Lately, the work has me quite tied, but I do not want to lose the link that I have achieved with the Urola valley and having already made enough visits between Azkoitia and Zestoa I wanted to know the end of the river. When I made the Touring trip, I missed reaching Zumaia because the fatigue of the day made me head home, but today, remembering that trip, I decided to reach the coast following the river. Therefore, I have started the trip in Aizarnazabal and I have taken the road to Oikina.
I have arrived taking the road GI-2633. Oikina is a neighbourhood located in the east of Zumaia.
Its 310 inhabitants live under the parish of San Bartolomé, a church that contains a 16th-century altarpiece, but the solar houses of Etxabe, Goiburu Azpikoa or Kondekua are also noteworthy. For years he wanted to become independent from Zumaia but today it is still a neighbourhood of this town.
Following the path, I have found Bedua. A restaurant in this neighbourhood became very famous for having appeared in a famous movie, but to me, what has fascinated me is the fauna found.
I had heard that eels could be found in this area of the Urola River, but in this meander, you can find more things.
Long ago this area was mostly a marsh, but humans dried the soil to use it for both agriculture and industry. In the history of Zumaia, the different industries have had a lot of weight. Among others, the shipyards, the cement factories or the machine tool have been very important in the development of the town. The point is that here a very special ecosystem is formed since the salt water brought by the tides join here with the river water. After being born to the skirts of the Aizkorri and to cross 60 kilometres it is here where the Urola takes its first salty drops as if it began to cry seeing its end so close.
I will try not to cry, although once past the industrial zone, anyone who sees the entrance to the town can be fascinated. Zumaia has become famous thanks to his Flysch and the recordings of the series "Games of Thrones", but I think that in this town I will find something more than that. For that reason, I have decided to approach the tourist office.
There they have recommended me some places. The first one I found when I left the office door.
The old freight train station and the rails make clear that where today the locals walk under the trees, at the time, they did coal, stones or iron.
This is where the Urola takes its last steps, joining the Narrondo to get lost in the sea.
I have gone through a small bridge, but my feet take me in parallel with the river as if they did not want to get away from it.
I was struck by a lonely house on the other side of the road. It is at the end of the street (or at the beginning depending on how you look) and unlike the other houses, this building is not linked to anything. Well, the truth is that yes, because in its low we will find a society: The Octopus society concretely. Will it have any relationship with Galicia?
In front of the door, we will find a small square and on the other side another singular building with a large balcony.
Then I learned that this was the Fishermen's Guild. The "Brotherhood San Telmo" apparently no longer exists, but the building that sheltered it is still called brotherhood this is usually the place where at parties the flag of the town is raised and lowered and also where the local athletes are welcomed. They have achieved great achievements. But these two houses are small before the building that we will find next. The nowadays house of culture totally reformed was in its moment an alhóndiga.
A large building to store the raw material that went to or came from the sea. It is clear that the boats reached the doors of the building where today all the cultural events of the town are projected. And so, I confirmed a photo that I could see in a nearby park, that of Amaia.
The human being is capable of doing great things, even taking land from the sea, changing the landscape of a town and making it so normal in the day to day of the locals that they are able to forget even how this landscape used to be.
From the park the parish of San Pedro is impressive. Its tower looks like a defensive castle as if besides being the patron saint of sailors, Saint Peter would also like to be the guardian of the town.
Located in the northeast of the old part of the town, it is a Gothic church of the XIII century and inside that casket of the castle, it has one of the most beautiful unique gothic spaces of Euskal Herria. After having a coffee, I lost myself through the streets of Zumaia until I reached another square. Here I have come across another building that has caught my attention. It seems one of those convents that appear in cowboy movies, in which I could read "Algorri Interpretation Centre". What could this be? A theatre? Because if not, what is a centre to interpret?
But what I found inside has completely changed my "interpretation". This is the ideal place to take a trip through the history of nature and geology. This centre is a great opportunity to get to know the ecosystem of this environment and thanks to its audio-visual documentary and its exhibition you will be able to see first-hand the natural treasure that this municipality has. In Zumaia is one of the most spectacular tidal flats in Europe, with more than 200 different species living in it, representing one of the most complex, beautiful and rich ecosystems of the Euskal Herria coast. Will the octopus be among those 200 species?
I left the interpretation centre and, as if the river wanted to take me with it, I continued forward parallel to its waters until it reached the beginning of the jetty.
There I found a house in the shape of a farmhouse surrounded by a large hedge. It's the Julio Beobide museum. The sculptor stood out above all for working religious sculpture and the traditional Basque model and nowadays you can see his sketches and works of art in what was his workshop, now converted into a museum.
Above this house, we will find the lighthouse. They built it in 1870 because entering the port of Zumaia had become quite dangerous. Today the lighthouse keeper who lives here (cannot visit) guides the boats that want to enter the marina from its 12-meter tower while spotting land from Bizkaia to Lapurdi.
And I say, will a kitchen like that of our houses have in that tower? Ummm, it seems that I have begun to go hungry. I have travelled the town from side to side and have arrived at the restaurant Beheko Plaza.
Grilled pods with native octopus and Salbera (fish that lives under the sand). A menu difficult to find in other places. But, what about the octopus has me on fire! I have asked and it seems that Zumaia is very close to the octopus. It is usually fished in the Flysch and it is left to dry until it is dehydrated to make it with the octopus soup or "Olarru-zopa", a traditional local dish. I'll have to try it someday! The truth is that I have eaten of fable and I have returned to fill energy to face the second part of the day visiting more places of this wonderful town.
Another of the places that I have recommended in the tourist office is the Artadi neighbourhood, probably one of the most charming neighbourhoods in the town. Located in a small elevation the views from its church of San Miguel are unpayable.
Any lover of the sea has to see these views. The truth is that anyone would fall in love with these views. It is also a neighbourhood that is surrounded by a holm oak forest that leads us to think of a warmer climate.
I've come down from the neighbourhood and landed at the marina.
The centre of the town is seen wide and in front, we can find the walk to the lighthouse. The traveller will find a tremendously attractive place to rest, but any citizen also has here a beautiful place to walk and enjoy leisure in a very special environment.
Being in the port, if you look to the right you will find the marshes of Santiago and with a little luck, you will find there some of the migratory birds that habitually live there.
