Camino de Santiago (Camino del Norte) Etapa 7: Gernika-Zamudio.

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Today, June 5, 2015, was the first day since my first day on the Camino last August  where I began to feel a bit of frustration and debated just giving up.

I trekked on.

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El Camino de Santiago en Euskera (Basque)

The seventh day for me started out well. I woke to my alarm without a problem, caught the bus to Gernika without problem and was in Gernika by 8:30. Many of the bar and cafés were just opening up, so I had to look around a bit before finding one that was 1. open and 2. had my traditional pintxo de tortilla de patata. I went past the famous Gernika tree (the old one died a few month ago, and they have replanted a new one. I plan on writing an entire entry dedicated to Gernika one day, so more on that later!) .

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Selfie in front of the Árbol de Gernika


The road of of Gernika seemed to go on forever. I stopped for an Aquarius to go, and I was thankful for the citrus sports drink later on as the morning got hot. After passing the ermita de Sta. Lucía at the edge of town, the Camino finally went began its ascent up Bilikario.

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I admired the views of Urikiola to the south and Urdaibai all around me. The Camino took me through a lot of rural Bizkaia, and save for an albergue in Eskerika, there wasn’t a whole lot of things around.

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I did see a snake though, and I let it slither away before I could take a photo. It looked big. There was a random hiker out who gave me the creeps, so I took some time to reapply sunscreen and drink some water while admiring the views and gave him some distance. Other than a few farmers, he would be the last person I’d see for a while.

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There were some muddy parts, but they were drying out after the 36ºC (90s F) day we had yesterday. A lot of the day was spent on paved backroads that were seldom used.

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The landscape was beautiful, but if it wasn’t mountainous, I would’ve felt as if I were in northern Ohio.

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I got excited to see the trail to Bizkargi, as the town where I worked these past two years had a bar with amazing pintxos de tortilla con jamón y queso named for this mountain. I’m not sure if it was the actual mountain I was descending, but the trail went along the Camino.

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I eventually arrived to Goikolexea, and I saw a few other pilgrims resting in the villages’s only bar that doubled as the tobacco shop. I ordered my café con leche and became a bit annoyed when the pilgrims ordered “two cafés solos.” I knew the couple running the bar probably didn’t even know “hello”, and I know I’ve known the word “dos” since I was four, thanks to María on Sesame Street. However, instead of getting mad, I’ve just decided that eventually I’m going to write an entry dedicated to Essential Spanish for the Camino.

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It was just another 1,2 kilometres or so to Larrabetzu, where some of my student live. I was quite impressed with this village and took some time to explore it before deciding it was too soon for lunch at 13:00 (1 PM) and headed on the last 3 kilometres to Lezama (where even more of my students live.)

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I will say that Larrabetzu is very Basque. I will also comment that the pilgrims who knew “café solo” but not “dos” had almost caught up to me on the way to Lezama, as they apparently skipped Larrabetzu! It’s definitely their loss. I am open to meeting other pilgrims (especially ones from Spain!), but I will always walk by myself, I think. I’m just an independent (and a INFP personality type, which means introverted to the core!) It’ll be interesting to see how I handle the albergues once I reach Santander.

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Lezama, home of the Athletic de Bilbao’s training facilities, didn’t impress me as much. I went in to take advantage of a Pilgrim’s Menú to learn that the kitchen was already closed. This is where my frustration kicked in. 14:00 (2 PM) is the normal eating time in Spain, and here I am being punished for having adapted to Spain’s culture. The guy could see I was hungry and treated me to a pintxo de tortilla and Aquarius de naranja on the house. So nice of him!

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The albergue wasn’t open, so no stamp. I decided to go on three more kilometres to Zamudio (where even more of my student live!) Zamudio is also quite a nice town, but the Camino leaves a lot to be desired here, as it passes a lot of factories and the like. I wasn’t able to get a stamp, but it’s okay, I think. There is a really nice ermita outside of Lezama worth mentioning practically in the middle of the road.

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Ermita after Lezama


I now have less than 700 km (681 supposedly), and my next day will be quite the short day as it’s just around 7 km from Zamudio to where I live, Bilbao, Capital of the World.

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I also started Infinite Jest on the way to Gernika this morning, which is definitely preparing me for a heavier backpack.

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The Camino caminos on…Etapa 8…¡pronto! ¡A continuación!

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Camino de Santiago (Camino del Norte) Etapa 6. Markina-Gernika (Guernica)

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It makes perfect sense that Simón Bolívar can trace his roots back to the Basque Country.

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Simón Bolívar

I passed through the very small village that gives him his family name, Bolibar (Euskera doesn’t have the letter “v”) while walking the 25 kilometres from Markina to Gernika (Guernica). It was rather remarkable, but I did have a nice, relaxing café con leche con hielo (ice) in the Plaza de Simón Bolívar.

