19 August 2010

Bilbao - We're more alike than we are different

In Bilbao I was in so much pain from my aching ribs that I barely even noticed the city around me as we arrived. The weather was relentlessly dreary and I had developed an upper respiratory infection, each cough sending a fiery stab of pain through the right side of my chest.

But, despite that, what we thought was a private hostel room turned out to be a surprisingly posh hotel. I immediately took advantage of the "real" shower and let the hot water soothe my aching muscles, collapsing afterward on my bed for several hours of sleeping.

When I finally woke up, we walked through the rainy streets to find some dinner. After patrolling the streets for the best pintxos we could find, we stopped to have a drink at a bar that advertised itself as a "rock and roll" bar. Inside was loud metal music which corresponded to videos on a large projector screen. After hearing some classics and indicating to the girl working the bar that her music choices were awesome, she asked us in broken English what kind of metal we liked. I told her that we liked metal "muy rapido" and hardcore. She asked us if we knew a band but her Basque accent was indecipherable to our ears. But, when she played the video, D and I both said in chorus, "Oh! Hatebreed! Yes! We know Hatebreed!"

The rest of the night was spent with us all trying to understand each other, speaking in broken Spanish and her little bit of English.

"You are knowing ze Layumbafojood?"
"No....Yo no se...I don't think so?"
*Video Plays*
"OH! Lamb of God! Yes!"

Music can bridge any cultural gap. She gave us free Jagermeister shots and beers. We gave her some new bands to check out. She tried to get us to visit a small surfing town on the coast that she said was amazing and that tourists never could find. Maybe next trip.

Our second day in Bilbao sent us to the Guggenheim whose shocking architecture tended to dwarf most of the art contained within it. I am sure that there is some really great reason why this landmark museum is located in the remote hills of Basque country, but I don't know what it is. I should really look it up...

But, seriously, I don't mean to diminish the works that were inside the museum. The collection was smart and well presented. Downstairs was a large, long room full of monolithic Richard Serra sculptures - the ones that you have to walk through to understand as they bend your perspective, sense of space and awareness of the assumptions your mind makes about the world around you. I have actually seen so many Richard Serras around the world now that they have become oddly comforting and familiar. They tie me back to New York and make me think of standing in the Andrea Rosen gallery.

We left Bilbao as quickly as we arrived, catching a train to the French border at Hendaye where we could pick up another overnight train on through France to Bordeaux.

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