Day 5/6: Markina-Xemein to Guernika and Bilbao

Day 5/6: Markina-Xemein to Guernika and Bilbao

Weather: Mostly sunny and warm
Highlight: Taking two days off of the Camino ๐Ÿ™‚

Some tender loving care was needed, both physically and mentally, after our hike from Ermita del Calvario to Markina-Xemein. So sorry to have unleashed all the negative emotions we felt in that stage!

The hospitalero in Zumaia warned us of it being the hardest stage of the Camino del Norte and he was right! No wonder he was amazed that people our age would be taking on such a challenge. He knew what we were in for.

My right foot is still sore and slightly swollen – something I first complained about two weeks ago on Day 8 (Monjardin to Sansol on the Camino Frances). It might be wise to get something to bind it at the farmacia before we start walking the Camino Primitivo on May 14th.

Dave and I took the bus from Markina-Xemein to Guernika – the best 3 Euros spent for two people in lieu of a 25 km walk on a sore foot. In Guernika we even splurged on our first hotel room with private bath (Hotel Bolina) for 50 Euros – second treat of the day. We are beginning to feel rather spoiled now!

We love Guernika and its interesting but sad history. Here is what our Cicerone guidebook has to say about it:

Guernika is known primarily because of two men: Franco and Picasso. As the Spanish Civil War languished in a bloody stalemate, Franco faced heavy pressure to produce results. He shifted focus to the Basque Country. Although Franco’s military was outdated, he had Hitler and Mussolini’s modern air forces available, carrying with them a brutal new kind of war.

On a market day in 1937, the German Condor Legion introduced saturation bombing. Pummelling the town with incendiary explosives before passing a second time to strafe the fleeing townspeople. The town was destroyed and thousands were killed.

Aghast, Picasso took up the brush and produced one of his most famous works, which shares the town’s name. Intended as a warning to the world of the destructive power of new technology and the savagery of the fascist militaries, its message went largely unheeded.

From Guernika we took the bus to Bilbao – another well spent 5 Euros for the two of us. It took under an hour by bus, but would have been the longest walk ever for us: 35.5 km.

We are in an eight person dormitory at the Ganbara Hostel (18 Euros each) located in the heart of the old town. We never could have found this place without help from the local people, especially from a man, his wife, and mother-in-law who always seemed to be there to help whenever we took a wrong turn. We must really stand out in the Sunday crowds! Our accommodation is very good with cozy duvets so we don’t even have to take out our sleeping bags. Breakfast is included.

We arrived at the hostel at noon but couldn’t check in until 3 PM. We were able to store our backpacks here so that we could walk around for a few hours unencumbered.

Bilbao is a beautiul, walkable city and, even though we didn’t do a stage of the Camino today, we walked 15 km, mostly along the riverside and around the outside of the Guggenheim Museum.

Ganbara Hostel (lime green), Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

10 thoughts on “Day 5/6: Markina-Xemein to Guernika and Bilbao

  1. Happy Mother’s Day to you Judy and hope your foot has recovered sufficiently for your journey to continue without pain. Sounds like a reprieve and a few days rest are just what was needed.

    I’ve been to Bilboa and found it an intriguing city and the Guggenheim breathtaking…..thank you for rekindling memories!

    I look forward to a ‘spa’ afternoon with you upon your return – foot treatments for both of us.


    1. Hi Maggie! The foot is having another rest day as we are now taking a premium ALSA bus ride along the beautiful north coast to Oviedo. Stunning scenery and I smell coffee. I am looking forward to a spa day with every treatment available!

  2. What beautiful photos Judy and what a story.
    Happy Motherโ€™s Day – there is absolutely no shame in taking a bus!!! You continue to impress.
    Safe journey.

    1. Hi Kathryn! Enjoying one last rest day today as we travel by bus (pure luxury!) from Bilbao to Oviedo. Tomorrow we’ll be walking again, the first of 19 days. The sore foot had better go along with this plan.

  3. Nice to see the Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture – same as one outside National Gallery in Ottawa and several other major galleries. Bilbao looks like a very interesting city. Glad you are taking some time to enjoy it.

    1. Hi Sue! I didn’t realize there are more spider sculptures like the one at the Guggenheim Museum around. So Canada has one too!? We are now travelling to Oviedo which promises to be as interesting as Bilbao. Tomorrow we walk again…

  4. Judy another incredible day. I’ve seen Picasso’s Guernica at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. A big Art highlight for me. Amazing that you are there. Also love all the photos of Bilbao and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum. You’ve captured it beautifully. Frank Gehry another one of my heroes. Have also seen and loved Louise Bourgeois’s spider sculpture at the National Gallery. Her family were weavers so her spider sculptures are apt. Are you sure you’re not really on a self guided art and history tour? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Wishing you the continued kindnesses of strangers, a rested foot and happy trails.

    1. Hi Marjorie… It sounds like Louise Bourgeois came by her art naturally given her family history. The spider’s egg sac was beautifully detailed and Picasso’s Guernica makes a powerful statement with so much detail. So sad what happened with most of the population killed. A senseless loss of life! To see the work of two great artists in two amazing cities one day after the other makes me feel lucky. It IS like being on a self-guided art and history tour! Now that the tour is over we have to get walking. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hi Judy and Dave
    Happy Mothers day!!! just back from Kelowna and catching up on your adventures.
    Can you feel me on the bus with you. Ahh love it.
    I do have a ? for you… your sore swollen foot. Have you checked it out? I’m wondering
    whether you have a small stress fracture. Rest and support would be the thing.
    More art and “spa”. Definitely sitting with foot elevated while enjoying your vino.
    Loving your amazing pics.
    Love Bon… get that foot looked at!!!! Yes I am the bossy one.

    1. Hi Bon! How’s the grand-baby? I’m looking forward to seeing more pictures. She must be smiling lots now and it’s not just gas… I thought this could be a stress fracture although all I did was walk a long way. Could be AGE-related!!! Walking today it will be a short day. Hopefully my tensor foot sleeve thing will help.

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