Friday, October 26, 2007


The only downside to living in Salamanca, I think, is that it's not really a transportation hub. For most destinations, your only option is to take a bus, unless you want to go to Madrid or some other big city first.

So, for instance, I went to Bilbao a couple of weekends ago, which required a 6-hour bus ride each way. It actually wasn't so bad: the buses in Spain are pretty nice, and the bus stopped for 30 minutes in Burgos, so I had a few minutes to check out the cathedral there.

I enjoyed Bilbao a lot. I went there to see the Museo Guggenheim, but Bilbao is actually a pretty lively city, and there are a number of things to see. I went to the beach one day, spent a day in the museums, and spent another day just wandering around the city's parks.

I stayed in a somewhat... interesting neighborhood in Bilbao. It's clearly an immigrant neighborhood—there are a number of halal butchers there, for instance. And it's a poor neighborhood, with people hanging out on street corners with nothing to do. I even saw someone have his wallet stolen while I was there. But the neighborhood is also filled with a number of hip restaurants, galleries, and stores, since it's right across the river from the city center.

I didn't realize this before, but Bilbao is located in a very beautiful section of Spain. The city center is pretty flat, but it's surrounded by hills, so you catch views like this as you walk around town:

And just one more photo of the museum (the Guggenheim is a lot of fun to photograph, but I won't bore you with all of my photos):

The Guggenheim building is pretty cool, and I enjoyed the permanent Richard Serra installation inside, but the art itself isn't particularly spectacular. The city has another museum, the Museo de Bellas Artes, which has an amazing collection of modern Spanish art. (I think that this museum is now one of my favorite museums, as is the Reina Sofia in Madrid.)

The Museo de Bellas Artes also has an outdoor sculpture collection, which includes two more pieces by Serra, as well as this strange sculpture:

While I was wandering around the city, I ran into a tourist office with a lot of graffiti. But it was the piece at the bottom that really caught my eye. SPQR? Does that mean something else in Spain, or is this really a reference to the Roman republic?

Bilbao also has another neat architectural landmark, a bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. It looks cool from a distance, but when you get close to it, you realize that it's starting to fall apart, even though it's just 10 years old. I wonder if it's a design flaw, or if the city just isn't taking care of it?

There was actually an story about this in the news today: the city added an extension to the bridge recently, and Calatrava has sued them for violating his copyright. Meanwhile, the city claims that Calatrava's design was flawed, because of problems like those cracked glass tiles.

Then, while wandering around the parks in the city, I ran into this sculpture, which I though was pretty neat. If I remember correctly, it's actually a war memorial for the Spanish civil war.


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