Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day 16: Big Bad Bilbao by Bus: Agog at the Guggenheim and Fun with Funiculars

The city of Bilbao, the capital of the Basque region and home to 1 million people.
After spending a couple of lovely days in San Sebastian, we discovered that the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao was only an hour away by bus. So this morning, we arose and shone and made our way to Bilbao. Luckily, the bus station is literally on the property of the hotel.  It was a relatively short walk to the Guggenheim. And a nice walk at that.

The city of Bilbao is located between 10 hills and on the Rio de Bilbao. The drive over was very nice with views of the sea that eventually lapsed into countryside, farms and mountain peaks. An alternative St. James Way actually passes through this part of Northern Spain for those disinclined to do that more populated French Way. 

The city of Bilbao appears to be the cultural hub of Basque country. It has about a million people living in it and around it, and has a port on the ocean supported by the river that runs smack dab through the middle of town.

Sculptures abounded on the waterfront area.

The man celebrates the first Volunteer game by standing under an orange and white sculpture.

Here's a new kind of busker. A bubble man who creates giant bubbles for kid to jump up and burst!

This group of folks dressed in traditional Basque clothing were singing and playing instruments in front of the Guggenheim.

On the capital of a building.
The walk was really fun with lots to look at along the way including the only skyscraper in the a town of many, many buildings.
The only skyscraper in Bilbao. Love the clouds reflected in the glass.

The Guggenheim museum is really dramatic no matter what but especially as you approach it on the river. It just appears out of nowhere.

Seems innocent enough from the distance, but ..
The closer you get, the more you appreciate the immensity and the homage to architecture it really is. Whatever works of art are INSIDE, the building itself is a masterpiece. It took us about half an hour just to walk around the perimeter. 

An amazing building.

It's just as lovely from a structural viewpoint internally. We never got tired at just looking at the bones of it between exhibits.

Fascinating engineering feat.

Looking out at the sky.

Paul studies the lay of the land

Black and white interpretation.
Richard Serra's large stainless steel mazes. Note the human walking through in the mid lower portion of the photo.
We were also thrilled with the exhibits. One of the most fascinating was a series of steel structures that were building sized and you walked through much like a maze by Richard Serra. These took up a whole wing and were really huge. 

There was a large exhibit by Jeff Koons. One section was called Popeye and dealt largely with the sailorman!  Koons commented that "art is my spinach."

Mylar work by Jeff Koons.
I found Koons works to be mostly whimsical and fun. There was also work by Basquiat. Many of you will know that he was a close associate of Andy Warhol and unfortunately, like many of Warhol's "finds," he died tragically at 28 years of age of a drug overdose.  He was a talented graffiti and collage artist. The museum had some pieces he collaborated designed with Andy Warhol.

A photo of Basquiat and his work

A work of his displayed in the exhibit.

We were very impressed with the museum inside and out and highly recommend to anyone who finds themselves in Northern Spain. The bus system here is marvelous, inexpensive and makes a day trip from San Sebastian or Barcelona to the big city of Bilbao pretty manageable. We could tell there was alot more to uncover in Bilbao, but not enough daylight to make it happen.

After finishing at the museum, we decided to do something Paul loves--ride a funicular. Other than Pittsburgh and Chattanooga, it's hard to achieve that in the USA, but we've been pretty lucky finding them in Europe. Finding this one involved crossing the river. The city of Bilbao also seems to have taken pride in its bridges.

This is a pedestrian bridge over Rio de Bilbao.

Paul enjoys his walk to the funicular.
The pedestrian bridge from afar.
Eventually, we did arrive at the funicular and for about 1 euro enjoyed a nice trip up the ridge for a nice view of the city.

Funiculi, funiculah!
Paul anticipates his ride.
We got a great view from the top of the funicular of the city, the river , the Guggenheim and a coupla things we could not see on ground level: the ocean port and the airport!

From here, we pretty much just walked back to the bus station and rode back to San Sebastian. Our dinner tonight was hearty Basque fare at Bodegon Alejandro in the heart of the old town section. It was still "hopping:" down there on a Saturday night when we left the restaurant at midnight.

Wine du jour...and nothing to whine about! Good stuff.

Mater salad. Yum.

It was a good day getting acquainted a bit with the big city life in Northern Spain. It has been very interesting being here in the Basque region with the wild version of Spanish, fierce regionalism and a real sense of the aesthetic. It's so different than Galicia and Madrid.  And now a word from the Madrid Kid (or so he was called in his high school yearbook.)

Paul's Ponderings:  Another great day out with perfect weather....I always thought Bilbao was an ocean town, but it's merely "near the ocean", but much larger than I thought.    The Guggenheim was spectacular regardless - what an amazing work of architecture by Frank Gehry.  Having seen some of his other designs, this was still quite stunning.   It mostly seems to be devoted to rotating large exhibits and we enjoyed what we saw.    Since it's close to San Sebastian we were able to get back quickly and have a relaxing evening here as well.    

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