Actually, I wanted to start this essay with a poem about the city, but unfortunately couldn`t find one. So, I came up with a different beginning.
Our planet is round, very large, with vast territories all over it. Too many people, two many cities, two many and too much… How can we find ourselves in this big world?
Everyone has a place called home. A place where you were born, where you spent your entire childhood, where you went to study…
I have home as everybody else on Earth. My native place in Belarus, my place in Lithuania, my place in the States, my place here in Spain… My, my, my… Why? Every place reminds me of something: good and bad, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, ups and downs…
Every place I stayed at or visited is dear to me in its own way. In every place I left a small piece of my heart. Today I`d like to talk about one of the cities that impressed me very much and still impresses me today.
A city where
it seems that you know every corner but every day discover something new and not known before.
A city so small and so big.
A city so quiet and so noisy.
A city full of mystery.
A city of great contrasts.
A city that will stay in my heart forever.
A city with a beautiful name Bilbao.
Bilbao is almost the main city in the Basque country, in the north of Spain, the Bizkaia Gulf. Everybody here considers himself first Basque and then Spaniard. People here are proud of being Basques though not everybody can even understand the Basque language, or euskera, the way it is called here.
Bilbao seems to be unique situating in its own little country – Euskal Herria (The Basque Country).
From any point of the city you can see mountains with high peaks full of green trees. You look at them and you feel freedom, freedom inside of you as well as outside, in the streets. There is a river crossing the city and dividing it into two parts – left side and right side.
A city full of culture. When you walk along the streets, especially in Casco Viejo (Old City) you meet people performing arts, singing songs, doing tricks. Right away an atmosphere of warmth and freedom is being created and flies over the city.
When I first came to Bilbao this city amazed me by its sunny weather. It was +23C in February!.. But, later on you begin to realize that the weatherhere is a very unusual thing, very controversial and strange. February is supposed to be a cold winter month. Spring is usually warmer. But not here. Spring here is a rainy season. Actually, from my own experience I can say that Bilbao has rain 355 days a year!.. Whether it is winter, spring, summer or autumn it will be raining! One thing that fascinates me most here is that in the morning you can walk out into the streets and it will be deadly cold when in about 5 minutes you will be dying of heat! What can I say? BILBAO From early childhood kids here are taught to take umbrella with them – you never know when it will be raining. And you see children with all kinds of umbrellas in the streets – in the shape of different animals with ears on top of them! Very cute and funny.
People here are extremely nice. When you need a hand they are always there to help you. Even language barrier is not a problem to them to explain you how to get to the place you need. They will use signs, gestures, anything, but they will get you to the point.
The sea… There`s something special in Bilbao about it. 40 minutes in the metro and a vast territory full of water opens right before your eyes. So furious and so calm, so blue and with no end… A beautiful beach with lots of people sunbathing, swimming, playing with kids.
Talking about kids. I have never seen so many of them in my entire life. Everywhere you see parents playing with them on the playgrounds, in the parks. And what is more surprising is that very often fathers are the ones who you can see with children here.
And dogs, there are a lot of dogs walking around the city. No, not alone, they are not strays. It is very interesting to observe them. Doing that you always notice how every dog is very much like his owner. Here you begin to notice these little details. Maybe because the city pushes you into it?
Some years ago Bilbao was not as famous and full of tourists as since the opening of the Guggenheim museum in the center of the city in 1997. It was built in the shape of a ship and is the most modern building in the city which attracts people by its outer view from the first sight as well as by its big collection of modern art. The museum is surrounded by water from its main side and that is why in the conscience of everyone an illusion of a floating ship is being created. Every once in a while you can see smoke coming from the water onto the little bridge near the museum what gives you an impression of mystery. In front of the museum you can also see a huge spider with baby-eggs in it which creates a feeling of mother caring of her kids. In the backside of the museum you will find a puppy planted with beautiful colorful flowers. For a long time I was sure it was a kitten and nobody could reassure me of that until I saw a postcard in the gift shop inside the museum on which it said that it was a dog. But for me it is still a cute little kitten. Though now in winter it seems to be a little faded.
