Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bones, Basques & Barcelona: Day 5

Actress Kirsten D'Aurelio's MENORCA blog from Spain continues...

"The rain in Spain falls mainly on the northern coast, according to Ollie (in a shared line with George), and sure enough I am seeing overcast skies and lush terrain. Once again, I'm in chocolate heaven with what is basically hot drinking chocolate, almost a pudding. Fantastic. This country really knows how to do chocolate! Still trying to get my ear around the Euskera. I can´t quite detect a rhythmic or melodic pattern yet, so it sounds like a rapid jumble of consonants at the moment.

We boarded a bus for Gernika (Guernica in Spanish) today, the symbolic center of Basqueland, and saw 3 important sites that certainly would be a part of Ollie`s heritage. First, the Peace Museum, a theme museum which documents the horrific 1937 bombing by the Nazis and Italians that razed this peaceful Basque village. Visitors are asked to contemplate concepts and tools for conflict resolution, and there are profiles of the world's peacemakers, who get so little coverage compared to the warmakers. My favorite quote: "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" (Isaac Asimov). See this inspiring place at

Next stop: the Assembly House and the Tree of Gernika. Since the Middle Ages, the 7 Basque territories have each sent representatives here to uphold the ancient fueros (laws), many of which were quite progressive for their time and would have directly conflicted with the US Patriot Act. The oak tree is a universal symbol of unity for the Basque people and there is controversy over how it survived the 1937 bombing. But survive it did--very much like the Basques themselves.

So, all this evidence of Basques as a collaborative, peaceable people is a contradiction with the modern image of the violent terrorist Basque nationalist. No wonder Ollie has trouble sorting this out for herself.

Finally, the Basque Cultural museum, where we learned about Basque history, geography, language, sports, legends, Proverbs, and my favorite part: music. Videos of traditional dances were accompanied by flute and drum songs, so I heard the sound that according to the script should begin and end the play. I learned that Ravel was Basque, and now "Bolero" makes so much cultural sense to me (dominant flute and drum.)

Ended our Guernica visit with another pintxos crawl, featuring slightly different(more Basque?) cuisine. OMG--I think I ate octopus. Or squid. Or anemone. All 3 are popular. I chewed through a little suction cup thingy......but mild tasting. These pubs and stores all play American pop music, so we're eating these exotic things but hearing Beach Boys and Whitney Houston. Back to Bilbao on a very efficient bus, and then we fell asleep watching a televised pelota match. Tomorrow: our dinner with the Basques!"

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