Basque Country

San Sebastian, Cultural Capital of the Basque Country

Thursday, July 27 –

Today we were going to set out on a tour of San Sebastian, the cultural capital of the Basque Country. We ate our free breakfast and the walked to the Playa de la Concha (Kontxa Hondartza) – one of the most famous city beaches in Europe. They call it a concha, or shell, because the beach resembles a perfect seashell. We saw some people out surfing during high tide. Surrounding the beach is beautiful hilly landscape including Mount Urgull (east of the heart of the city by the seashore), and Mount Igeldo, overlooking the bay from the west.

'Peine de los Vientos' sculpture

‘Peine de los Vientos’ sculpture

We walked along the beautiful white sand to the west side of the concha. There at the tip of the beach and at the foot of Mount Igeldo, we saw some amazing modern iron sculpture by Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida. The bizarre sculpture is called the “Peine de los Vientos” (“Comb of the Winds”). Curiously, the wind seemed to funnel through the comb. Then we grabbed the funicular at the foot of Mount Igeldo. The Monte Igueldo Teleferico took us up the hill to a pretty park overlooking the bay.

Later, we took funicular down to the bay and walked to the east side of the concha. At the foot of Mount Urgull, we visited the fantastic Museo Naval. It featured great exhibits on the Armada and fascinating facts form Spanish and Basque naval history. Afterwards we climbed Mount Urgull. The hill contains great promenades and parks overlooking the bay and Bahia de Biscaya.

Among the most interesting sites on Mount Urgul was the Mota Castle. The castle, along with other old military structures offered picturesque views and great lessons in Spanish history. The mount had been a military strongpoint since the city’s founding in the 12th century, and the currenty walls and the military structure date back to the 16th century. The hill saw action during the Siege of San Sebastián (1813) and during the Carlist Wars later in the century. One beautiful addition to the connected chapel is a 36-foot tall sculpture of Jesus Christ added to the top in 1950. It towers over the concha like a Basque Cristo Redentor.

La concha beach of San Sebastian

La concha beach of San Sebastian

After sunset, we grabbed some dinner at a patio restaurant near the beach. We went back to pick up our luggage at the train station and boarded the Estrella train to Barcelona, which cost about 38 Euros each for a couchette in the departamento Caballo. We left around 22:59 p.m.

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