In this same marsh, we will find the home of the painter from Eibar Ignacio Zuloaga, and the museum full of works of art from Zuloaga and other famous artists. The painter is famous because it reflected mainly the Spanish costumbrismo, between which they emphasize the bullfights of bulls.
Further on is the beach of Santiago (or as they say in the town of "Santiyo"). At the top of it, we can find another curious phenomenon: dunes. Yes, little mountains piled with sand. It is true that the plants have been acclimated to the impulses of wind and water, to saltpetre, to the little stability of the earth ... and in many places, they cover the dunes. But as true as this is that I would never have believed that I would find such a phenomenon here.
By the time I realized it has already begun to get dark and after taking a look at the clock I realized that it is time to go home. And I have not seen the Flysch!! I have to go back, of course; I cannot stay if I visit a site with so much recognition and such fame. Arriving at the car I came across a person and I could not do anything but stop and listen to what he was singing:
"Zumaia has at its entrance, junction with two roads,
Getaria San Sebastián and Bilbao by Deba.
It is an industrial, commercial and commercial town,
It has a port with its estuary, a railway line.
COME, COME, COME, COME,
COME, COME, COME, COME,
COME, ARRIVE that the town of Zumaiaaaaaaaaa
It's a little San Sebastian! "
It is clear that Zumaia goes beyond the Flysch.
When I visited Zestoa a few months ago, I was captivated by the history of this town. From the hand of Vicente Dávila I discovered many things, visiting sites that took me from the Paleolithic to today's stories. But I was sorry to not be able to visit the Lili Palace inside because it only opens on weekends and I have wanted to live one of his theatrical visits since then. But not only that. As most people will know I also know that Zestoa got international fame thanks to his spa and as I also stayed if I visit him, I will keep my word, I have ridden in the car and taken the road towards Zestoa.
The first thing I will do is go visit Lili. I knew the path that will take me there when I visited Ekainberri because I passed by them. Therefore, after leaving the car in the center, I went through the tourist office to make the reservation and I went to the palace. Like the previous time, I went down the hill that leads to the river, I went through the old bridge and after leaving Lauiturri behind in a short time I arrived in Lili. I will take part in the first visit.
Like the previous time, I went down the hill that leads to the river, I went through the old bridge and after leaving Lauiturri behind in a short time I arrived in Lili. I will take part in the first visit.
The palace of Lili is one of the most important points of the valley. The Lili were owners of many farmlands, forests and surrounding rivers and the hamlets of their property used to pay good rents.
Its wealth was based on wood and iron and the palace showed its social class. But as soon as they opened the door, they asked me for the "coin" (entrance) to get through and they told me that I was going to be the butler! Me, I'm not able to carry a tray from the living room to the kitchen without dropping it! But what is this!
Also, they left me in the stables. Then I realized that the passage is also part of the play that I will live. And is that through a monologue the last inhabitant of the palace "Andre Madalen" will take us to the year 1678, taking us around the palace and showing us how to live in Gipuzkoa at that time.
It's a hard story about this family. If you have everything, it goes into a great decline and the actress introduces you in an extraordinary way into that sad story. I followed everything he said, stunned, like servants to his masters. It has guided us to the second floor where I have been able to see the great hall, an envy of many Italians and flamencos. But since Andre Madalen's husband was arrested, the decline of the family is plausible and the palace enters a black cloud of dishonour, shame and sadness from which I will see this Basque woman escape with her willpower.
Once the visit is over, I am still not sure if we are in our time or four centuries ago. The palace is brilliantly restored. The utensils and furniture used to move you to that time without any doubt.
The decline of the Lili, apparently, coincided in time with another phenomenon in the town: precisely with the discovery of the hot springs of Gesalaga. Therefore, Zestoa is linked to these waters for a long time, and as one of those who can know more about this phenomenon and the boom that it attracted the people is Vicente Dávila, I have stayed with him. And where better than in the same spa? Anyway, I still have some time and as the roar of my guts have returned me to today and I have been reminded that I have to satisfy my stomach, I have approached the Mollergi bar to eat something.
I've devoured a zucchini sandwich stuffed with ham and peppers. If the pint he had was brutal, the taste is not far behind!
Vicente has received me just as smiling and in a good mood as the last time. Always willing to show you something, with the ability to leave one's mouth open. First of all, it took me to the covered bridge, so I could see from there the first built building: "La Casa Baños".
A name full of logic. It is a construction of 1806 although it is known that before the spa was built people used to come here to bathe and drink from these waters. Jovellanos must have been one of the first to announce that in Zestoa, in wells near the river, people took these waters to cure their illnesses.
The spa has two springs and the water comes out through one of them at 31 degrees and the other at 29. It is said that some time ago when it snowed on these lands here it never finished curdling. Normal, if the water came out at that temperature! The waters here not only have different temperatures but also have different compositions and apparently one of them is good for curing the liver and the other for the kidney. The waters, in themselves, flowed from the grass, but to make it easier for people to arrive, they created some species of caves, simulating Lourdes, as if to say that the waters here are also miraculous. People used to drink a glass of water here and I used to walk around later, socializing.
Of course, everyone used to go to the bathroom before, because these waters cleaned the entire interior of the body and ... well, like the cola drinks of today! They also had to sell it bottled in Spain and South America. And, in addition, thanks to the train of the Urola arrived at many houses.
The second house that was built was that of the "Entrada", in 1852. It must have been where the pelota court is nowadays.
And between the spa and this building, they built a great walk, so that people could walk beside bathing. The Hotel or "Gran Hotel" is later, from 1895. And then came the Alameda and Etxeberri hotels. In addition, they filled stores with the lower part of the first of them, thus building a kind of microcosm, so that visitors did not have to leave here because they would have everything they needed. Come on, as a town within another town, including the different social classes that money usually creates. Those who had most were used to staying at the Gran Hotel, with its elevators, games rooms, large dining rooms, musicians, chapel or telephone operators among other things.
Zestoa was already on the map of Europe thanks to the thermal movement of the time and the spa was a great reflection of it. Even in the times of Alfonso XIII ministers' councils were made here. And under the protection of the spa, the town was filled with hotels, until 13 were opened, giving a lot of life to the population. The spa experienced many critical moments, but above all, it was at the beginning of the 20th century and also in the 50s, after the Civil War.
