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Hello, Bilbao!

SPAIN | Sunday, 24 August 2014 | Views [1104]

It started out as a rainy miserable day. I had to catch an early train from Barcelona to Bilbao and thankfully it was only a ten-minute walk, as it was just starting to drizzle. With the clouds hanging like an impending doom over the train, I had trouble staying awake through the darkness.

By the time we were halfway to Bilbao, the clouds had lessened considerably, and the rain had ceased. There were even occasional patches of sunshine through which to take photos. Unfortunately this did not last long, and as we reached the outskirts of Bilbao, the rain began to come down. The drops slid effortlessly across my window, almost dream-like in their race. Between drop I could see cracks of the city.

White, yellow, and orange houses with rust-colored roofs. Seemingly abandoned buildings with faded wall and broken windows, laundry out to dry covered by plastic tarps, graffiti along crumbling cement walls. All shadowed in fog. Hello Bilbao.

As we ventured nearer the city center the buildings grew closer together, cars became more frequent, and passers-by could be seen huddled under umbrellas., scuttling through the rain. But it still seemed peaceful, quiet, serene. Hardly a town in the midst of a festival.

We pulled into Abando station, and I stepped gingerly off of the train, as if my presence would somehow shatter the illusion of calm around me. Making my way down to the metro, I was shocked to see the station packed with people bustling to and fro, chattering away. Most wore patterned blue bandanas around their necks bearing the words “Aste Nagusia,” and several had on what I guessed were parts of traditional Basque clothing. I had arrived.

Bilbao had deceived me. By all appearances it was a sleepy town, with paint-chipped houses and empty cafes. I could have easily passed it by, written it off as just another town along the line. The vibrance and life of the city ran undetected, just under the surface of perception.

As I waded my way through hoards of locals clapping and dancing, I couldn’t help but join in the celebration. “Welcome to Aste Nagusia!” cheered a neighbor, recognizing my foreign accent. The animation and exuberance of the people was intoxicating, and I was soon overwhelmed with joy.

The clink of glasses raised in a toast. The scent of beer and grease and rain.  The cheers of the revelers.

Hello, Bilbao. 

Tags: aste nagusia, basque, bilbao, festival, rain, spain, train travel, travel


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