The Basque Country is one of Europe’s oldest and strongest cultures. It encompasses the region located in northern Spain, on the Bay of Biscay at the western end of the Pyrenees mountain range, straddling the frontier between southern France and Spain. Our culture and origins are distinctive from that of the rest of Spain in many ways and from the spanish way of life.
We are deeply proud of our origins, uniqueness, traditions, language and culture. Surrounded by a privileged landscape, dotted with charming ancient villages which contrast the old industrial cities converted into postmodern cities through emblematic architecture; this place we call home hosts global events and offers superior services that ensure visitors will enjoy their stay in the Basque region.
Basque People. Who are we?
The Basque Country consists of three provinces in northern Spain and another three in south west France.
The main cities in Spain are Bilbao, San Sebastian (Donostia) and Vitoria-Gasteiz. In the six provinces combined there are altogether more than three million people, two-and-a-half million in Spain and 270.000 in France, not forgetting a significant community in northern Navarra.
Furthermore, there is a sizeable diaspora of Basque ancestry present throughout America. More than 50.000 people in the US claim to have a Basque origin.
Those people mainly on the East Coast of the US organize annual Basque Festivals open to the public, to celebrate their Basque origins with cuisine, dances, rural folklore, markets, music and so on… and usually, most of the events are free.
These Festivals are the perfect excuse to share our Basque culture with other American communities and teach them our unique and ancestral language called Euskera; which is one of the greatest treasures we have to offer. The wonderful fusion of our french and spanish Basque population in these parts of the globe, ensure that you will have the best time if you ever travel to the city and experience any of these festivals.
Euskera. One of the Oldest languages spoken
Euskera or Basque, linguistically speaking has no direct link to any other known language, it is totally isolated from any other living language and may be the oldest in Europe.
Even though there are different dialects spoken in the Basque territory, Euskara Batua was created as a link between all Basque speakers to be used and understood by most.
Txantangorri is the image of the new campaign promoted by the Basque Government to encourage people to speak Euskera in this part of the country: “This is our symbol, an invitation to speak in Basque. Give wings to the Basque language.” This new initiative, is our best attempt to ensure children in schools in Bilbao, San Sebastián and across nothern Spain will be speaking more than just spanish; they will be using Euskera and will identify with their cultural and linguistic roots. When visitors travel to our country, they will be able to experience a richer and more diverse Spain, a richer and more diverse Europe, because of our work in keeping this old and unique language alive.
Nowadays, the Basque language and culture are still very much alive in our everyday affairs; this can be experienced in San Sabastián, Bilbao and across the entire region. Yet we are fighting to keep Spanish at bay in this part of the country, by emphasizing Euskera, so that we don’t lose our special heritage.
Basque Culture. Folklore and Festivals in our country
Our culture is a rich and an extraordinary part of the Basque Country traditions: from our unique language (Euskera), to our varied gastronomy or even our Basque dances (Euskal dantzak) which are traditionally displayed at popular events. All of these play an important part in our local celebrations and in setting us apart from the rest of Spain or Europe.
Today our folklore is still relevant and an essential part of our origins. We continue celebrating our myths and legends in all festivities across the Basque Country.
If you have the chance to join any of the festivities you will also be able to discover another part of our basque culture, our “bertsolaris”.
Bertsolaris are traditional basque poets who compose, sing and improvise verses following specific rules and topics in front of an audience. In essence, it could be compared to listening to rap.
This video belongs to The Guardian
Basque Gastronomy. A state concern
As we mentioned in our first post, Basque cuisine is the essence of our culture and origin. The high standard of our local and seasonal products are the key ingredients to making our gastronomy so incredible and unique. Our land is blessed with a combination of sea, mountains and vineyards that make our wide variety of dishes (with home-grown ingredients) possible and specialties whose legacies have been passed on from generation to generation.
Our traditional local markets are the temples of basque cuisine and are highly regarded by all. You can find our regional specialties not only on the menus of award-winning restaurants but also as a delightful bite to eat at a small bar at any time, in or around the city.
This “cuisine in miniature” or as we call them “pintxos” are intimately bound up with the “txikiteo” (groups of friends who drink wine while touring different bars) which has become an affordable way of sampling famous basque gastronomy and enjoying our culture.
Our traditions also include another phenomenon: known as the Gastronomic societies or “txokos”. Private clubs where basque people share their love for food, which is cooked on-site, while life’s mysteries are being solved over a good glass of wine. These societies are now open to visitors and tourists, so we highly recommend you visit one if you get the chance!
There are so many other things we would like to share about our beloved Basque Country and its origins, but for now if you are interested in having a custom-made experience with one of our bespoke tour guides, make sure you don’t miss any of our Private Tours. Contact us by email today and begin your journey to this extraordinary area of the world.
Travel to Bilbao, see the city of San Sebastián, explore new parts of spanish and french culture, visit our incredible country and make it your home too. Email us to find out what awaits you in our beloved country, to plan a tour of San Sebastián or to learn more about travel in the french part of the Basque country.