So much was the fame that caught at the time, they had to find different formulas to make the spring was greater because in the spa were afraid that the water they had was not enough for the number of visitors they had. Today there are about 200 people who take their baths per day, but there is enough water for all.
Vicente told me a lot of stories, like for example that Baroja or Azorín did not like the spa at all because of the aristocratic and boring atmosphere that was lived there. Minister Aureliano Guerra and Orbe, on the other hand, found it wonderful and apparently ended up in love with Zestoa and its surroundings. Also, how the play "Ama begira zazu" was pre-released here or part of the film "Handiya" was filmed. Or how the bridge they built took a lot of importance so that bathers could get close to the spa. Or how in the town there was a curious custom of reaching the spa in small barges by the river ... He would be listening for hours. I think that if history had been taught in this way in the school, there would be more historians in this world at this time.
In 1983, the floods that devastated the Basque Country destroyed the spa, but they rebuilt it and it has already begun to recover the strength it had in its time. In addition, every day there are more young people who want to live and know spa life. And what the hell! There is no better way to know what the visitors of yesterday and today have lived here than to experience it myself.
So today I say goodbye taking a relaxing bath and "wellness" treatment of those who leave you as new both physically and mentally.
Now I understand why they used to come from many parts of Europe to this small town in the Urola valley.
Daily life, daily routine, getting up at the same time each day, breakfast the same, spend hours in front of the computer at work and when you go home to find the same programs of the same television networks. All this produces stress. To me yes at least and that is why from time to time I like to evade a little trip by car, with music at full volume, knowing our land and enjoying it, with the intention of releasing a little mind.
And Euskal Herria gives options for it. The fact that the sea and the mountain are so close makes you go from a massively touristy place to a bucolic one and practically emptied in an instant. You can go from an industrial zone to a field grazed by sheep in just two minutes. And that can be clearly seen in the Urola valley that I am visiting so much lately.
That is why this time I will also travel to these lands, to which I am taking great affection. A trip "hidden", to escape from people, enjoy the landscape and evade the daily routine. I started looking at "google maps" but I think I ended up calling Oihana from Urola Turismo and she gave me some clues: "Balcón de Gipuzkoa" - Errezil - Erdoizta - Santangrazi - Aizarna - Aizarnazabal. And of course, I'll listen to her and make that little tour.
I took the road from Tolosa to Errezil and left behind Albistur and Bidania-Goiatz.
A short time later I arrived at the place called "Trintxera". Actually, it is the height of Iturburu, but this neighborhood of Errezil is known by Trintxera.
At the time there was a hostel here and the truth is that it is a beautiful place, because from here you can see much of the territory of Gipuzkoa.
I guess that's why they'll call it "Balcón de Gipuzkoa". If I have started the trip with these wonderful views ... I think I will enjoy a lot today. I have started the car and I have made my way to Azpeitia. Errezil is about 4-5 kilometers away from here, but as soon as I passed a couple of turns I could see the town and I got the old phrase that says "Errezil, nekez jaio eta errez hil" (Errezil, born with difficulty and die easily). I do not know if this will be true but this town, being where it is, between mountains (under the Ernio), was very important in Gipuzkoa.
And it is said that these lands were cultivated the best wheat in the province and therefore during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries those of Errezil were paid a real more than any other Gipuzkoa for each fanega collected. Maybe it's a town with difficulties and another old phrase says "herri txiki, infernu handi" (small town, great hell), but from what I see, I think this would be a great place to live in peace and tranquility.
The road is full of curves and it is convenient not to go too fast. In addition, it is worth going slowly through these places. Looking at Izarraitz wide open, I have seen myself among hamlets and pastures from right to left. The road passes through the middle of Errezil and, continuing downhill, I have been walking among trees for a while.
I have also noticed a quite "characteristic" smell of our town; surely they have been spreading manure. Not even 15 minutes have passed by when I arrived at the Benta Berri junction and I took the right towards Erdoizta.
The road is narrower now and at times it seems that I am going by some road in the Pyrenees or Switzerland. At times it also seems that I am going through the middle of a forest. Oh oh!! A car in front! We have passed just-just one way and the other to the contrary, thank goodness that has departed enough! The road continues up and I have entered "second" to enjoy for a while the view that I have on my left. Anyway, it would be better to look ahead than if you do not ... Hala! Squirrels!
I have already reached the top. I will have climbed about 800 meters at least. Almost 25 minutes have passed since I have left from "The balcony of Gipuzkoa"; I have taken the crossing and I am looking for my second stop: Erdoizta.
As soon as I arrived in this neighborhood of Errezil, I found the hermitage of San Isidro in front of me. It was built in honor of the patron saint of farmers at the beginning of the 19th century, although due to its cylindrical shape and its half-arched entrance they make it look like Romanesque. In 2003 the Basque Government named them "Monument" within Classified Cultural Assets. It is curious, perhaps because it is the first hermitage that I have seen with a cylindrical shape and if I am not mistaken, it is the only one that exists in Gipuzkoa.
In addition, it is built as if they had placed one cylinder on top of the other and although inside it also has a round shape, it is capable of housing two small chapels. It is a beautiful monument and it seems that it has been renovated not long ago.
I got back into the car and took the road to the coast: to Aizarna. Going on the road I would say that I'm going downhill, but I have the feeling that the mountain comes with me, because, although on the straights I try to go faster, it seems to follow the summit, as in the videos of Kilian Jornet going down at full speed through the crests of the mountains. The minutes have passed and I have entered a grove, the road has been full of curves and I have been forced to slow down. Those who are used to walking among many people will find it strange to walk through these places. You hardly see anyone, very few cars and as soon as I saw someone I started to honk to greet him. Surely you have thought what this crazy man was doing. It is said that we must leave the one who is at peace in peace, so it will be better to move on. But before arriving at Aizarna I have a mandatory stop: the hermitage of Santa Engrazi.
I have taken the junction to the right and I have left the car in front of a hamlet. It's about 10 minutes walking and stretching my legs will be good for me. I started with a stone path to end up in a meadow near the hill that gives a name to the chapel (or the other way around, I do not know if it's the chicken or the egg) and what I found has left me amazed. This hermitage made in auzolan (group work) in 1600 has a lot of charm. Some stories say that in the Middle Ages there was a small castle here, but what is known is that the previous hermitage that was here was carried by lightning, probably because it would be made of wood.
