesa hitz egiten mesedez? – Do you speak English
Hizkuntza bat ez da inoiz nahikoa – One language is never enough.
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