Writing about a place that you love and appreciate seems to be much more difficult than discussing a destination which doesn’t evoke any strong feelings.
Probably it’s the main reason of waiting for the right moment to write about my last trip to Spain.
My Trip to Spain
My Fascination with Spain and Spanish Culture
I have been fascinated by Spain for 15 years, which means more or less half of my life. This fascination, passion and admiration started with the language and literature. Thanks to immersing myself into the worlds created by G.G. Márquez, C. Fuentes or great Spanish poet F. G. Lorca, I managed to know absolutely outstanding cultural reality. It has changed all my life. From then on I have been going deeper and deeper into this world.
San Sebastián and Language Diversity in Spain
Possibly contrary to many expectations I am not going to write about sandy beaches and describe Catalunya’s capital. I would like to start sharing my views from saying a few words about San Sebastián, known also as Donostia which is a capital of Basque Country (País Vasco).
Probably the first thing that I should mention is language diversity in Spain. The question of the Spanish language name very often can be considered as a subject of numerous discussions . Is it Castellano or Spanish? Although Spanish is spoken by every Spanish citizen, there are also a few different languages: Catalan, Basque and Galician. As it’s possible to notice similarities between Catalan and Castilian, the language spoken in Basque Country is completely different.
History of San Sebastián
San Sebastián appears in the Spanish history around the year 1014 in a document of Leire monastery donation. Then one of its strongest points was location near to The Concha Bay. With the time passing Donostia was progressing thanks to its successful fishermen selling their products to France, England and Flanders. Another period of prosperity was connected with setting up the colonies by Spain in America.
I would like to start with showing a few characteristics of food. Pintxo (or Pincho) can be compared with tapas, which are widespread in many Spanish regions. It is a kind of snack but there are certain differences between pincho and tapas. First of all, tapas are eaten with cutlery not with hands.
Another interesting thing is a way of paying with the sticks (the pinchos are pierced with them). Here it should be explained the name of this delicious snack. In Spanish pincho comes from the verb ‘pinchar’ which means piercing. It’s interesting that we can find it also in Navarra and Cantabria. Pinchos can be accompanied by zurito (a small pint of beer) or txikito (a small glass of wine).
Where can we try them?
I can recommend 2 bars in San Sebastián. The first of them is “Bar Txepetxa”, which is situated at Calle Pescaderia 5. There you can try absolutely delicious anchois with spawn od porcupine or sea spider cream.
Another bar worth visiting is called “Bar Nestor” (Calle Pescaderia 11) offering pincho with tortilla from potatoes (served only at 13;00 and 20:00). You can also ask for Gilda, named after famous film with Rita Hayworth, made from guindilla pepper, olives and anchois. Their prices shouldn’t be higher than 3-5€.
If it comes to pinchos, I should also add that its main strong points are absolutely unique combinations of tastes, such as herring for example with walnut. On the other hand, its ingredients are not especially sophisticated and demanding for our stomach.
Places to Visit in San Sebastián
Obviously San Sebastián isn’t only a temple of food. It is also a city with many interesting places to visit.
As in many European cities one of the first places we want to see is an old town. In this case it’s called Parte Vieja. Nevertheless, historically the oldest part of Donostia is situated near to El Monte Urgull, which will be mentioned further. Up to 1863 Parte Vieja was surrounded by city walls and because of this fact it was separated from the rest of Donostia. It is worth mentioning as well that this part of the city is divided into 2 parishes, Santa Maria and San Vicente. Citizens living in the first one are known as joxmaritarrak, whereas parishioners of San Vicente as koxkeroak, who up to XVIII century could speak Gascon.
One of the most significant streets here is Calle 31 de Agosto (both churches mentioned above are situated there). As a vast majority of building were reconstructed in XIX century, the Church of San Vicente is the oldest building. Its altar is dated back to 1586.
If you decide to visit San Sebastián without any doubt you should get to Monte Urgull. It is a hill moved forward towards The Bay of Biscay where it is worth visiting the Fortress Santa Cruz de la Mota. Despite it, one can see as well 30-metres high sculpture of Jesus. The easiest way to reach this place is to set off from Santa Maria church. Getting there by foot takes approximately an hour.
Like many other Spanish cities there is a great variety of local festivals, as Fiesta de San Tomás (21th December), The Carnival (2nd February). However I should mention as well about aizkolazis and arrijasotzailes. The first mentioned name refers to a kind of wood-chopping competition. Arrijasotzailes is a stone lifting competition consisting of different types of tasks.