The current one is complete of stone and in its simplicity is its greatness. But outside the building, it is the views that you find here that will amaze anyone. 510 meters high, in the natural park of Pagoeta, I have seen Izarraitz, Ernio, the coast and even the sea. Now I know if I get the EuroMillions where I can make a house. What's under there must be Aizarna and since the guts have already begun to crack I'm going down to see if I can find somewhere to eat.
Aizarna itself is a neighborhood of Zestoa, but it seems like a small town, with its school, church, stone houses and a beautiful rectangular square.
"Anbu" has served us a great meal in the restaurant called Aranburu. I say because I shared a dining room with a Colombian woman who is doing the Camino de Santiago and a man who dispelled all doubts about the road sections and the stories of the surrounding villages.
With my gut well filled, I got back into the car and got on the road. I turned on the radio and I found a beautiful song by Luke Siedle:
Go high or low, don't go at all
They'll make it worth your while to fall
But you and I just travelling
On some road to down below
They tell me that the only way
To get to heaven is through hell
So why don't we make a stop
I have lowered the window while singing at full volume and I have taken my hand. Automatically I started doing the wave remembering that "do you like to drive?" It seems incredible that going where I am going, I know that within 5 kilometers there is an industrial zone. The coast is a little further, but I have seen people surfing and it is that on the outskirts of Aizarnazabal a company created a lake with artificial waves where surfers usually come to train.
Not even 15 minutes have passed since I left Aizarna until I passed over the Urola River to enter the town of Aizarnazabal.
This is a town with a curious history. Located at an intersection of the old road between Ibañarrieta, Aia and Zarauz was part of Zumaia until it got its independence in 1861. To reach the town you have to climb a hill and suddenly you will find the Arcángel San Miguel parish and its pediment and little later the Town Hall. I have parked right there and in the square that can surely shelter all the people, I have started to go around and look everywhere. First the pediment. As in many other towns in Euskal Herria, one of the walls of the church is used here, making it clear where we can find the beginnings of this sport.
The parish is from the sixteenth century and was built on top of another church that was in the Middle Ages. On the left is the Town Hall. It looks like a building that, although renovated should have many years, but it is not because it is quite new, from 1954 precisely. That yes it was built following the traditional style of the houses of the town.
Again to the left and I found myself in front of a bar. And of course, at the speed of lightning, I have been thirsty and hungry. So there I go!
It seems that I have made a long trip and fatigue begins to appear. The truth is that from the point of departure the time I have spent in a car will not exceed one and a quarter hours, but in that time I have had the opportunity to know places and places of great beauty. From what I have been told, the "Touring" has continuity to the coast, to Zumaia, but I think I have enough for today. I managed to disconnect and get rid of stress. This trip has helped me to realize that it is not the car that produces stress but traffic. This "Touring Urola" is a nice trip to enjoy the city and the car. Highly recommended Oh! And if it is with good music and ... needless to say.
I can not fool you, the Urola valley has trapped me. Starting from Loiola to the meadows of Beizama, passing through the streets of Zestoa, the frontons of Azkoitia or the Azpeitia train museum. All these sites, although different from each other, have their charm, but the valley itself has two things in common: the river of course, and the Izarraitz massif.
I have always said that I am passionate about the mountain, but to live around it, not to climb it. Anyway, on this trip, I will climb more than 1000 meters. I'm going to meet the Izarraitz. But just in case, I'll go up the easy way, for "Attola".
Legend has it that the Izarraitz asked Izazpi mountain Hi zer haiz? (What are you?) And that he answered Hi, zazpi (seven like you) giving this questions game the name of these mountains. This was picked up by at least the famous anthropologist and ethnographer Jose Miguel Barandiaran.
The truth is that I do not know if Izazpi is seven times Izarraitz, but taking into account that the Izarraitz massif actually has 14 peaks ... Erlo, Xoxote, kakute, Sesiarte, Agido, Atxurigain, Gorostizabalgaña, Aittolako punta (top of aittola), Aitzbeltz, aittolako gurutzea (Aittola´s cross), Gaintxipua, Andutz, Saltsamendi and Garallutz. Of course, the best known are the first three and those will be the peaks that I visited.
Taking the road from Elgoibar to Azkoitia, once the port of Azkarate is finished, I took the old road towards Madariaga to reach Attola. I left the car in the parking lot.
From here to the refuge of Xoxote I have a road of 4 kilometers and an hour and a half approximately, with almost 300 meters of altitude difference. Luckily I have not gone the usual way, which leaves from Azpeitia because a mountain of barely 920 meters would have to climb a slope of about 850 meters in total.
Climbing up through the Attola car park we will immediately see the information sign on the massif.
Next to the sign, I went among the trees and followed a dirt road, until I found another sign: Xoxote, Erlo, Kakute. I am going on the right way.
As soon as I came out of the trees, I came to a shepherd's shed. It is fallen, but it clearly shows that the sheep grazed here at the time.
Climbing the meadow, I took a dirt road and reached a depth (then I have known that they call it Trikuan sakona or the depth of the hedgehog.
I have come to a fountain (it seems to be Izki's) and in addition to filling the canteen, I have cooled my throat well.
I found the track that leads to the antenna of the Erlo, but then I saw the sign that says Xoxote.
Today that will be my goal because I intend to sleep in Xoxote´s shelter. As soon as I went through other shepherd's huts I had to climb a hill, this walk had a trap because it leaves the hardest for the end! Anyway, it is a walk to do it with children, since it has 4 kilometers and 280 meters of altitude difference, and you arrive at the shelter immediately.
In 1983 the people of the Lagun Onak group began to rehabilitate a shack that until a few years ago served as a refuge for the sheep and opened it as a refuge on the day of Xoxote (May 27), 1983.
Nowadays it is a site that offers many services. From being a place where the Mountaineers changed, they ate something and took refuge from the bad weather, it has become a place where they give breakfasts, menus, combined dishes or dinners. In addition, it has two rooms with 32 beds, their bathrooms and showers, and in summer you will find it open every day. Today I have not tired too much, but since tomorrow I will visit the three most important summits, I have enjoyed a good dinner and immediately I have gone to bed.
