So it’s not every spring break that I’m in Spain, let alone anywhere outside of Iowa. This year, however, I got to visit another autonomous region in Spain. For those of you who don’t know, Spain has three autonomous regions: Galicia, Catalunya, Basque Country. While these regions are still part of the country, they also have their own languages and feel a certain independence from Spain. The past three months I have been living in Barcelona, which is located in Catalunya. It has been interesting to experience Catalan, along with Spanish culture, and to see demonstrations and petitions for Catalan independence. So when I headed to Basque Country, I was excited to witness a whole different culture, still within Spain.
Three years ago I came to Spain for the first time. I visited Madrid, as well as many smaller cities and towns, some of which are located in Basque Country. A few cities I visited in BC three years ago, I visited again this spring break: San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Vitoria. All of them I loved from my first trip and was excited to see again.
First stop, San Sebastian! Three years ago, I only got to stay there one rainy afternoon, so it was great to be back. San Sebastian is a beautiful, charming city. It’s relatively small, with a historic neighborhood, a gorgeous beach and boardwalk, lots of students, and several neat bars and tapa places. Fun fact: the best ice cream I’ve ever had was in San Sebastian, banana split flavored. I’m sure there are many touristy things to do in San Sebastian, but I really didn’t do any of them. I spent my time there exploring, walking around, and just enjoying the city.
Another one of my favorite cities in Spain is Bilbao. It’s most famously known as being the home of the Guggenheim museum. I love the river that runs through the city and how Bilbao has such an industrial feel to it. Also, there is a giant dog made of flowers, so that in itself is pretty cool.
The final city I visited was Vitoria. While it’s not as well known as San Sebastian or Bilbao, it’s actually the capital of Basque Country and a really great place to visit. On my first trip to Spain I spent a large chunk of time in Vitoria because it’s where my aunt is from. My cousins and I had a blast on that trip, wandering the city and exploring nearby towns, drinking Don Simon wine from a box while under 21, and shopping in Spanish stores. I have so many great memories from that trip, and being back in Vitoria brought them all back.
It was fun to take a few days and explore Spain outside of Catalunya. Being in Basque Country after learning so much about ETA and the terrorism that occurred there for years was interesting and a little scary. When our bus was pulled over and searched on the way from Bilbao to San Sebastian, I’d never appreciated American police officers more. I have loved my semester abroad and learned so much about Europe; but as the semester is coming to an end, I’m getting very excited to go home!