Bilbao

Set on the banks of the Nervion River Bilbao (pop. 369 000) the largest city in the Basque region is a rather grimy industrial port. Although it is not a tourist center, this city is rapidly working at re-inventing itself as one and warrants at least a days visit to see its attractions.

The new futuristic-looking Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, devoted to modern art, is the cornerstone of a major redevelopment project of the citys waterfront undertaken by the Basque administration. This amazing building was designed by Frank Gehry, an architect from Los Angeles, CA and one of the best contemporary architects working on this planet today. It is almost indescribable and consists of swirls clad in titanium and great panels of glass supported by steel girders and looking like an erector set for adults gone mad. The major part of the museum is covered on the exterior by titanium sheets of 2 x 3 feet and looking somewhat like scales on a fish. Much of the interior is in stone tiles of the same size and as most of the walls are curved all these tiles were laid out and cut by computer and only fit in one space. Now that’s a clever way to drive up the job cost. A beautiful, beautiful project and the reason many come to Bilbao. The visitors may also enjoy seeing the Museum of Archeology and Ethnology (Roman prehistoric and Iberian exhibits), the Bellas Arte’s Museum and the Museum of sea. Other places of interest in the city are the 14th-century Gothic Church of Santiago, the Old City(Casco Viejo) and Ensanche Park. Another new architectual marvel is Bilbao’s Metro (subway) designed by Norman Foster. A space age mode of rapid transit straight out of a high teck science fiction vision. A quick bus or train excursion which is very popular is to the market town of Gernika,whish has great beaches and the Basque countries only Irish owned country pub Scanlan’s Tavern.

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