Olentzero - the Basque Santa Claus!
Whilst walking around the streets of Bilbao and San Sebastian in December 2012, we saw that many buildings (both apartment blocks and businesses) had Santa Claus figures scaling the walls, climbing over the balcony or hanging from the window ledge.
This wasn't unusual; we had seen similar sights in other countries at Christmas time. However, just as common as the Santas was a character that we didn't recognise. He was dressed in dark blue or black, wore a beret and carried a bag over his shoulder. We spent the first few days thinking that these figures were supposed to depict burglars, but we had no idea why they were there!
Curiosity got the better of me and I did a search on the Internet. It transpires that this rotund character is actually Olentzero – the Basque Santa Claus!
Olentzero, who brings presents on the evening of 24th December just like Santa, takes the form of a jolly, overweight Basque peasant. He wears a beret, traditional abarketa shoes and can often be seen smoking a pipe.
In San Sebastian, a huge inflatable Olentzero had been positioned on top of the central market building.
Tapas on the Bar
One of the most pleasurable aspects of visiting San Sebastian is the myriad of bars and restos selling tapas (also knowns as pintxos) right off of the bar (they are on plates). Every tapas bar I have had the pleasure to have met was friendly and had some great individual tapas. This spread is fairly typical... A pork loin roll, anchovies on toast with a tomato sauce, peppers & olives...Usually accompanied by a beer or glass of white wine. The staff is appreciative when you compliment the food. You pay by the number of tapas/pintxos you consume and it is kind of on an honor system. The more you have, the more liberal the waiter is when it comes to pouring the wine.
- Arts and Culture
- Food and Dining
Eating Pintxos in the Old Town
San Sebastian is famous for its extra-delicious tapas which are called pintxos here. You can't walk through the old town without coming across the mouth-watering smell of pintxos such as doughballs filled with meat, vegetables or seafood, slices of baguette with bacon and sausage, seafood and salad, sardines, yummy cheese and so on and so forth. Literally every bar in San Sebastian offers pintxos, but the prices vary extremely. We tried several bars and had pintxos for 1,50 euros each which seemed to be a fair price.
When you order pintxos, you tell the barkeeper the amount you want to try, then you pay and then you eat standing in the crammed space next to the counter. You can also get some wine, beer, or other drinks with your pintxos. After eating, you just drop the napkins and the toothsticks holding together the pintxos - and continue elsewhere or go for a second round. I have hardly ever had better street food anywhere.
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
One of the benefits of building a new extension to the city according to a preconceived plan is that you can correct mistakes and inconvenient features of the old city. In general, Spanish planners building Ensanches tried to make them easy to navigate by putting them on a rigid grid system. Barcelona’s eixample is a good example of this. Donostia’s planners took the mission a step further by using the city’s sidewalk tiles in order to provide massive street signs. That’s right – it is nearly impossible for you not to know the street you’re on thanks to these tiles and that makes tourist visits a little bit easier for the cartographically challenged.
Pintxos(tapas), chased down with the fizzy regional white wine, txakoli, are a religion here; bars in the old city spread an array of enticing tidbits on toothpicks or bread. In the harbour, many places serve tangy sardines with slightly bitter sidra(cider). Custom demands pouring it with arm extended to aerate the sidra and release its full flavour. It is also customary to pour just enough for one or two sips at a time.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE SOMETHING DIFFERENT, OUR SPECIAL DAY IS JANUARY 20TH. A BIT COLD, BUT IT IS SPECTACULAR SEEING THE 'TAMBORRADA'. CHILDREN AND ADULTS PLAYING THEIR DRUMS THROUGH THE WHOLE DAY IN HONOUR OF THE CITY'S PATRON SAINT SEBASTIAN.
BUT WITH BETTER WEATHER YOU CAN ALSO ENJOY WITH:
- JAZZ FESTIVAL (JUL)
- INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (SEPT.)
- SEMANA GRANDE (1 WEEK FESTIVITY) (AUGUST)
- INTERNATIONAL FIREWORKS COMPETITION IN 'SEMANA GRANDE'
Basque language (Euskera)
This language is one of the bigger mysterys of the linguistics. Today, is not related with any other language. The origins are unknown, although there are several theories. Is true that this language was spoken there since the nigth of the times. Is also true that is very related to the Aquitan, the language of the Aquitanie before romans. (Aquitanie is today
Gascongie=Wascunia=Vasconia)It seems there was a big language in some parts of Europe before indoeuropean family. In the photo, a map of the evolution of basque language.
Un dels grans misteris de la linguïstica. No s'han trobat relacions amb cap altra llengua en el món amb certesa, tot i s'ha intentat relacionar amb l'Amazigh i idiomes caucàsics, sense massa èxit. L'única relació certa és amb l'aquità, llengua parlada a l'aquitània abans de la invassió romana. Hi ha la teoria que va haver un gran llenguatge anterior al celta repartit per Europa, i el basc és l'úlitim vestigi que en queda.
Spanish or Basquen?
We can't forget, there's a political conflict in this land. What means this for a traveler? I think is not a problem. In my experience, i have always feld wellcome. People was always polite with me. As i have spoken with basque, they are very glad if you say them basques, better then spanish. Independentist or not, they are identified with the basque culture before the spanish. In the map, the land known as "Euskalerria", or basquish lands. This is Basque country, Navarra, and french basque country. In black the zones where basque is spoken.
Basque language today
500000 people, more or less, have the basque language as first language. You can see in the map the distribution. San Sebastián is the biggest city where you can hier it often, although is more spoken spanish, i think. But most of people of basque contry thinks the basque language is their own language, although a lot of them don't speak it. They had a lot of historical problems, and basque language was for long time forbidden, and never tought. If you shows your respect for this language, or you knows a few words, the most of people will be glad with you.
- Arts and Culture
Donostia Film Festival
Every year around 3th week of September ..the grogeous and famous Kursaal lodge the actors and actresses around the world for its international film festival...in few words Bollocks !!
This is a typical dance; I...
This is a typical dance; I don't know its name, but dancers are dressed like the ones who dance flamenco...
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