For me, discovering Spain is like taking a ride on the roller coaster, with its rugged geography and its deep seated traditions, enjoying its landscapes and familiarizing oneself with its daily life and customs arouses both great pleasure and the deepest of emotions.
As a little boy I used to walk along the streets of the city where I was born, precisely because I was a child and had no other choice. I used to walk up and down the steps of my home (it was a fourth floor) for the same reason. And over the years I got used to walking and enjoying the path whatever the distance. If I could avoid it I never used an elevator, or a bicycle, or a bus.
I discovered Bilbao with the eagerness and the wonder of a scout, like an ant, thoroughly and painstakingly.
In order to go to High School I had to climb Hill Irala, along the way I counted the crosses on the side road to Mallona, the stairway to Begoña and its magnificent basilica; later, on my return, I descended whilst uncounting one by one each of the 311 steps it took to make my way down. I used to take long strolls, truth be told without an umbrella, in spite of the ubiquitous drizzle, at a leisurely pace along the Deusto bridge, which unites the world famous Deusto University with the Museum of Fine Arts, the breathtakingly lovely Doña Casilda Park and the Avenue that leads to the Guggenheim.
The narrow streets and quarters of the Casco Viejo (Old Town) next to the Ría (sea inlet) invite you to contemplate the city from its lowest vantage point, from its 7 founding streets, at exactly the same spot where Don Diego Lopez de Haro discovered his place in the world more than 700 years ago.
Up north lies the Gran Bilbao, El Ensanche, The Hanging Bridge, the Nervion River, the fierce Cantabrian Sea. The boisterous industrial zone on the left bank and the elegant residential area on the right bank.
And in every other direction the way out of the city through the surrounding hills and slopes. Not in vain Bilbao is known as “Botxo” because as Rome, it´s nestled amongst a mountain range.
A few kilometers away, we finally leave behind this land that boasts of having a thousand names, Euskadi, or Euzkadi, Euskal Herría, País Vasco (Basque Country), the ancient Vasconia (Wasconiae), the natural habitat of the Vasconians, whom according to roman history were extremely elusive and hard to find.
Today, the gateway to this once impregnable fortress is easily cleared by train, by air, by highway and of course by internet. Nonetheless for me, due to several reasons such as my fondness, passion and devotion for this city and my wanderlust there is no better choice than to discover the city on my own two feet .0