Friday, April 9, 2010

Semana Santa - Bilbao and Vitoria (Days 3 and 4)

Sunday morning, March 28th, I woke up bright and early and caught the first train from San Sebastian-Donostia to Bilbao. With the daylight savings time change, I was slightly worried about missing the train or oversleeping, but in the end, everything worked out perfectly and I was quite content to be on my way to Bilbao (albeit a bit more tired than normal).

I arrived in Bilbao shortly after 11:30. I quickly made my way to Bilbao Akelarre Youth Hostal, and although I couldn’t check in yet, dropped my bag off. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the reception and saw a clean, cozy, and lively reception, kitchen area, and lounge full of people taking advantage of the free breakfast, internet, and tv! Needless to say, it was quite a change from the filthy hostel I had stayed in for two nights in San Sebastian. I picked up a map, got directions to the Guggenheim, and immediately started exploring. When you are only in a city for a day or two, you cannot afford to waste a second!

The Guggenheim museum was a pleasant twenty-minute walk along the river. It was so exciting to see for the first time in real life! Since I’ve lived in Spain, it has been a very familiar image; it appears frequently on post cards, in calendars, and coffee table books. To finally see it in person was wonderful! While I did pay the 13 euros to go in, pick up one of those nerdy audio guides, and spend a good two or three hours contemplating and exploring the impressionist and modern art exhibits of Robert Rauschenberg, Anish Kapoor, Henri Rousseau, among others, the most impressive work of art was indeed the museum itself.

After the Guggenheim, I took the rest of the afternoon to explore the historic district of Bilbao. I passed through various parks full of colorful flowers, trees in bloom, and fountains with sparkling water; walked down the main avenue full of shops, cafes, and bars; and snapped photos of important churches, statues, town halls, and government buildings. I wandered through the narrow streets of old town, treated myself to a hot chocolate and my new favorite “pastel de arroz” pastry, and enjoyed a lovely afternoon.

When I got back to the Hostel, I moved into my room, and then went out to the lounge to watch some TV. I met some fellow travelers, from England, Ireland, Austria, Germany, and the US. One of them, Marco, had actually been living in the hostel for a few months, and invited us to watch Inglorious Bastards. His version was in German, but we managed to change it back to English and put German subtitles haha.

The next morning, Monday the 29th, I hopped on a bus to Vitoria. Since I had already visited the capital cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao, I figured I should visit Vitoria, the third capital of Pais Vasco. It was a beautiful city with a world famous medieval district and various stunning cathedrals. I enjoyed it very much, had the opportunity to talk to a few of the locals, and spent a good couple of hours in the main square before heading back to Bilbao. To top off my visit to Bilbao, I met up with a few of the other travelers from my hostel for some pintxos and drinks. After a fun evening, exchanging names, numbers, and addresses, we headed back to the hostel to catch some zzz’s.

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