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Leaving Markina behind

The sixth day of the Camino de Santiago del Norte for me (Saturday, May 30, 2015, going to start keeping record) began as almost all of them do, me shutting off the alarm and snoozing. I made the 9:10 bus to Markina and arrived in Markina about 10:00. After my routine pintxo de tortilla y café con leche, I was on my way. I saw some peregrinos (pilgrims) having café too, but they seemed unfriendly, so I didn’t bother to find out if they had just done that long, long, long stretch between Deba and Markina I did on May 8th.

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Although the Camino didn’t go near the Cantabrian Sea today, I was still impressed with its beauty. It ran along mountain streams for a good portion of the day.

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The first few kilometres to Bolibar were no problem, and before I knew it, I was passing through Iruzubieta and then Bolibar. The guide made it look like more of a climb than it actually was to the Zenarruza Monastery.

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After getting my credentials stamped at the albergue in Ziortza, I went on to this incredibly monastery. It was high in the mountains (I still don’t know how I didn’t feel the climb that much today!), I walked around the monastery. An older man asked me where I was from, and I explained that I was from the US but live in Bilbao. He didn’t seem to realise I was doing the Camino until his wife said “Look at his Concha! (shell). They were with his 96-year-old mother out for a Saturday drive.

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I continued on my way, hoping the village of Munitibar would have some food. An hour later, thinking of the food, I was disappointed with what passed for pintxos there. I took a quick walk around the village and went on my way.

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At some point, I think it was before Munitibar, I heeded the advice written on a Moleskin notebook page to their mother: “Mum, go for the road.” I knew this etapa had a bit of flooding problems from time to time, so I just went for the bike Camino on the road.

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Ay los vascos…

There were a few nice ermitas along the way, including the one of Santiago (namesake!) and one in Mameta. The views continued to be amazing.

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 During this part, I played leap frog (not the game, but passing, resting, being passed, then repassing) a young guy who reminded me of Alex Supertramp. I think he was British, but with just a “Buen Camino”, it was hard to tell. I rested a bit after taking my shoes and socks off to wade through a small puddle pond that had formed. I definitely know why the Eroski Guide warns BARRO BARRO BARRO (Mud Mud Mud) as when the weather is typically Basque (nonstop rain), this part would be a stream, not a path. As it was, it was pure mud for a while.

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After passing an amazingly beautiful church (I felt I stumbled upon it), I finally found a bar around 16:00 so I could have an Aquarius de Naranja and a pintxo.

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The Camino had a bit of a detour on the sidewalk/pavement of the road, but I didn’t complain. The woman at the bar in Elexalde wished me a buen camino and was one of the nicest barkeeps I’ve encountered on the Camino. She even asked if I wanted my pintxo “caliente”, and made sure I got back off on the right Camino.

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Ayuntamiento (Town hall)

This was the last stretch of six kilometres onto Gernika. I saw a few more peregrinos, which is a new experience as I’m used to doing it so late I miss all of them.

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This stretch of the Camino went mostly on a bike path/walking path. The views continued to be spectacular. This part of the Camino went through my favourite part of Euskadi (if not the world), Urdaibai.

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While today seemed long, it didn’t seem especially hard. I left around 10:20 from Markina and arrived to Gernika at around 17:30. I made a lot more stops than I usually do just to soak in the beauty. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t seem so exhausted. I really feel the Camino is my ZEN in so many ways.

One thing I forgot to mention in the first draft is that I crossed the 100 KM line somewhere before Munitibar. Which means, if I wanted, I could just bus it to Santiago and get credit for it. I don’t plan on doing this, but it was a major milestone. On my next day, I’ll cross the “under 700 km left!” line.

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A continuación…Etapa 7…cúando?

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The most creative and grossest arrow ever

Córdoba. Flower power!


I am counting back, and it’s already been six years since my last visit to Córdoba. I regret that news, as it was always one of my favourite cities and one I’ve been wanting to get back to. But life gets in the way, and I’m closer to Paris than I am Córdoba these days.

When I first lived in Spain, Córdoba was my very first visit. It was only an hour and a half away from Linares, and I felt that I should be travelling and taking advantage of living in Spain. I didn’t think about saving money for longer and better trips. I was in a brand new country and wanted to see EVERYTHING. So I hoped a bus, which stopped just ten minutes outside of Linares for twenty minutes. I was lost, confused and not sure of what a “parada de 20 minutos” entailed. We got on the road again, and we were soon in Córdoba provincia and later the capital city. I got off the bus and wandered around lost, trying to get to the Casco Viejo to see what there was to see. I had done no research. I just knew Córdoba was a city we had often talked about in my Early and Medieval Spanish literature university course.