I have spent all night dreaming, how would you do it to make this building almost a thousand meters high? Surely it took many and very hardworking countrymen. Well, in my dream I have also become one of those countrymen and Obelix has not wanted to lose sleep, hauling stones from one place to another.
It is curious, but it is said that Loiola was built with stones from the Izarraitz, and the refuge of Xoxote? Did they bring the stones from the village? I have to ask Oihana from Urola Turismo about it. If the dinner was delicious, breakfast is not far behind. Today my legs will not falter!
I will go back the way of yesterday because the first peak will be Kakute, located in the lands of Azkoitia. I started the road easily, downhill and then I found the track that leads to the Erlo's antenna.
It will be later when I take that road. Now, from the neck of Zamaleku (the site that divides Kakute from Xoxote) I have come back to the Izki fountain. I have taken to the left and in a moment I have arrived at the great cross that is in the top of Kakute. I have taken it as an observatory and what I have seen has been really beautiful. From here you can glimpse the entire Urola valley, long known as the Iraurgi. I am 924 meters away, but since my intention is to overcome the thousand today, I am heading to the highest peak of the Izarraitz: the Erlo.
I have returned to the road and this time I have taken the track that will take me to the antenna of the Erlo. And from there, along with a path of grass and stones, I have reached my second goal today.
The Erlo is 1026 meters, it is not too high, but being so close to the sea, it seems that the height you are at is much higher. And of course, with good weather ... you can see practically all of Euskal Herria from here.
Towards the northeast, the Landes coast; to the southwest, the rock faces of the duranguesado, with Amboto and Udalaitz; to the east the Peñas de Aia, Larrun and the Pyrenees and to the south, Aralar, Aizkorri and Urbasa.
I feel like the King of Euskal Herria. I have eaten a bite and have made my way to my last goal today. There I go Xoxote!
I'm going back to Zamaleku, for the third time. It is noted that this is the central core of the three summits. But this time I have taken the path of yesterday and I will go to the point where everything started this morning. The refuge is already full of people and the majority with the intention of going to Xoxote or eating something back from the top.
I left the track and taking the right I found the huge stone replica of San Ignacio de Loiola. It seems that he wants to control the valley from this place, or maybe it is the people who from any point of the valley glimpse his figure and feel that there is someone who protects them.
Xoxote is a modest peak, 912 meters high, but it will surely be the most visited peak. Maybe having the shelter nearby has something to do with it, but I think San Ignacio also takes it with them. Is everything in this valley tied to him? Azpeitia looks perfectly, in ant size, but perfectly.
If I felt like a king in Erlo, now I feel like God! Better take the road down before someone thinks I'm crazy.
Yesterday I took the easy way and today I will go down by the usual, as it is downhill ... I have started down a little path and soon I have found a fountain. But also something more beautiful and weird: a fridge! (which is not refrigerated) is the best conserved of Gipuzkoa and the ice that was preserved here, apparently, was transported in oxcarts to the spa of Zestoa and to the ports of Zumaia, Mutriku or Ondarroa to make frozen drinks. That's why they built a stone road up to here, which is still preserved and used. But it will not be down that road that I go down, but I will get between beech and pine until you reach a rail.
Through the hill of "Nargun" down, I zigzagged on a stone path until I reached the Urreta Txiki farmhouse. I have continued to descend and after leaving behind the hamlets Bildotxola, Arantzeta and Takolo I have arrived at the hermitage of Santutxo. It's time for me to go downstairs and they take me to "Iturritxiki". I'm already on the streets of Azpeitia and I can see the town square.
I have arrived! But ... My car! I have it in Attola! Will there be a charitable soul that will take me to him?
My desire to know every corner has made me lose orientation. I would like to thank, again, Oihana de Urola Turismo, for getting me out of this predicament and helping me in everything.
What is clear to me is that if you start the Izarraitz route by car, the recommended route would be: Refuge - Xoxote, Xoxote-Erlo and Erlo-Kakute. So once you get off Kakute to Attola, do not make the same mistake that I made.
When I visited Zestoa, I told you about the Urola Gustagarri project. With this new initiative, wants to join the work of restaurants and producers in the area, giving its importance to the product and get a new offer of entertainment and tourism. I wanted to know more about this initiative and visiting its website I have realized that it is a project that is very alive. Filling the stomach is one of the greatest pleasures of this life, but the greatest, but often we do not usually know where the products that serve us at the table arrive and seeing that some producers of Urola Gustagarri de Chacolí (sharp-tasting Basque wine) and Cheese are in Beizama, I've been addressing this small town.
The first thing that comes to mind as soon as you reach this village of 166 inhabitants is paradise. 11 kilometres from Azpeitia and 15 kilometres from Tolosa, on the slopes of Illaun mountain, everything is green, from right to left. And in the meantime green, dairies, chacolí factory, ecological hostel! ... I have again pulled Oihana from the Tourist Office of Urola and told me that my visit to Beizama will not do in bad times since there celebrate the Festivals of San Pedro and that this year, in addition, they may be special because it has just been published that have named the town as geographic centre of Gipuzkoa. Following his advice, I will sleep in the hostel that is located in the centre of the town and the next day I will start the visit from here.
But, first of all, taking advantage of the fact that there is no light pollution here, I'm going to lie down and look at the stars.
"I don't care, go on and tear me apart
I don't care if you do, ooh
'Cause in a sky, 'cause in a sky full of stars
I think I saw you"
What was the old school in the village renovated it into a hostel. Today the local is from Iñigo Altuna and Leire Retegi, with the intention of opening Beizama to tourism, show the visitor, whether the audience that comes from a school or a family, the landscape, culture and values of the people. After all, they are clear that they want to give value to the work done by local people in the town because Beizama is alive thanks to the people living there. As you walk through the door, it is clear that here they are seeking to raise Beizama's ability to produce food, motivating people to seek a more upright and permanent behaviour, respecting the environment and seeking to strengthen the local community. Some will say that it is ecological, others hippy, for me it is captivating for a people to join to work on such a project and to let the world know its values. We can say that the hostel is of multiple uses, to go in family, in “cuadrilla” (the name that we use to say group of friends), because we can find in it rooms for couples, of 4 or 5 beds and even a giant of 32 beds.
Of course all with their respective bathrooms. Kitchen, dining room, children's corner ... can you ask for more of a place like this?
