Basque in Donebane Garazi
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, or Donebane Garazi (much the same in Basque) is in a heavily Basque-speaking area. This is rather odd for France, where the government and educational system were heavily stacked against the preservation of the Basque language. Perhaps the process of urbanization and the flight of youth to the cities has helped the language by ensuring that it remains the primary language of communication among the rural, mainly elderly people. Still, there is greater pressure now for the use of Basque in public life, and it is now used on street signs, taught in primary schools and can be found on television (regional television). There is a small bookshop on Rue de la Citadelle that sells novels, language courses and the like in Basque. Finally, you can find, at the entrance to the fortified city, the offices of another regionalist organization calling for solidarity amongst the minority nations of France and Europe. There is nothing militant here (i.e. nothing that would scare off tourists), just a vibrant and strong Basque culture, one that even refuses to succumb to standardization, preserving the local dialect along with encouraging the spread of the unified language.
- Arts and Culture
I think that Donebane Garazi is far better for seeing and experiencing traditional Basque archtecture than is Bayonne. This is probably because Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a solidly Basque town, whereas Bayonne was mixed Basque-Gascon when it began growing in the Middle Ages, and then the city's architectural tastes were again affected by the influxes of Spanish and Portuguese migrants in the 15th through 17th centuries. You will have no trouble finding the traditional white-washed walls and terra cotta tiled roofs here in Donebane Garazi, both of which blend beuatifully with the greenery of the surrounding hills. Sometimes you will also see the garlands of peppers, although these are usually for show or sale and not household production. Some of the best examples can be seen from the ramparts near the Porte de France, while the houses on the trek up from the train station bear undeniable French influence.
- Arts and Culture
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