Thursday, May 14, 2015

Iglesias Romanicas

On Tuesday afternoon we visited three different churches around the city of Segovia. The first was the Monasterio de San Antonio el Real, a Gothic church built in 1455 under Enrique IV.  In 1488, Queen Isabella dedicated the church for the residence and use of a group of cloistered nuns, Las Hermanas Clarisas. It still serves as a convent for a small number of cloistered nuns today.

The second church was the Iglesia de Los Santos Justo y Pastor.  It is a very small Omanesque church, built in the late 12th century, with only one nave area for an altar. However, this church is unique because of the murals that depict Biblical scenes that cover the walls and ceiling of the nave at the alter of the church. The murals had actually been painted over I subsequent years, but luckily these were discovered. We spent sometime deciphering the various images: Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the Last Supper.

The final church we visited, San Millán, is also built in Romanesque style. However, this church had three front Naves, the center of which was the largest, with smaller ones on each side.  This church also had courtyards on the South side of the building because it was often used as a sunny meeting place for the people of Segovia.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Urederra to Segovia

Today we checked out of our hostel in San Sebastian and made the journey back to Segovia. We drove for a little over an hour before we stopped in Navarra at a nature preserve, and hiked the trail of the Nacedero de Urederra, or the origin of the Urederra River. Although tiring at times, it was a beautiful hike through the forest, with the clear, blue river never being very far away. After the hike we were very hungry, and were not disappointed by our 3-course lunch in the small town of Urederra on the edge of the nature preserve. We then returned to Segovia for the last week of our trip.

San Sebastián

Sunday, we went to the beautiful city of San Sebastián. We started the day with surfing lessons from our wonderful instructor, Gorka (the basque translation of Jorge). It was a grand adventure, but left us exhausted and a little sore. 

For lunch we experienced the traditional basque custom of pinchos. We ordered beverages and got to choose from a variety of "appetizers" right off the bar, as well as order hot dishes. 

After checking into our hotel, we went on a walking tour of the city. Our tour guide, Iñigo (another basque name), gave us ample information about his city. We started at the bridge that is a hub of transportation in and out if the city. He told us about the history of whaling in the city, brought us to a beautiful gothic church, showed us where we could see the alignment of the basilica and cathedral (only 1 km apart) along the same street, taught us how to play "basque hand ball," (a popular sport of the locals), and discussed the issue of fracking in the city, just to point out the highlights. 

After our tour, we got ice cream and sat on the beach during sunset before heading to dinner, where we were again taken aback by the fresh steak and fish that Pais Vasco had to offer. 

During our post dinner stroll back to our hotel, we encountered a beautiful tribute to citizens of San Sebastián killed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The memorial was  in the shape of the city, with holes to represent those of bullets. The city's current citizens often place flowers through the holes to commemorate ancestors and loved ones. This memorial brought us back to our course of study, and allowed us to see how this portion of history continues to take part in the lives of Spaniards in the present day. 


From Zumaia we drove to Zarauz, a lovely coastal resort town, where we strolled along the beach at dusk, had a most fabulous feast at Telesforo, and spent the night. 

El Camino de Santiago

Our hike in the Basque Country was amazing. Our guide, Gabriel, planned out a very challenging, yet rewarding, hike from Zumaia to Deba. Once we arrived in Deba, we took the train back to where we started. The scenery from the beginning of the hike was breathtaking. As beautiful as it was to begin with, it only got better the further we went. We enjoyed taking pictures throughout the adventure and selfies with Gabriel. We stopped to observe the sharp slate rock formations called "flysch." We stopped on top of a peak for lunch and a brief siesta before continuing on our trek. The trail that we took followed the coastline of the Contabrian Sea and was used as a trade route during medieval times. More importantly, it was the route of the pilgrimage to Santiago. It's safe to say that we all used muscles that we didn't even know that we had and even safer to say that we will experience some muscle pain for a few days, but the rewarding experience of completing this breathtaking journey was definitely worth the effort.


On Friday we visited Mondragon, a global cooperative business with four areas of focus: Finance, Industry, Retail, and Education.  The company was founded by José María Arizmendiarrieta, a Catholic priest, in 1956 and has grown to become an international company with over 70,000 employees. It has a unique business structure in that it has a bottom-up management policy where each employee participates in making management decisions. It also has an independent healthcare system and pension plan for its employees. Over 90% of the Mondragon's employees are owners of the company, and management has never had to fire anyone in the 60 years of its existence. While there, we spent our time learning about the company from the Director of Cooperative Dissemination, Mikel Lezamiz, sat in on part of a business class for graduate students, enjoyed a wonderful 3-course lunch, and absorbed the view from the terrace. We then returned to our inn where we enjoyed some free time before having another fantastic dinner and restful night there. 

To the Basque Country

This afternoon we left for the País Vasco, which is in the north of Spain. We arrived at our country inn called Arregi and were greeted by Merche and her son. After check g in, we visited the town of Oñati, where we took a spin around the center and tasted some of the local txokatin I the Plaza Mayor.
Fabulous Basque dinner back at the inn.