February 10, 2013

The Outside of a Museum, a Puppy, and a Bridge in Basque Country

There is more to Basque Country than just food. There is beautiful countryside, arts, sports, and more. (If the weather is a little warmer next time I visit San Sebastián, I would like to try sea kayaking in the lovely bay.) One of the biggest reasons Basque Country has become such a popular tourist destination is art. For a long time this area along the Atlantic coast was mostly home to fishing villages. Then in 1997 the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum opened and since then the tourists have followed.

So, while we were only a short drive away, we decided to take a day trip to Bilbao. As I have said before, I normally don’t like spending hours in museums in my travels. I prefer to wander the streets and see the everyday life of the place I am visiting. However, my interest in seeing this museum was to see the building itself. So, we made the hour drive to the Basque port city of Bilbao.

When we arrived it was foggy and rainy. We parked our car in a nearby shopping mall garage and walked to the museum. Rain in Basque Country does not dampen the mood of a day - it enhances the environment. (And it is responsible for the lush, bright green hillsides throughout this region.) The Bilbao Guggenheim was designed by Frank Gehry, it is completely different than any structure I’ve ever seen. It’s shape the building resembles wind or clouds; while the outside is made of titanium which glows on a cloudy day. The curving lines of the structure seem to mimic the hillsides around it.

Me standing outside of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum.
After admiring the museum building, we went inside to have lunch at the museum cafe. After a quick tapas lunch with a small glass of Rioja (of course), we headed back outside to see some of the other sights of Bilbao. I know, many people will criticize the fact that we did not wander through the museum’s many galleries and exhibits. I’m sure they are lovely. You should check them out when you visit if you like modern art! The street is my museum.

The living Puppy statue with the museum in the background.
First up, was Puppy, a tall, living statue of a dog outside the museum. The fur of the Puppy is made of living plants and flowers, giving it a fluffy look. Originally, Puppy was intended to be a temporary exhibit, however, it was very popular and the citizens of Bilbao bought it. Now it is on permanent display in front of the museum.

The Zubizuri (or "White Bridge" in Basque)
From there we walked along the river towards the center of town. Here is where we came upon one of my favorite things in Bilbao, a curving footbridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The Zubizuri (or “White Bridge" in Basque) is a beautiful and graceful suspension bridge that allows people to cross the Nervion River which runs through the center of town. This is probably my new favorite bridge in the world!

Me on my new favorite bridge!
From the bridge we continued our walk to the old part of Bilbao, with it’s narrow streets, old buildings, and churches. After exploring for a bit and getting lost, we headed back along the river, over the Zubizuri to our car, and back to San Sebastián in time for dinner!

No comments: