San Sebastian, Spain
Let’s go Pintxos
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Hello, I am glad to greet you, I am Yael Yancelson and today we will discover the beautiful city of San Sebastián in Spain, so breathe, close your eyes and let yourself be guided, we begin…
San Sebastián is a small city on the Bay of Biscay in the mountainous Basque Country of Spain that hides unmissable corners. In the Basque language, it is called Donostia.
In the heart of the city, we are going to climb Mount Urgull to enjoy the only point of Donostia, where you can see the three beaches and observe the remains of the wall and cannons, a witness to the military past of the city. Mount Urgull is located at one of the ends of the Bay of La Concha, guarding the Old Town. It is one of the three lungs of the city, you can feel special tranquility, can you appreciate it? if you realize, we are surrounded by exotic vegetation that hides viewpoints with scenarios worthy of photography, let’s take some!
We are transported back in time because we have found the traces that the different moments of its history have left on the city. We see the fortifications and part of the wall that one day Donostia/San Sebastián embraced and that today is one of the few remaining witnesses of the war battles and sieges it suffered in the 19th century. Mount Urgull witnessed in 1794 the first capitulation of the city at the hands of the French and witnessed the fire that today is the old town that was born from the battle of the Gallic troops with the Anglo-Portuguese army that destroyed the city in 1813.
We walk through Atalaya over the sea and the city, to the top, where the impressive statue of the Sacred Heart and the fortifications and cannons of Castillo de la Mota await your arrival.
Look at this sculpture ‘Empty Construction’, created by Jorge Oteiza, which rises imposingly and defies the sea, playing with the waves every time they jump.
The work, which was awarded at the São Paulo Biennial in 1957, is today a benchmark in the world of contemporary art. And we arrive at the Aquarium, the place where the skeleton of a whale captured in the Cantabrian Sea in 1871 lies. With more than a century of history and remodeled in 2008, it is today one of the most modern aquariums in Europe.
A few meters from the Aquarium, we enter the Naval Museum, inside which we discover the history and part of the Basque maritime heritage.
And so we arrive at the picturesque fishing port of Donostia/San Sebastián where the typical fishing boats of the Basque Country rest before setting sail. It looks beautiful, right?
San Sebastián is the perfect city to get around by bicycle, so let’s take one and what do you think if we go strolling through the Old Town enjoying its famous pintxos, miniature culinary delights, and markets such as La Bretxa? Further on we pass by the Plaza de la Constitución, in the heart of the Old Town. Until the 1940s, its central building was the City Hall of Donostia / San Sebastián.
The balconies of the colorful buildings that surround it have printed numbers that take us back to its past when it was used as a bullfighting arena.
Today, however, the Plaza de la Constitución is a place full of life and the main stage for the most important local festivals.
I feel like stopping for a while for a coffee on one of the terraces of Plaza Zuloaga where the San Telmo Museum keeps the secrets of Basque culture in a safe place.
And from there we take a walk through the romantic area toward Playa de la Concha with its iconic railing to enjoy an unforgettable sunset.
And now we return to the Easo square that we have been told is the reference space of the Amara neighborhood. It has been believed by some that the Roman city had its seat where Donostia / San Sebastián is currently located and they began to call this population the Bella Easo and although new studies have verified that the situation that the Roman city occupied does not correspond to the one that it occupies in Currently Donostia / San Sebastián, it is still called that, especially when it is spoken of in a poetic tone.
Basque is spoken on both sides of the western Pyrenees; that is, in different areas of the French and Spanish states. In Donostia / San Sebastián, as in the entire Basque Autonomous Community, the official languages are Basque and Spanish.
It is the oldest language in Europe and I did not know its origin is unknown even to researchers. They say that genetically, it is an isolated language since it is one of the few languages to which no relationship has been found.
3,000 years ago, it was surrounded by non-Indo-European languages. Due to migratory movements, those languages gradually became extinct and by the first millennium BC, the Indo-European languages (Germanic, Romance, Slavic…) predominated in almost all of Europe. But Basque did not disappear, and has survived to this day!
Bertsolaritza is one of the most peculiar disciplines of Basque culture. The bertso consists of the improvisation of a sung verse, on a fixed rhyme and melody. It involves high doses of imagination, oral skills, and mental agility for the bertsolaris. Even today, Bertsolaris championships are organized throughout the territory, mainly in popular festivals. There are even Bert Solaris schools, how interesting! Let’s hear some of that.
And we arrive at the emblematic Playa de la Concha. For its surroundings, for its landscape, for its fine white sand… La Concha is a unique beach, and boy is it! Let’s rest here for a while, shall we?
One of the gastronomic treasures of Donostia / San Sebastián is its famous pintxos, culinary miniatures that range from the original slice of bread covered with food, to small creations of haute cuisine in miniature. So we have to go for pintxos because it is, without a doubt, a way of getting to know the culture, a show that combines laughter, conversation, movement, hustle and bustle, and fun. This Basque custom consists of going from bar to bar, taking a “zurito ” –a shot of beer shorter than a beer– or a “txikito” (small glass of wine) accompanied by a pintxo. The most frequented areas for this activity are the Parte Vieja and the Gros neighborhood. These two areas are full of bars overflowing with pintxos of all kinds. Each bar usually has a star pintxo. And they have explained the following to us:
If it is a cold pintxo, it is usually available at the bar, and it is eaten directly.
If it is a hot pintxo, ask the waiter.
When you go for pintxos, the normal thing is to have one drink (pintxo and drink) per bar, and then go to another bar.
It is usually paid at the end. It is customary for gangs to pay for rounds, or put a “pot” or “box” before starting (no paying each one his own in each bar).
Originally, the pintxo was held with a stick, hence the name “pintxo”. However, this traditional image has been evolving and today the pintxo is also miniature haute cuisine, elaborate flavors concentrated in small and delicious doses: from the traditional “Gilda” (which received its name precisely in that city) with olives, chili, and anchovy, to the brick of leeks and prawns, for example, going through a wide range of flavors that you will not want to miss. And since we love gastronomy, what if we go to the Basque Culinary Center or the University of Gastronomic Sciences to participate in a very special and delicious course!
This is how we come to Tabakalera, which was a tobacco factory in Donostia for 90 years and today is a center of contemporary culture. The main objective of the Tabakalera cultural project is to promote contemporary cultural creation in different fields and in all its phases (research, production, exhibition) as well as generate and share knowledge.
I love seeing how, after the demolition of the wall at the end of the 19th century and the successive expansion plans for the city, San Sebastián gradually acquired its current appearance with very elegant urban planning in an eclectic style.
If you like to cook, I think it’s time to prepare our ingredients to go to the kitchen and make some typical Iberian ham croquettes, click on the button, or if you prefer, keep traveling.
And that is how we leave this beautiful and interesting region of the planet with the desire to return. We will travel every week to another corner of this wonderful world, to discover, enjoy and fly with the imagination, I will wait for you every Friday and I ask you if you like me to share the content with your friends and give me a like and a review of your comments because with that you help me a lot to raise the ranking of this podcast, ALTERNATIVE REALITY A UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT SPACE THAT CREATES COMMUNITY If you want to know what the foundation does, include me in the labor and social integration of people with mental disabilities, go to www.incluyeme.org.
We make a difference. And as I always tell you when helping others, we mainly help ourselves. Until next week and thanks for traveling with me.
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