Bilbao – Art and History

It’s a blustery, wet Saturday in Bilbao, so what better way to spend the day than discovering art and history in some of the city’s museums. Of course, the famous Guggenheim is the obvious choice and it’s swirling, titanium covered exterior is certainly impressive. However, I am not a big fan of modern art and so I decide to visit the nearby Museum of Fine Arts instead. It costs much less than the Guggenheim and for an extra €1 I can have an audio guide which is worth every centime. Several key works of art are commented upon, giving colourful details of the artists and their paintings. It also includes extra information about the current special exhibition of Dario de Regoyos who died 100 years ago. I like his artwork, city and rural scenes influenced by the pointillism of Seurat, Signac and Pissarro. My personal favourite is “Snow on Corn”, which seems slightly unbelievable but still beautiful. There are also scenes of places I have been (e.g. San Sebastian) and places I have yet to see (e.g. Burgos).

In the end, I’m unable to avoid the modern art as there is a dedicated space in the Museum. My mind is not imaginative enough to understand the meaning of the paint spattered canvases, the twisted bronze sculptures or the pieces of broken picture frames scattered across one corner of the floor.

DSCF6476I escape the chaos of modernity by walking across the city to the old town. Another labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets lined with pintxos bars, delicatessens, wine merchants and souvenir shops. Next to the river is the Mercado de la Ribera, one of the largest food halls in Europe. It’s a very clean and modern building with lifts and escalators serving both floors and decorated with stained-glass windows. I’m feeling hungry now and it is the time that the Spanish stop work to take a long, lazy lunch. I find a restaurant in the old town and settle down to a feast of Basque bean stew, monkfish and cheesecake, accompanied by ½ a litre of red wine and a huge crusty bread roll. It’s a lovely relaxed meal until the restaurant is invaded by a large group of men wearing red t-shirts and black berets, who are either a local football team or a stag party.

I retreat to the calm of the Archaeology Museum, located in the old town in a former railway station. The exhibits chronicle life in the region from 40,000BC to the present day. Neolithic stone tools, bronze weapons, pots and plates and Roman engravings. Even the remains of an ancient boat found buried in river silt. It makes me realise that my days on this earth are an insignificant speck on the progress of time. That’s why it’s important to make the most of it, and I intend to continue doing just that.

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