Iñigo and Leire have lived here. Visitors have also been the most varied, from the family who wants to spend their holidays here, but would not stay to live for a long time, until a Russian representation that came to know where the fortress of people and society Basque apparently, they wanted to get clues to implant them in their companies and to strengthen their town. They received such a close treatment, that they will visit again next year.
Iñigo and Leire have explained that people usually use the base camp hostel, to eat, sleep or spend time with family, but that all the houses in the village will be open for me to abstract from the urban society in which we live and to know first-hand the values of the rural world. Many times I have heard that there are children who ask about the colour of the cows respond purple, or where the milk comes from and say the supermarket. These children could visit the places that I will make today because they will know closely how the work of food producers. And speaking of producers, I'm going to get acquainted with the Beizama chacolí.
I like to walk, but today I feel a bit vague and I have decided to make the road by car. It only took me 5 minutes to get to Urki Zahar.
Luis Javier Oregi has taken care of me. Bringing your product closer to consumers is very important to him and he gets it in a very close way.
He took as a house a farmhouse that was abandoned for 30 years and filled its environs of vineyards, with the intention of producing ecological chacolí. Going up and down the slopes of these vineyards, I'm going to become really strong!
Making chacoli is not easy, because in addition to the own risks that have the vines, you have to do a lot of tests, because the vineyards are not the same, you can mix many different flavours and get the flavour you want ... the truth is I do not know how they do it, but it's delicious!
It is a job that will cost about 5-6 months, but the end result is ... and many chefs have famous this great product and when I said that I would also, I have been given a piece of homemade cake made by the daughter of the house. Of course, I will introduce Urki Zahar!
I have bought some bottles and I have promised that I will return, and also, surely, by then I will be able to see the winery they are building.
I have kept the chacolí in the hostel and considering that it is time to eat, I have gone to the bar Ostatu Zaharra (Old Inn). What a view, and food!
With a full stomach, while I'm sipping coffee, I noticed that the building has a sign where it says "Beizama University". Beizama has its own Basque Culinary Center!
After knowing the factory of chacolí, I left the cheese shop Arreta for the afternoon. This time I decided to walk to lower the food a bit. As I started to climb the slope right away I realized that I was coming because I did not see around me more than sheep.
There were about 300. I tried to approach them, but it seems that they have taken me for a wolf and they have escaped. So, I had to settle for some photos. The certain thing is that the landscapes are like to give cane to the camera.
The sheep graze on the 28 hectares surrounding the hamlet of Patxi Otaegi and Idoia Leonet. Patxi takes care of the sheep and the work of the stable, while Idoia with his wonderful hands creates cheese, which has even been awarded worldwide.
In total they make 6500 pieces, starting in January and until mid-May or June. And they do them in the most natural way possible: they collect the warm milk and cool it, so that it is kept in good condition and not cut, then at the time of curdling, they reheat and put the rennet to " bain-marie"; They remove the serum, put it in moulds and have it in the chamber drying a minimum of two months.
It seems simple, but in simplicity is excellence. Maybe because they have good pastures with great views, but these latxas sheep (type of sheep’s) produce incredible milk and a cheese! I can not leave without buying any cheese. I've taken four. The backpack will smell nice, but ...
I arrived at the hostel, but eager to tell those present the experiences lived and as soon as I told them that I bought chacolí and cheese I have been told that the best companion for that is bread. I have not dined, but the snack-dinner that we are going to stick ... I do not know if there will be anything left for home.
What is unknown, is not valued and many believe that those who carry this type of life belong only to museums. But Beizama is a town that is proud of its values. A people full of life that have united and for nature giving a lesson to humanity.
I have spent several periods in Andalusia and I have been fortunate to make many friends there. Some of these friends have expressed for the first time the desire to know what is going on 'Up there'. Anyway, Sevillians Dolores and Rafi often run away from the clichés and told me that the sport shown on the roof of a famous TV series caught their attention. That is why they want to know more about the Basque pelota (or Basque handball, a traditional Basque form of handball). I would have never expected they would ask for this! However, I found the solution on www.urolaturismo.eus since I discovered the initiative Zu ere pilotari (you are a pelota player).
It is an initiative that seeks to stop being a simple observer and for two hours become a real pelotari with a professional. They give you the opportunity to play the ball by hand and/or pala (a kind of racket made of wood), also explaining the secrets of our sport. We got in the car and told them it would surprise them, and that they should prepare a tracksuit and slippers.
We have reached the fronton (the place where pelota is played) Gurea in Azkoitia. It is an 85-year-old building, which is 38'5 meters long and capable of accommodating 888 people. Jesus Mari Andueza has explained that 17 years ago, they could come up to 1,300 people, but with the remodeling the third floor was removed from the fronton.
The image of Mariano Juaristi, Atano III, is present in the fronton. According to Andueza, Juaristi has been the best pelotari of the town and for many people was the best in history since he won a lot of championships in two decades.
It is said that they gave the Txapela (the prize they give you when you win a pelota game) to this person in the time of war even without playing the game! The point is that his fame has reached these days and his name is written in gold in the history of this sport; for example, the main fronton of Donostia bears his name. However, he has not been the only famous pelotari in town. Jesus Mari told us that in 1980 there were 24 azkoitiarras who played for professionals and that besides the Atano family, the Tapia, Andueza or Larrañaga families were really attached to this sport.
Previoysly, Azkoitia was denominated like "The cradle of the ball" and it is the unique town that has participated in all the editions of the championship Interpueblos. Unfortunately, Andueza has recognized us that those times are not the same as those of today and that the sport pelota no longer has the health of before, although what is being lost in Euskal Herria is being won in Soria, Zamora or Burgos. Not in vain in the summer season, there are many towns that in their festivals announce pelota festivals.
After two hours in the fronton and a good shower, we left the room with a smile in the mouth, and as soon as we have crossed the door that smile has become greater since we have found in front another six frontones. All united, all different, as if it were a work of art.
The poster has indicated that it is Fronti Zuriak or the Frontones of Jorge Oteiza and like I usually do when I get into the kitchen ... I have left these Sevillians shocked with my wisdom. I have explained them that Azkoitia was the adopted town of this universal artist, so they wanted to realize this space by bringing together the ideas of Oteiza with the pelotazale tradition.
