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Published: January 15th 2009
Puerto Viejo in Algorta
The tiny harbour, now silted up, is a reminder of the days when Getxo made its living from fish
We headed out of Bilbao past the Euskalduna Congress and Music Hall across the river on our left. Lorna's friend (and our guide for the day!) Nerea explained that the Music Hall was built on a site that once housed a shipping construction company, one of the symbols of the industrial city that Bilbao was from the end of the 19th century onwards. The left bank of the river was traditionally the industrial part of Bilbao, whereas the right side was the wealthier area with stately mansions built by the upper middle classes.
Our first stop was the Puente Bizkaia (Vizcaya Bridge), the world's oldest transporter bridge and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's known locally as the "hanging bridge" and was built to link the Las Arenas district of Getxo with Portugalete on the opposite bank of the river. It's an interesting piece of engineering - a kind of cross between a bridge and a ferry that can hold up to six cars along with pedestrians - and can take you across the river in under 2 minutes. Once across the river in Portugalete, we went for a short stroll along the waterfront promenade, admiring the beautiful architecture of
The Basque Flag
Outside one of the fishermen's houses in the Old Port of Algorta
the houses lining the river.
After that, it was on to the Puerto Viejo de Algorta (Old Port of Algorta), Getxo's prettiest quarter. The harbour in the Old Port is overlooked by a cliff on which steep narrow streets with small taverns and fishermen's houses are perched. A stone staircase leads up to the village where, at the top of the stairs, statues of a fisherman and sardine seller look out onto the Abra bay. The houses have whitewashed facades with brightly painted doors, windows and balconies. It's a charming place full of colour with a lovely relaxed atmosphere. We stopped at one of the local taverns for some drinks and pintxos. The Old Port is reknowned for the quality of its restaurants which specialise in traditional Basque cuisine and we had some delicious seafood chowder and fresh tuna steak for lunch there!
While we were in Getxo, there was a photographic exhibition running (GetxoPhoto). The whole town had been turned into a live exhibition space with photos adorning the walls, buildings and shop fronts. Some of the photos were quite striking - from images of slavery to the more unconventional images that we would see later on,
Perched above are the whitewashed fishermen's houses
such as portraits of gorillas!
After leaving the Old Port, we headed along the cliffs of Punta Galea (Galea Point) and arrived at the Aixerrota Windmill. The windmill dates from the early eighteenth century and is the oldest windmill in the Basque country. Today, it houses an art gallery and an adjoining restaurant. The views from the mill are impressive, looking out over the cliffs onto the beach below.
Our last destination for the day was the medieval market in Getxo. This is an annual festival in which market stalls fill the streets and the stallholders dress in medieval costume. It was absolutely thronged with locals and we felt as though we were the only tourists in the place! The streets were filled with heraldic shields, flags, banners and horses and there were all kinds of things on display; from demonstrations of medieval weaponry and falconry to traditional chocolate making and whole pigs roasting on a spit. We tried some traditional Basque cake - basically a thick slab of chocolate on a biscuit base - tasty, but very rich!
Unfortunately, our taste of the Basque Country was nearly at an end and it was time to make
Brightly painted windows
In the Old Port of Algorta
our way back to Bilbao and home to rainy Dublin. But we'll be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!
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