The E1 to Guernica
The E 4 to Bermeo
Lucky for me I had two very specific and
don’t-want- to-miss objectives in traveling to Guernica, because the weather
was the worst of the trip so far. Steady rain and gusty winds made the
temperature feel much colder than it probably was. Without those goals, though,
I would have bagged the day, and spent it in a cafe.
The first was to visit the outdoor mural of
Picasso’s Guernica, his famous anti-war
depiction of the Spanish Civil War. I had read once hat the painting was still
able to evoke such powerful emotions among Spaniards that it had to be kept
behind protective plexiglass when on display in Spain. ( When I finally located
it, it was one of the few isolated public surfaces not marred by graffiti.)
The second goal was to visit the town’s open
Monday market. It was the same Monday market that Franco’s German allies had
chosen as the day they would bomb Guernica to smithereens, and inspire Picasso.
Both attractions were about five minutes away
in a straight line from the train station. However, myself and GPS turned that
straight line into an oblong circle and yet another meandering thirty-minute
trek. I stumbled onto the mural by accident, as GPS curtly, it seemed, reminded
me I had just walked passed it. By this time I was shivering, cold to the bone,
quickly snapping off the pictures and hoping my shaking hands wouldn’t blur the
The market was covered and partially enclosed.
It was a more pleasurable experience than the mural. I bought some lunch
supplies for the room, including some sweet-looking ham to replace whatever it
was I’d bought before and tried to eat, something whose flavor and texture made
it seem less a meat product than a petroleum derivative.
Weatherwise, the trip the following day to
Bermeo and my first look at the Basque coast was as different as night and day
from Guernica. Or I should say, as different as the dead of winter and spring.
Blue skies and balmy temperatures greeted me in this hilly resort town of
steep, twisty, alley-like streets and brightly painted buildings. At one
turn, I happened upon a shop that when my increasing vocabulary of hand signs
produced a knowing smile of recognition on the part of the clerk, I was soon
the proud owner of a Europe-wired beard and hair trimmer. Now that trip to
Seville was definitely no longer necessary.
I also found a bakery, and bought another
mouth-watering.baguette. ( I plan to write a sidebar shortly on New Orleans and
its fetish for the French po boy loaf to help explain mine for tbe
Parisian-style baguette on this trip.)
I experienced an unexpected encounter with the
fear of heights. I’d wanted to climb the seawall in Bermeo for more scenic shots.
But the steps were narrow and steep, and in a few cases lacking handrails. I
took about three steps up smashed against the seawall, but was suddenly
paralyzed by the fear of falling. Even the steps that had hand rails failed to
overcome how badly I was spooked. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought any of my
fears had risen to the level of a phobia. I guess I have one now.
Uber does not operate in Bilbao, so I had
to hoof it home from the train, and it was some time before I stopped shivering
enough to safely use a knife. But the po boy I made with that bread, ham,
cheese, fresh tomato and onion was worth the delay.