There are a lot of other museums in the city as well. Though I still have in plans to visit them all. Paradoxical thing, but you always visit other places, try to see as much as you can there, but the city you live in is usually the place you get to know last.
Modern art is seen everywhere in the city. A lot of squares, streets contain pieces of art by Spanish architects. Near the government building, in the main square Moyua, Ercilla street, right in front of the University of Deusto and in many other places.
What impresses me is also public transport of the city. Everything here is close to modernity. Metro here is very convenient and clean, tram line is not any worse. Those green rather long trains making special sounds to warn passers-by that they are coming. My Bilbao…
To me Bilbao is also associated with jazz concerts. Musicians from different countries of the world comehere to play music in a comfortable friendly atmosphere of Bilbao hotels. Every week a new band is playing and every time in a different place. You can not only listen to music but also enjoy the hotels which is a good way to attract tourists to the city I think.
Spanish, spanish, spanish… You hear it all around you. A very beautiful language though to me it depends on the person who speaks. Sometimes when you here a person speaking you feel sorry for this nation as a whole because the language seems to be the worst ever.
Christmas time… One of the most pleasant times of the year: full of bright colors, wishes, dreams… There are about five Christmas trees in the city squares, lots of blue and yellow lights sparkling on the trees. Very beautiful and mysterious, though there is no snow on the ground. A person used to snowy Christmas is likely to feel a bit strange in the beginning but then the feeling of a holiday comes to you by itself.
A city with a lot of “fiestas” (or holidays). A lot of young people gather in the Old Town of the City (Casco Viejo) and go “de marcha” which means they go from bar to bar drinking bear or any other alcoholic drink and eating pinchas (small sandwiches with mushrooms or other topping). Unusual, but one person in the company pays for everybody and next time another person is to pay and always like that.
Spaniards are a very noisy nation. You hear them talking loud in the streets, discussing their problems in the shops… And it is normal; this is just another feature of their character. My teacher of Spanish told me once that when you have guests who came to visit you for the first time you should show them the entire house, opening all the cupboards and closets. Not to show
what you have in them, but to let them see what shape they have and how many shelves they contain. Unusual, but that`s the way they live.
This nation seems to be very energetic. From young to very old theyalways go jogging along the river, every weekend they go out to some restaurant or more often bar to have some drinks. But, from the other side, they are slow and spend a lot of time having rest. It takes them a few weeks to be done with a small project at school; in general they are slow at learning languages. Very few Spaniards speak any language other than spanish. The thing about having rest is that every day from 13.30 to 16.30 it is always “siesta” here. People go home to have dinner with their family. Every Saturday and Sunday all the grocery stores and outlets are closed, except for the small stores that are owned by Arabs.
As I`ve already mentioned above there`s a river running through the city. Consequently, there are many bridges over it. A lot of them. Every bridge is different one from another and is unique in its own way. And again, a modern design is noticed here in their architecture, though walking along the river further into the city you will find bridges that remind of Middle Ages.
Well, time to say what I don`t like about Bilbao at all. Yes, you smell sea and mountains all over the city, but… Whenever you go out you feel the smell of cigars and even more terrible – of dope. It seems to me people here never stop smoking. Young, old, boys or girls – everybody here smokes. Spaniards here always smoke in public places – it is even allowed to smoke in the university hall!.. Very weird…
Not to finish on the thing I don`t like let me tell you about one special place here. There`s a square in the Old Town called Unamuno. Right there are the stairs leading to the top, to the district of Bego? a. Very long way up, you get tired of walking. But once you are there, on top of them and you turn to the left, an amazing view of the whole city opens right before your eyes. All the buildings, mountains, the river, bridges… You see it all at the same time. You forget about everything and the only thing you do is enjoying the panorama.
You become utterly absorbed by the beauty of the city. The beauty of Bilbao… The city that will never leave you indifferent… The city where every day you discover new things and get a whole bunch of new impressions… The city with a beautiful name Bilbao…The way I see it, the way I feel it… It will always be My Bilbao… It will always be there in my heart…