The mountain on the east side of the bay.
When I got back home from Seattle, I went straight back to work as there was a lot to do and I had only 1.5 weeks, then headed off for San Sebastian, Spain, for the European Conference on Psychological Assessment
. This time, I managed to finish both presentations before heading off for the Congress, so much less stressful 😉.
I flew through Frankfurt, where I met Dennis who works with my former employer and is also working on his PhD, to Bilbao, from where we caught a bus to San Sebastian. Our hotel was conveniently located between the university, where the congress would take place, and the beautiful beach. Of course we had dinner outside and not far from the beach.
Dennis and I had both signed up for a pre-conference workshop, where we also met my colleague Mats from Sweden. The workshop (on mediation and moderation analysis, really nerdy stuff) was one of the best I have attended so far. Afterwards, we went for a late lunch, which was kind of a challenge because Mats is allergic to gluten and I am a vegetarian, but none of us speaks Spanish. Interestingly, I had the feeling that “no gluten” was easier to explain
View towards the Old Town
... from the Miramar Palace.
than “no animals”.
The opening keynote speech in the evening took place in the wonderful Miramar Palace, which offers, as the name may already tell you, a wonderful view of the city, beach, and bay. We did not stay for the opening ceremony, but walked into the old part of town and had dinner in a restaurant on the beach. Good food, nice view, and nice evening anyway.
The topics presented at the Conference were rather mixed. Some of them were very interesting, whereas others weren’t. This gave us some time to explore the area. The city is located in the Basque Autonomous Region, on the coast of the Gulf of Biscay around a wonderful bay. People there speak not only Spanish, but also Basque. The latter language is quite different from the Latinian languages.
On Thursday afternoon, Mats and I went for a big walk around the old part of San Sebastian. Most buildings there are from the 19th
century. There are two churches, San Vincente in Gothic and Santa Maria in Baroque style. There are a few pedestrian areas where there are various performances of street art and lots of restaurants and cafés
... on the west side of the bay.
that invite you to sit down and relax. My favourite thing was our walk up the Monte Urgull, a mountain on one side of the bay, not far from the old part of town. There is the ruin of a castle on its top and a statue of Jesus overlooking the city. The view from up there is just beautiful, you can see the whole city including Monte Igueldo on the other side of the bay and the little island in the centre of the bay. In the evening, we met Dennis, who had attended some of the afternoon sessions, and had dinner on the Plaza de la Constitución, a square surrounded by buildings that used to be a bullfighting arena. Interestingly, there were a few bands walking around the streets and playing songs, and also people who were dressed up and wore huge masks. However, we did not find out what was going on.
As there was nothing interesting happening on Friday, Mats and I decided to do a little bit of work in the morning and then catch the bus to Bilbao for visiting the Guggenheim Museum
. In Bilbao, the road from the bus station to the museum
took us through the beautiful park, and then we arrived at the museum. The building alone would be worth a visit. It was designed by star architect Frank O. Gehry (who also designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles) and opened in 1997. It has this kind of broken geometry that is typical for the deconstructivist style and just looks great when the sun reflects on its silver surface.
Inside there are various exhibitions with pictures and sculptures from different eras. On one floor, there were pictures from before, during, and after the Second World War. But the exhibition I was most surprised by was the Baroque one, called “Riotous Baroque”, on the top floor. We had already seen all the modern pieces of art, and I must say I was not too keen on looking at Baroque pictures because I often find them kind of boring. But we decided to take a look anyway – and were pleasantly surprised. The designers of the exhibition had supplemented each old piece of art with a modern interpretation of its topic, which was a super interesting contrast.
We could easily have spent days in this great museum, but
eventually we had to make our way back to the bus station. But there was enough time left for some extremely tasty ice cream just across the road from the museum. When we arrived back in San Sebastian, we met Dennis and Eva (she is from South Africa) for dinner.
On Saturday, the Congress kept me busy. I had to give two presentations and there were a few talks that I found interesting, so there was no time for sightseeing. However, in the evening, Mats, Dennis, and I went into the old town again and had some super tasty tapas (or pintxos, as they are called in San Sebastian). We felt like in paradise and enjoyed watching all the happy and cheerful people who moved from restaurant to restaurant to have a few pintxos here and a few there and to see their friends. The atmosphere was just great.
The next morning, we had to leave. Mats had left early in the morning, and this time, Dennis and I would be on two different planes, mine departing later than his. However, I wanted to catch the same airport shuttle bus as him, which turned out to be a
Statue of Jesus
... on top of Monte Urgull.
little thriller. We had called a taxi that would take us to the bus station. But, as things go, when I was waiting at the reception in order to pay my room, there were two ladies in front of me who had a lot of special requests, and it took forever until I finally could pay. Then there was some trouble because my invoice had a wrong address on it and changing it seemed almost impossible. As this was going to take forever, I told Dennis to leave and that I would try to catch up with him at the bus station. I did not want him to miss the bus and consequently his plane because of waiting for me.
Eventually, I had the correct invoice, called a taxi (that of course took forever to arrive) and arrived at the bus station with the bus to Bilbao still there. But it was already departure time. I asked the bus driver whether she would wait for me because I still needed to get the ticket in the ticket shop. She said yes, and I ran to the shop, dragging my suitcase along with me. Of course there was a long
Street view & San Vincente
Impressions from the Old Town of San Sebastian.
queue in the shop and people with difficult questions in front of me, what else?! However, I was lucky and one woman let me step into the queue in front of her. I bought my ticket and – I could not believe it – made it onto my bus.
The rest of the journey was unspectacular. We had coffee at the airport, and then Dennis and the girls from South Africa (who had come to the airport with us) left. My plane left about an hour later, and I flew via Düsseldorf back to Hamburg. Although the Conference had been so-so, I had enjoyed the town of San Sebastian, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and of course the great time with Mats and Dennis 😊.
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