The six frontones that symbolize the seven provinces of Euskal Herria show the different modalities of this sport, but as Oteiza used to say that the sculptures have to be effective, they played with the spaces in such a way that everyone could use this area to enjoy the sport. "The truth is that the pelotaris are called the artists of the court and in this work of art anyone can carve their sculpture with pelotazos." They have looked at me with a strange face, but it came out of my mouth.
Recently, I had been to Azkoitia and to seize the day I thought of showing Dolores and Rafi what I learned from Juanba Mendizabal. We have approached the square and under the arcades of the Town Hall we see some people giving dimbi-damba to the ball, that is, playing pelota. And I say, don't the local police and the mayor complain?
The cameras have begun to take shots and our faces must have been a poem since two men have immediately approached us to ask if we liked what we were seeing. In addition, they told us that they would explain what that was. Now, a question arises: who are you? He responds: I am Juan Mari Juaristi, Atano XIII. We are going to meet a member of the Atano family!!!
We have invited him to a coffee and he has treated us with great pleasure. He laughed when I explained that I want to introduce the two Sevillians in the world of pelota and that is why I brought them to Azkoitia. Surely he has thought that I am crazy, but at least he has explained to us that the two frontones Goiko Losa and Kontzejupe are really important in the town.
Those frontones are located in the main square. Both were built in the 18th century. The Town Hall was built in the 1930s, but so much was the demand to play pelota in the village ... that its arcades became frontones. Goiko Losa was built by the Count of Peñaflorida in 1759 and soon became a betting area.
In any case, the Azkoitiarras have always had a special affection for Kontzejupe, as being in the middle of the village gives a special vitality. At the time of txikiteo (when people go out and have a couple of wines), it has always been a meeting area to watch people playing pelota; workers used to play there before entering the factory and here have been various bets and special festivals. It is a fronton with its own rules, with the wall on the right (and three doors on it!) and not on the left, with vaulted ceiling, columns, different traps ... so to play here you have to leave the force aside and you have to use other skills and your head. The great Atano III used to say that the one who knew all the cracks and traps of this fronton was prepared to play anywhere, and that Kontzejupe has been the University of all the pelotaris of Azkoitia.
We have had a good time with Juan Mari and we are sorry that we had to leave. Some people will say that sport is not culture, but I believe that today we have practiced and learned a lot by doing sporting culture. Dolores and Rafi are amazed and I think they will return to Andalusia satisfied with the surprise that I have given them. Speaking a bit about Andalusia ... tapas; tapas and hunger ... hunger and ... Pintxopote!
Argazkia: Ttakun Taberna
This is also culture, so today we will also go home with a full stomach after going through the bars of Azkoitia.
Many thanks to Jesus Mari Andueza for making this experience something unforgettable and of course, to Juan Mari Juaristi (Atano XIII) for getting closer to the interesting history of the pelota in the Basque Country. I can not forget Oihana from Urola Turismo, who is helping me to know all the corners of Urola.
I have a friend named Ekain, and I always thought the reason behind that was the month of June (Ekaina in Basque), but in a talk about names we had a few days ago we commented that his was connected to a cave of the Paleolithic located at one kilometer from Zestoa. That same night I started looking for information on the internet and discovered that in 2008 UNESCO named Ekain World Heritage Site. It was clear, I had to arrange a visit to Zestoa.
I approached the tourist office of the village for information, but before entering I found a large house made of stone and wood. I believe that in Zestoa I will find more than mere information about prehistory.
In the office, I was treated by a very nice girl named Nerea. She explained to me that Ekain cannot be visited but that I will feel the same feelings in a replica. Consequently, she sent me to Ekainberri.
Downhill, I passed an old bridge (Zubizarra) above the river Urola.
There I found the old laundry room called Lauiturri (four fountains). The posters indicate the way to go, so I've kept the map in my pocket.
Suddenly I found myself in front of a great palace. It has to be Lili's palace. Here they usually show the theatrical life that was taken centuries ago in these lands, but it is only open on the weekends so I will have to leave your visit for another day.
Leaving Lili behind, the road drives you among trees, where I have stopped, and take a good breath of fresh air. Moreover, I have taken a 360 degree turn to see the mountains and hear the rustle of the stream.
I do not know why, the movie "The Sound of Music" came to my mind and I started to sing the song "Edelweiss", but it is better not to tempt the rain, so I'd better go my way. I have found Ekainberri in 500 meters.
It is a spectacular concrete building that stands on the slopes of the mountain Sastarrain. Architecturally it is very special, and it is divided into two: the replica of the cave and the museum. I have been able to visit the cave next to Jon, who has demonstrated an infinite patience with me. I do not know how many times he had to say that I could not take pictures inside. As soon as you pass through the iron-gate you have the feeling of entering a cave; coldness, the noise of every drop of water, darkness ... the paintings that look like those made 14,000 years ago. Jon has explained to us that what is seen is not the replica of the whole cave but one of the most important parts.
The paintings are preserved so well because it seems that some 12,000 years ago there was a landslide that buried the cave. You cannot see many places in the world with paintings of this period so well preserved and one of them is right here. I have known that humans did not live here and only used this place to come and paint. We can say that Ekain was the San Telmo or Guggenheim of today. With the music and sounds, I have felt a great inner peace, the peace that brings relaxation; I guess artists feel something like this when they start looking for their muses. Anyway, it's a good thing I do not have to paint anything ... my paintings are worse than those of three-year-olds.
With that sense of peace I have entered the museum and found an exhibition on bears with skulls and tools of that time.
That has led me to think how humans of that time would do to hunt such animals and I found the answer immediately: Ekain Abentura! In this park I have joined a group that has come to spend a few days at the spa (with the hustle that I take I need to rest, so do not be surprised if I finish talking about this site) and showed us how they made fire, painted and hunted.
I have imagined myself with a spear and a loincloth of skin and a YABADABADOOOOO! came out of my mouth! The general laughter has been great and my face has taken the color of a cherry tomato.
Nevertheless, I could not leave the place without seeing the real Ekain, even the smallest part! I walked the 600 meters that separate me from the real Ekain with pleasure, and I set the camera on fire taking pictures until I started to hear noises: my stomach.
