Saturday April 13, 2019
Si, si, si! Today we walked to a bus station a mile from our albergue, took a bus to the Bilbao airport and traveled by rental car 5 1/2 hours to Laza. Now we are on the Camino Sanabras for a couple of days until we reach Ourense, where we will walk the last five days on the Via de la Plata route (which originates in Seville) with the other Wayfinding Academy group. My first Camino was on this latter “Way” and I am looking forward to reminiscing!
Also, tomorrow is the beginning of Holy Week (Samana Santa), and here in the very Catholic country of Spain it is an extremely big deal with solemn processionals most evenings in the bigger towns. And, we arrive at our destination of Santiago de Compostela on Easter Eve so we are bound to be a part of a very profound experience.
Now that I am in Galicia, from this point on I will likely only be able to have internet access in cafés as one needs a Spanish phone number to connect to WiFi in the municipal albergues. So, I may be referring you to the blogs I wrote in 2017 for this portion of my walk.
In closing, and as an addendum to our travels from Markina-Xemein to Gernika, (through the villages of Iruzubieta, Ziortza-Golerria, Munitibar, Bolibar, Uriona, Gerrikaitz, Elexalde, Marmiz, Mendieta and Errenteria on day 6), here are some historical and geographical elaborations pulled from our guidebook on the Northern Caminos:
Bolibar – “Founded in the 11th century, and the ancestral homeland of Simón Bolivar. Although his ancestors departed four generations before his birth, he is commemorated with the Casa- Museo de Simón Bolivar. The name ‘Bolibar’ is Basque for ‘windmill valley’. The Church of Santo Tomás is a typical fortress-temple.”
We traveled on a medieval road to the Monasterio De Zenarruza. “Legend holds that an eagle brought a skull here from the Gerrikaitz ossuary, prompting the monastery’s construction. It was first documented in 1082, although the 14th century Gothic church came later. Cistercians took over the monastery in 1995. It is a serene spot for rest or reflection, with a large covered porch, impressive alter and evocative cloister. The tympanum and retablo are impressive; the former features El Salvador between two trumpet-bearing angels, while the latter details the Virgin’s life with a Santiago Perigrino toward the bottom.”
Gernika-Lumo: “For centuries , the Lords of Viscaya gathered under Gernika’s oak tree to swear loyalty to the nation’s fueros (charter). Later, when the Basques joined Spain, Spanish kings made the trek there to reiterate their commitment to protecting Basque liberties. However, Gernika is known internationally primarily because of two men: Franco and Picasso. As the Spanish Civil War languished in a bloody stalemate, Franco faced heavy pressure to produce results. He shifted focus to the Basque country. Although Franco’s military was outdated, he had Hitler and Mussolini’s modern air forces available, carrying with them a brutal new kind of war. On a market day in 1937, The German Condor Legion introduced saturation bombing, pummeling the town with incendiary explosives before passing a second time to strafe the fleeing townspeople. The town destroyed and thousands were killed. Aghast, Picasso took up the brush and produced one of his most famous works, which shares the town’s name. Intended as a warning to the world of the destructive power of new technology and the savagery of the facist militaries, it’s message went largely unheeded.
As a result of the bombing, today’s Gernika is a modern city with few historic buildings. However a sapling of the old oak survives in the park surrounding the Casa de Juntas, the seat of the Viscayan Provincial General Assembly. It includes an exhibit on Basque government and culture. Even more compelling is the Gernika Peace Museum which goes beyond the bombings to examine 20th century efforts at peace and transitional justice.
From Gernika-Lumo to Bilbao (day 7), there were a few churches of note and Bilbao as a city had quite a bit to elaborate upon, however I shall just mention the Guggenheim Museum, built by architect Frank Gerry in 1997 which is quite a spectacular structure from the outside! Alas, we did not have time to be patrons.