BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN. I spent my last weekend of March in northern Spain in Basque Country. Most of my time there was spent in San Sebastian, known as Donostia in the Basque language, this city is one of the three major cities of Basque country, along with Bilbao and Vitoria. As many people know, it is located on the beach, along the Bay of Biscay, just 20km from southern France. I have always heard San Sebastian was beautiful, but this city truly is unbelievable. I highly recommend going there if you are a student are looking to experience something very different while still in Spain.
The Basque people are very interesting, although they all speak Spanish, they also have their own language. The Basque language, posted on street signs, menus, and museums all over the area, actually cannot be linked to any other language around today, which makes it very hard to learn and very unique. It gives the appearance of an ancient language, littered with K’s and X’s. An example is the word Pintxo, a Basque word, and a reason all by itself to make the journey to Basque country.
Pintxos are like tapas, but somehow different. I suppose the main difference comes from how they are presented. In San Sebastian, one walks into a Pintxo bar and along the bar are about 50 plates with different types of food on them. Essentially you just grab whatever Pintxos look good, show them to the bartender to pay, and then enjoy. Many people say that you are supposed to have one Pintxo at each place and then move on, so as not to get tired of one place and to experience as many different types as possible. My personal favorite Pintxo place was Borda Berri, located near the town center. In this bar, you order a Pintxo and they go and cook it for you, made-to-order. Sure, this takes a little longer but the food here was amazing. I had the rib and tried the fried goat cheese, both of which I recommend beyond a shadow of a doubt. Only slightly more expensive than other Pintxo places as well, coming out to about 3 euros/Pintxo. Also, for students, Thursdays are Pintxo Pote, which means any Pintxo place will give you a pintxo and a drink for only 2 euros. This only lasts until midnight though, so it is a good way to lead into a fun Thursday night.
As for where to stay, San Sebastian is no stranger to tourists, so there are plenty of hostels here for students traveling on a budget. Roger’s House comes highly rated and only costs 15 euros a night, so this just might be the way to go. Also, it is in the center of this city, indicating that everything is within walking distance. As for getting there, buses run from Madrid’s Chamartin station to San Sebastian for 30 euros and a 6 hour drive. Additionally, flights are available to San Sebastian and one can land in the nearby airport of Hondarribia.
Thursdays are supposed to be the best day to go out in San Sebastian, along with Saturday night. I ran into some people I knew there and they took me out for a fun Thursday night to Bataplan Disco. This place was affordable and not overly crowded, not to mention it is right along the beach. Many of the students told me that it is not unusual to jump into the ocean and then go dancing. Every city in Spain certainly has a different feel, and San Sebastian does not fail to represent its beach-town reputation. I had a great weekend here and for anyone thinking about a trip to Basque country, I think San Sebastian may just be your next destination.