I returned to the tourist office to ask for a place to eat something and asking for a guide that would show me the village. They gave me the telephone number of Vicente Dabila, but he had another visit and I will not be able to be with him in two hours. Therefore, I am preparing to fill the gut. I approached the bar Fati and see the poster of "Urola Gustagarri", so I have not thought twice and I have entered inside.
Arantzazu have attended me and explained that Urola Gustagarri is a project in which different bars of the valley participate with the intention of using different pintxos or food dishes, thinking of all tastes and pockets, giving importance to seasonal and local products (that's why it is also named Udaberriko Zaporeak or Sabores de Primavera). And of course, I could not resist eating the "Lumagorri (farm chicken) in its nest" along with a good beer. In a small casserole, forming a nest with the potatoes, I have eaten the wings of the lumagorri in the blink of an eye. Juicy and delicious.
I liked the idea and I went in search of another bar enrolled in the project. I have arrived at the bar Mollergi and I have swallowed the pintxo "Euskal Kebab". The product is really worthy, in the form of Kebab but with native flavors. Lumagorri, lettuce, tomato, onion ... all washed down with a special sauce: it makes you want to lick your fingers!
Once I have recovered my strength, I am ready to join Vicente and visit the village. Following his advice we have begun the visit in the Cross of Zestoa.
We arrived in just three minutes. This cross is of the 17th century and apparently after the Medieval age this type of crosses were placed to mark the beginning of the town. It is a special place for the native ones, because they usually do the tamborrada here. In addition, it has a peculiar history, because they had to renew it in the decade of the 50s, but some "enlightened" bricklayer thought that it would be better turning the capital around and thus we can see it today. We started with the visit and have seen many houses and monuments:
The house of Pio Baroja, house in which he lived when he was the doctor of the town; the town square that becomes a bullring at parties, as wide as it is full of charm (the views that look over its buildings are beautiful), there recorded the movie "Arriya", for example, and there we will find the building called "Toriles ", designed by Ignacio Ibero in 1767 to see the bulls.
The Town Hall, apparently the oldest building in Gipuzkoa fulfilling this task, because in Euskal Herria normally people used to gather under the oak trees to discuss the issues, but in Zestoa this house was built for these works in 1601; the hamlet "Lizarritz", perhaps the oldest building of the town since it appears already documented in 1469, although its present aspect took it in the 18th century;
The "Casa Torre", made by municipal commission to host the knights who arrived at the General Boards of Gipuzkoa; or the church of the Nativity of Mary, built in isolation from the rest of houses to avoid the risk of fire.
There had been a lot of things in a short time and I ended up busted, but glad to have the opportunity to know more about this town. I'm going home, with the notebook full of notes. I do not think I will have trouble sleeping today. Will I dream that I have become Peter Flintstone?
Azkoitia has left me trapped and on my way to Azpeitia, I decided to rest at the Hotel Loyola. What better name to rest these days, right? For tomorrow I have been recommended to visit the Parish of San Sebastián de Soreasu and while thinking about all the colours and stories that I will find, I have seen a huge red building that has intrigued me.
Under the Izarraitz, surrounded by green grass, and with the reflection of the blue sky and its white clouds, it gets a special aura around it. But my feet do not let me do one more step and my curiosity will have to wait until tomorrow.
As soon as I got down to breakfast I called Paco. He is going to show me the parish, but first I want to see this building because it gives me something that San Ignacio must do with this monument.
I've been trying for ten minutes to dare to ring the bell. In the end, as if the conscience asked me, is there ...? The finger has been directed to the call switch. Carmen has opened me, nice to rage, she explained to me that this was a convent. But this building holds a treasure in its back: The Chapel of Our Lady of Olatz. A chapel as simple as it was charming of the twelfth century, Ignacio de Loyola adored it, keeps the image of a Virgin of the Romanesque that gives the name to the temple, the place and many women of Euskal Herria.
How many times would San Ignacio visit this hermitage? Surely, as many as I visit the barrel of the bar under my house. Turning to the beauty that can arise from simplicity, I realised that I was going to be late for my date with Paco and I left for the Parish of Soreasu.
Paco has been walking between these walls for years. Imagine how many, who, being here, knew Juan XXIII when he was still a Cardinal of Venice, illustrious personage who would end up being first Pope and saint afterwards.
The Loyola are buried under the high altar and you can still see the pile where Ignatius was baptised.
And above our heads, an impressive organ. Together with Paco, I could go up to the choir and I have seen for the first time in my life how this musical instrument is. I like to listen to music and much, besides, but I am bad when trying to play a melody. That's what we'll leave it to the experts because sounding these tubes is not in anyone's hands.
This in its day Templar center has 8 different chapels, but perhaps, the most special, it is the one of "The Solitude".
It was built after asking for it for Nicolás Sáenz de Elola. This one was to the conquest of Peru next to Pizarro and had to return to its native town bathed in gold. Painted in grisaille style you will seem to be in the "Divine Comedy" of Dante.
As I left the parish of San Sebastián de Soreasu my feet have taken me to the Magdalena. As soon as I got there I found Miren. From his hand, I have been able to see the hospital and the hermitage that the founder of the company of Jesus so well knew.
On his return from Paris, Ignacio spent three months in this hospital showing his teachings. By that time, he already had many followers and what to say in his town, so every time he gave mass the hermitage was filled up and the sick who could not approach her, had put them by the window so they could see him and hear him. The Hermitage is found as in the thirteenth century, with the same soil and the pilgrim way, I took off my shoes to enter it. The hospital, however, has undergone a great change but has only one theme: Ignacio de Loyola. I have not been the only visitor, since there are people from all over the world around here, as evidenced by the Chinese or Japanese signatures, or ... well from the east, which appears in the guestbook.
The day has been long and I'm out of luck, I'm going to get in the car and head home. But, suddenly I am surrounded by people who go from bar to bar through the streets of Azpeitia. Clear! The pintxo-pote! This is a divine message. I have entered a bar called Zuhatz and leaning on the dart machine, and along with a beer, I have been served a pintxo ...
The day has been full of colours, reddish, blue, green, black, white ... but it is time to immerse me in the colours of the different skewers. Today, the bartender from under my house will miss me.
Thank you to Paco and Miren for making this an unforgettable experience. Also, thank Oihana and Maixa from Urola Turismo for taking care of me and giving me all the necessary information and advice.