Pamplona is right in the heart of the Basque homeland. The locals proudly wear the Basque colors of green, red and white. The City Hall is adorned in the colorful Basque banners. The bullring also features green, red and white. The streets are named in both Spanish and Basque. Learning to say hello, good morning, thanks, etc. goes a long way.
Summers are pretty much party time in the Basque Country and Navarre, and whichever week you visit the two regions, you are bound to be able to find a town or city with a festival or, failing that, a local holiday or saint’s day to bring out the local people in traditional costume. I can’t remember exactly which saint’s day this was, but the tradition evidently called for a mock cross-dressing wedding. That’s right, all the men here dressed up as women (in traditional Basque costume) and vice versa. They then held traditional dances and the wedding procession. Of course, the bride and groom weren’t cross-dressing – they, instead, where buruhandiak, or huge papier-mâché heads. Buruhandiak are a part of any traditional festivity in Basque towns (just as giants are popular at Catalan festivals). The odd thing was that these buruhandiak then went on a rampage, hitting children with pillows and chasing them around the square. The procession then went into the old town and towards the north-eastern ramparts, stopping along the way for refreshments. In general, it was quite fun and spontaneous, like most festivities in the Basque Country and Navarre.
In Basque Spain, you will see banners for the ETA and are likely to come on a march just about any weekend. We didn't feel uncomfortable at all -- we seem to see political marchs just about everytime we visit Europe, regardless of country. People here wear their political beliefs on their sleeves and, aparently, out their windows too. But then, at times we do too!
A dish I found at many local eateries was something called gulas. Not knowing what they were and wanting a salad we ordered salade con gulas. Hmmmm? Chewy, not vegetable with a little black end. We found out they were (fake) juvenile fresh water eels Apparently the real juvenile fresh water eels that are collected as they enter the river estuaries are very expensive. These fake ones are made from fish parts. Enough said. (Thanks to Isa)
Whilst walking through Rioja you will come across some of the most wonderful Local wine that you will find anywhere in the world !! Try it !!! you would be foolish not to !!!