Fine arts

I wake up at a quarter to eight, that’s perfect. We crawled in a bit later yesterday, as I infected mom with the Words of Wonders virus and we spent the whole evening playing on my phone. Getting quite far in the butterfly tournament! Breakfast is leftover bread with olive oil, grapes and cherry tomatoes. We resume our game – really trying to win that tournament – and hurry out just before ten. Today will be hot and sunny so we have planned around that: an art museum in the morning, a long siesta and then whatever catches our fancy.

We have two important musea left in this town and are only willing to do one. We pick the Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa instead of the ITSAS because we do love art and the art museum will be air conditioned. Did I mention that Euskara, the Basque language, is completely foreign sounding and impossible to understand? It’s full of x’s and z’s in the weirdest places and unlike Spanish, which is a bit doable if you already speak French, the words are completely unrecognizable. Well, except korona, that’s kind of obvious in any language. Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa is the museum of fine arts.

We walk the by now familiar river promenade to the Guggenheim, admire Jeff Koons 43-foot flower covered puppy, pass by the lively Euskadi Plaza and walk into the quiet and blessedly cool museum. I order the tickets in Spanish, can barely follow the lady’s short speech on where to go and then we set off, thankfully with an English plan of the rooms. There’s comprehensive info about the art work on wall panels, but only in Basque or Spanish. Since they’re working on expansions and there’s no room for the whole collection, they’ve made a selection and display a few works of two artists in each room. The works are somehow related (either in the theme of the pieces, the origin of the authors, etc.) but often very much opposed in style, which makes you continuously surpised when you walk in a room. The oldest pieces are late Medieval, like etches by Albrecht Dürer, the newest just a few years old. Some of it is a bit weird, the kind of conceptual art where you can tell it’s art only because it wouldn’t otherwise be in a museum, some of it is absolutely stunning. Most of it is Basque or Spanish too, artists I have never seen, with the exception of a few like Goya, Dürer and Gauguin.

We continue on to the newer building where they have a few unconnected expositions, like the famous Guernica by Agustin Ibarrola, the educational gallery with art from major periods (again, starting in the Middle Ages) and posters by Milton Glaser. The exhibition about restoration of art is particularly interesting, each restored piece displayed with info (this time also in English) about what was done, how and why. We’re out by twelve, much too early for lunch by Spanish standards, but we have a few pintxos in the museum café anyway.

This whole neighbourhood is new to us, so a bit of exploration is overdue and we set out through the Casilda Iturrizar parkea park filled with Sunday morning strollers (and their well-behaved dogs), to the Euskalduna Jauregia concert hall that we glimpsed from across the river a few days earlier, and San Mames football stadium. From there we take the tram back to our own corner of town. Mouth masks are still mandatory on public transport, not fun with these high temperatures. After a stop by our favorite gourmet store La Oka to buy dessert and dinner, we head to our appartment for a siesta, meaning Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate ice cream and more Words of Wonders gaming. We make it to first place in the tournament, but there’s still a few hours left until the deadline so we’ll have to keep an eye on it.

We leave again around three thirty, with sun screen and hats and the coolest outfits we have with us (both from a temperature and style point of view, I must add). We walk to the Artxanda-ko funikularra, a rail car ascending to the panoramic viewpoint at the top of the hill. It’s quite a steep climb and the view from the paths at the top is impressive. We can see the street of the appartment, as well as all the landmarks we’ve visited the last few days. The sun is still really warm but at least at this height there’s a wind to cool you down. We amble around, follow some mysterious signpost and wind up near old trenches. We’re completely confused about why these are here, so we take a seat in the shade to learn about the Spanish Civil War and how it affected the Basque province and the city of Bilboa.

We continue on, motivated by the signposts of jatatxea. I’m still unclear what it means exactly, restaurant, bar, inn, .. but I’m sure you can get a drink there. We sit in the shade with our drinks and chat for a while while the day cools down around us. We walk back around six, have our simple, cold meal at the kitchen table and spend the evening writing (another letter to a penpal, and the blog), gaming (we’re definitely winning this tournament) and relaxing. Tomorrow we pack and make our way back to Belgium by foot, bus, plane and train.

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