Saturday, October 3, 2009 - Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao

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October 4th 2009
Published: October 4th 2009
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A somewhat longer driving day.

Leaving Santiago de Compostela, we initially headed inland for some time, then turned northward toward the coast again, hitting the coastline at Ribadeo. From there to Bilbao, it was mostly driving along an interstate-type highway, albeit not yet complete, to Bilbao. Along the way we stopped frequently to see views of the rugged coastline of Galicia, Asturia, and Cantabria, before entering Basque Country.

A brief note on languages in Spain. There are a number. Galician is closer to Portuguese thanto Spanish, and in fact is considered by many to be a Portuguese dialect. Both are derived from Latin. The Basques speak a language that is the only language of Spain not derived from Latin, and in fact is not an Indo-European language at all. It is totally distinct and is thought to be a language isolate. Spanish is the official language throughout the country, but is often spoken as a second language. There are robust regional language variants and dialects.

But other than the brief stops for coastline viewing, we made a beeline for Bilbao. Formerly an ugly industrial city, Bilbao has largely transformed itself, and now has a much cleaner image. In 1997, it opened the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum and that building has now become the very image of the city. Our hotel was directly across the street and balconies of our rooms looked directly out onto it. The museum was built at a cost of $100 million, and used a free-flowing Gehry design with the well-known titanium panels forming a skin. Various interpretations have been put on the design, but at least in part it was supposed to resemble the prow of a ship for this port city.

The museum houses a collection of modern art, including three-dimensional studies and videos. There were a few pieces we liked, but only a few. I am not an art critic by any means, but it seems to me that art should at least be distinguishable from the exit signs and the bathrooms. The second floor promised to be completely given over to Frank Lloyd wright, and we looked forward to seeing it, but it was entirely closed. For convenience purposes, I have included the visit to the museum in Saturday's report, but we actually visited the museum on Sunday morning when it opened.

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