I’m tempted to not write anything about Bilbao; I can’t do it justice. For the first time in a long time I’ve felt lost lost. No one in Bilbao speaks English, and no one cares for it. Prague felt foreign, but Bilbao is rural. It has that small town glue that binds the locals together.
Nursing one of the sorest heads I’ve ever had, I crawled out of bed with vague recollections of my first night in Bilbao. I remember pinchos, oversized gins, cobbled streets packed full of eating and drinking Spaniards, dancing with a blow up elmo doll, and a disjointed georgraphy conversation with two helpful foreign students on a bridge.Let’s just say itwas Bilbao 1 Lostboys 0 when I went to bed.
Avoiding the main city I just walked up. Bilbao is a bowl, with the center of town at the bottom. It was mid-afternoon, and I walked slowly, with no intention of stopping. I twisted and turned on mesmerizing backstreets for a while. Hundreds of people stood in the street and ate, so I did the same. I stood and ate a prosciutto roll in the Saturday afternoon sun, it was better than any KFC remedy I’ve had. It was like a saline drip.
With a newfound exuberance I left the bottom of the basin and climbed a set of stairs off a side street. Old town Bilbao transformed into suburban Bilbao and the people stared at me and my camera. A drugged up teen chased me through a park, chanting Spanish at me and pointing to my camera. ‘Amigo…. Something… Amigo, amigo.’ I ran – no brainer. *The bag of smack and dark glasses were a dead giveaway. (NB: Pretty quick on the old pins, so no real danger) By the time my heart rate returned to a respectable pace I was lost, so I kept walking. But I couldn’t stop. Every time I decided I’d had enough and I’d take on one more block, I’d round a corner and the camera would be back in my face. It was an ancient looking church balanced dangerously on a cliff’s edge or an old stone archway, or a scampering set of stairs that drove the cogs in my legs to keep walking. By the time I finally gave in the light was gone, and I just let myself trickle down the side streets and back into the city.
My time in Bilbao is definitely the highlight of my trip. The food is to die for, the people I met are already close friends, and the city is intoxicating. It sucks you in, and traps you in small, stunning pools of activity, but then changes and traps you again before you’re even aware you’d moved.
It’s definitely the most fun place to get lost with a camera, and should be noted in remedial books as a great hangover cure.