Always thought the United Kingdom was the most rainy place you could visit?
Bilbao: European City of the Year 2018; and with so much to offer. But if you’re planning a beach weekend away in sunny Spain, think again, for the majority of the year. I have been pleasantly surprised by this city: its mountainous backdrop, the vibrant diversity and the welcoming culture of the people here. But it’s certain that this Basque city boasts more differences than maybe would be welcome by the average year abroad student or holiday-maker.
There are many reasons why The Basque Country stands out from the rest of Spain; here are my top three.
1. The Basque Country isn’t just in Spain
Obvious to some, unbeknown to others, The Basque Country straddles the border and covers both Spain and France. Although the largest part is in Spain, el País Vasco, thereis an area along the French border which also forms a part of the Pays Basque region.
There is even an island that switches countries every six months . Pheasant Island, Ile des Faisans or Isla de los Faisanes, depending on how you see it, belongs to France for six months of the year, and Spain for the other half of the year. This week marks the change of hands of the 3,000 sq m spot of land.
2. The Basque language is everywhere
Even in Bilbao (although you may find it spoken less depending on where you go) Basque or Euskara has a very prominent presence. It’s the first language you’ll hear on public transport announcements, often the first language on street signs, and annoyingly for the Spanish year abroad students dotted across the city, the only language appearing in some places.
I work in a Basque primary school; where all the lessons are taught in Basque and for the majority of the children and staff in the school, they consider Basque as their first language.
When it comes to school festivals or whole-school gatherings, your guess is as good as mine.
When the region has its own word for ‘a light drizzle which doesn’t stop’, you know it rains a lot.
As I got ready to leave for my year abroad, people jokingly asked if I’d packed my raincoat and wellies. I thought nowhere could be as rainy as England, and boy was I wrong.
To put it into perspective, since returning back after Christmas on the 8th January, I would say I could count on one hand the amount of days we have had without a single drop of rain; and when it rains, it does not stop.
In my first few weeks here, I would snigger at the locals walking the streets of Bilbao in wellies, armed with a large golf umbrella. My mindset swiftly changed when I had my first experience of “txirimiri” , a moment I have never regretted wearing converse trainers so much in my life. You’ll catch me in Leeds next year as the student trying to bring golf umbrellas and waterproof shoes into fashion.
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