I meandered the old city, crossing the Roman bridge a few times and admiring the horse and buggies that went through the cobblestone streets. I went in to this Mezquita Catedral thing that seemed to be the highlight of the city. I saw you had to pay, and I wasn’t in the best financial situation, so I didn’t go in. I had a quick lunch at Burger King, as I was too shy to go to an actual restaurant (How times have changed!) and later caught the bus back to Linares, vowing to return another day soon.

That day came sooner than I thought, as I was asked to help chaperone a school trip to Córdoba. I instantly said yes. On this fateful November day, I got to tour the Mezquita Catedral. Truly amazing. I regret that my Andalusian Spanish was so rusty during this time as I would’ve learned so much more. We then walked around the city and saw some more sites, including a deep well and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. We were left alone to watch the students as one of them had an emergency and the main teacher had to go to the hospital with her. They had their bocadillos, which we hadn’t known to take, and the students gave us a ton of food and kicked around some oranges that had fallen from the trees. They were quite happy. When the teacher came back, we were off again…to MEDIA MARKT! We spent an hour there. Looking back, I suppose it was because the ruins we were off to see were closed for siesta, but at the time, we were just questioning why so much time was spent at the European Best Buy. We then went to some ruins close to the city, la Medina Azahara, before heading back to Linares. Another sick student on the bus and a half hour at a petrol/gas station/cafetería. I still look back on this day as one of my favourite teaching days ever.

Later, in May of that year, I went back to Córdoba for a job fair where I got told I needed a UK passport a ton. I spent the rest of the day meandering the town.  I lamented that their famous flower festival had been the weekend prior. It would’ve made the city even more beautiful. However, there was a fair going on, which I did check out.

Like so many places those first few years in Spain, I haven’t had an opportunity to go back. If only I could just spend my entire life going from town to town in this amazing country.

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Mezquita Catedral


Córdoba, once claimed to be the largest city in the world in the 10th century, has many roots to its centuries of Muslim rule. Today the population is around 330,000. It is one of the hottest cities in Spain with an average of 37ºC/99ºF in July and August. And the most famous landmark is the Mezquita Catedral located in the heart of the Jewish quarter and historic centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Visigoths built the original Cathedral, which was destroyed to rebuild a Mosque during the Muslim rules. After the Reconquista, it was converted into a Catholic Cathedral. It is amazingly beautiful inside and one of the Set Meravelles, for me, of Andalucía.

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos


Also located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of the historic centre is the fortress of the Christian Kings. This is a fortress that was a home of the Catholic Kings Fernindad and Isabel. It was the headquarters of the Reconquista during the final years of it, and the famous monarchs met with Christoper Columbus before that fateful voyage of 1492. Today you can still visit and admire the beautiful gardens. It has been a National Monument since the 1950s.

Puente Romano y la Torre de la Calahorra

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The Roman Bridge and the Calahorra gate Tower form (for me) the most impressive bridge of the seven current bridges crossing the Guadalquivir River. The tower protected the bridge. The bridge was built in the first century BC and is 247 metres long (741 feet).  It has been restored many times, the last time being in 2006, and the restoration efforts were awarded with the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in 2014.

Fiesta de los Patios, Cruzes y Feria


While I did see the Feria de Mayo in Córdoba, I missed the fiestas of the patios and crosses.  At the beginning of May, there are crosses made of flowers placed throughout the city, and they have a contest to decide the most beautiful cross. Then they open up private patios throughout the city to choose the most beautiful patio. The patios are decorated with flowers. I saw some of the flowers, but I would’ve liked to have seen the whole thing.

Medina Azahara


The Medina Azahara is 13 kilometres (8 miles) from Córdoba, located in the foothills of the Sierra Morena, and “the shining city” are ruins of a former Muslim palace city. The views of Córdoba are fantastic, and although only 10% of the original palace-city are visible today, they are well worth seeing. The once important place of al-Andalus was set on fire in the 11th Century.

Cabra y las Sierras Subbeticas (Yet to be discovered)

The rural town of Cabra is the gateway of the National Park of the Sierras Subbeticas and is a major source of red polished limestone. “Cabra” is Spanish for goat, and the goat city is located 72 km (45 miles) from the province capital. It has a medieval tower, some churches and the Castillo de los Condes. It’s central located in Andalucía.

Priego de Córdoba (Yet to be discovered)

 The town of 22,000 habitants, Priego de Córdoba, is located in the southeast of the province on the mountains of the Sierra de Priego. The views from the cliff Adarve are the subject of many paintings and photos. It is a city of “cien fuentes”, 100 fountains, and it also has a castle. I’m sure the best part of this small city are the views. I’m a sucker for beautiful scenery.