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The Basque country

I had always thought that the Basque country is a combination of nice scenery, small trains in the mountains and people with strange hats speaking a language of unknown origins that uses a lot of -x's.

After a short visit, I had to admit that my perception had been oversimplified.

The scenery is nice, although interrupted by whole blocks of atrocious buildings that appear even more horrendous in a grey, rainy ambiance. The positive side being, it can be so foggy you can't actually see them all the time.

People do speak a strange language, some even do wear that black hat, but as a whole, they are different than their southern neighbours: not necessarily the very friendly kind. And you are not about to encounter Antonio Banderas or (the equivalent of) Penelope Cruz at every corner. People look subdued, worn out by an environment that produces, well, rain and ugly -but one museum- architecture.

Another weak point is eating. In every guide you read that San Sebastian, for example, has the most Michelin stars per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world. This only strengthened my belief that statistics is a pseudo-science that should be erased. First of all, not everybody's willing to pay approximately 150€ per person to leave with a smile and probably an empty stomach as well. If you belong to the category of the mere mortals that do not have that kind of money, you'll have to content yourself with pintxos, in various dubious places with strange looking persons and unfriendly waiters. Pintxos is the equivalent of Tapas, only they are all smoked. From pure cigarette smoke, since people smoke everywhere, and in the best case you will get a non smokers table.

There are not many restaurants as mere non-Basque mortals imagine them in Bilbao, or San Sebastian, for example.

To sum things up, I decided that because:

-it is not practical to travel in a country where the toilets are called “komunak” and where, if in an urgency, I would not have a clue how to shout “danger!”, “help!” or “Give me something to eat!”,

-eating smoked food is not healthy

-it rains 4 seasons a year and the only souvenir one can buy is a calendar with the caricature of a Basque who stands under rain the whole year through

-because I was roughed up by an amazon police-woman with a very long club and the fact that I had just burnt two red lights and they were just behind me is not a mitigating circumstance, since I had not a clue that “La Ertzaintza “ means “Police”,

-because in a place with four different police bodies I don't feel more at ease but more menaced (see indent above)

-because a museum is not a guarantee for a successful trip, even if this museum is called Guggenheim,

next time I will go to Spain .