Vitoria-Gasteiz, in Prose & Pictures
I usually break up these blogs into work and play but I can say that it would be very hard to distinguish between the two this week. Play was just as exhausting as any work, and work was just as enjoyable as play. instead I will break it up into 2 separate blogs altogether. One with a sentimental mind and another with an academic mind.
The Summer School 2015, put on by FEST and Basquetour, took place from Tuesday until Friday this week, in Vitoria-Gasteiz in Basque County Spain. In short, the presentations were interesting, social activities fun and informative, the food and wine were spectacular, the city astounding and people delightful.
To mix it up and show you just how inspiring this wonderful trip to the European Green City of 2012 was, I’ve mixed prose with pictures and some light explanations of my magnificence-inspired madness.
The Guggenheim. A Matter of Time
Is our path guided by the steel walls of time and
The echoes of another’s whisper?
And when time turns against us, must we walk
back through a memory
Forced now to see it through the eyes of our future?
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was the first stop after deboarding at Bilbao airport. “Permanent” artworks stretched themselves along the first floor. (Deemed permanent, because they will remain there for 20-25 years). Titled “The Matter of Time” the pieces formed a thoughtful collection meant to invoke a rather disorienting spatial and temporal experience. Viewers enter steel walls of these large structures that change color over time, and curve around and above them. It is open on the top, but feeling of the walls swelling and curving around you, hearing echoes of those that share the same space but feel it differently, and taking time to really be in that space, was a thought-provoking experience.
The significance of the Guggenheim was that it was a project intended to rejuvenate the industrial city of Bilbao. That it did, and its unique addition to the town has made it a destination that managed to pay back into the city the cost of its development within a few short years. It is an interesting study into community development through tourism.
A Pintxos Meet and Eat
Oh, Pintxos pote, you and all your friends.
Such characters! So delightful!
It’s been wonderful to meet you-
Let me introduce you to my appetite!
The first night, after the Guggenheim, we went for a tour around the Old Square and the New Square, to meet other participants of the conference and to stop at 5 pubs for Pintxos Potes- a Basque treat of small appetizers and a drink. The appetizers ranged from mini sausage burgers to prawns with a chevre cream sauce. A few of their common drinks are Pica (or Clara) and Txakoli – beer with lemon (or lemonade) and an effervescent white wine from the region. They also drink a coke and red wine mixture on ice (Kalimotxo).
The two squares are pretty magnificent. The squares close a little earlier than the streets behind them, I was informed from a newly acquired friend, and the Virgen Blanca Square is overseen by a statue above it. She, the White Virgin, is the Saint of the City. Below is my ode to her.
As early morning rises,
a flash of heat lightening outshines a heavy moon.
The insatiable gather
behind the back of their beloved Virgen Blanca,
avoiding her watchful eye.
We had the chance to visit salt mines in Alava- Añana Salt Valley (Salinas de Añana). A completely unique experience, and I am not even sure if an explanation, poetry and photos combined can explain the scene. I will say however, that a concern right now is not how much salt is available, but for how long the ground water will continue to recharge enough to keep flowing to the surface, bringing the salt with it. It used to flow at 3 liters per minute and has slowed to 2 liters per minute. This has not affected the salt production gravely, but warrants an in depth study of why the water is slowing, as it may be an indicator of a geological change that may have further impacts.
Shining like snow, crusting small ponds
Like an emblem of some early days of spring
It seasons the cool water flowing through clay
And clings to pine railings.
Frozen, fragile flower fragments
Floating on limestone.
These salty snowflakes,
Deliciously decorating the earth.
We also visited the Alava region for a trip to a winery- Viña Salceda Winery. Delicious and beautiful!
We visited the Ataria Interpretation Centre of the Salburua Wetlands, which comprise an important section of Vitoria Gasteiz’s surrounding green belt, in which I learned that there are several invasive species threatening the native species in the area. A turtle from Florida being one, in fact. I guess since Florida is full of transplants, the Floridians transplant themselves elsewhere too!
Now, I know some of you are utterly disappointed, as you expected an “Ode to Wine” from me. I completely understand, but I can’t share everything with you!
Part II coming soon!