Giacomo and I arrive in Irun, on the Spanish border with France, around 12pm. The 13 hours on the night train destroyed us. Although it is early August, clouds and a fine drizzle welcome us. We search for a train to San Sebastiàn, where we’ll spend a couple of days, before to move to other places of the Basque Country. The city center is not bad, the Spanish atmosphere reminds me of the little streets in the center of Madrid, where I lived.
For two nights we’ll be hosted by Amaia, thanks to Couchsurfing. When she arrives on her battered Peugeot 106, I already understand that the plump 45 year old lady is down to earth. The house is not only wonderful, but also at our disposal: she sleeps in her parents’ house and she leaves us the keys. She accompanies us to take a tour by car, describing the city: she’s really gentle, available and she likes to host people to listen to the stories of those who travel, as she can’t do.
After a lunch of biscuits and watermelon, at dinner time, we’re super hungry! Considering the high prices of pinxtos (the Basque tapas), we go to the supermarket and we prepare a dinner at home, in order to inaugurate this part of the travel together. A pound apiece of pasta with Amatriciana sauce, and an indefinite number of little spicy sausages kill us.
We give up the day on the Basque beaches, because the sky is black also on the second day. The stained glass windows of a gothic church give new light to the dark day. The climb to mount Urgull, which dominates the promontory in the center of the city, gives me a sense of spiritual retirement, with the lanes which alternate between walls of trees in the woods and stone walls, which have survived the weather for centuries. From the top of the castle, a colossal statue of blessing Christ watches over the citizens, while at its feet a little museum tells to the tourists the history of the Basque people. Even the museum of San Telmo, which is providentially free today, helps us to know the history of this culture.
Sense of independence hard to conquer, almost of frustration, permeates the rooms of the museum which tells the history, traditions and culture from food to arts, from celebrations to fights, from travels to sports. One of the things that strikes more is the sports tradition in which lifting stones, wood cutting and races, recall back in time, but at the same time are so actual and important for people who feel the constant need to demonstrate – maybe more to themselves that to the others – their own strength and capacity to live and grow up without help. Pelota basca and its harder version (cesta punta) complete the circle of the particular and unique sports of this nation.
The cold water gives relief to the tired feet while we’re walking on the shore. We across the long beach to the Comb of the wind: 3 twisted installations in oxidized iron sprouting from the cliff, at the foot of Mount Igueldo. This one seems collapsed on itself, with sloped walls alternated to gentle hillsides full of trees. Next to the artwork of dubious taste, the big stone terrace overlooking the sea has some holes, producing strong puffs of air thanks to the pressure of the waves. I cannot stop a smile watching the excited faces of the children playing with them and the strange poses of people taking pictures. After a stop at Miramar Palace, we ignore the wind and the dark sky and we throw ourselves into the icy water of the sea.
The evening ends as real Couchsurfers, with a typical dinner cooked by Amaia, with two more guests who will share the night with us: a French woman with her 11 y.o. son, who are walking on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St.James). I imagine doing it, in the future, with a young woman like her: simple, nice, reckless: who has like me the wanderlust in spite of the difficulties and uncertainties. I fall asleep thinking about a life with someone who, with me, will be able to overcome all obstacles of life.
READ HERE THE STEP N°1: Munich (Germany)
READ HERE THE STEP N°2: Bayreuth (Germany)
READ HERE THE STEP N°3: Bruxelles (Belgium)
READ HERE THE STEP N°4: Bruges (Belgium)
READ HERE THE STEP N°5: Antwerp (Belgium)
READ HERE THE STEP N°6: Delft (Netherlands)
READ HERE THE STEP N°7: Rotterdam (Netherlands)
READ HERE THE STEP N°8: Amsterdam (Netherlands)
READ HERE THE STEP N°9: Luxembourg (Luxembourg)
READ HERE THE STEP N°10: Marseille (France)