Thursday, 21 June 2012


And so we arrive in Bilbao.  This is a spectacular city, busily trying to reinvent itself.  It was once one of Spain's great manufacturing cities, but most of the industry has been swept away and replaced with modernist masterpieces - there seems to be a consensus to produce whacky and wonderful buildings, many a product of Spain's mad property boom.
Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, of course, has pride of place, beside the river. 
Bilbao is built in a gorge, steeply rising on both sides, with little level ground to build.  So it squeezes everything into a tight space along the valley bottom, with many bridges across the river.  There is a tight little medieval centre with one of the pilgrimage churches on the route to Santiago de Compostela, a grid of narrow, shady streets with high stone buildings, like Barcelona's old city. Most of the rest of the city is either from the late 19th century, the time of the industrial boom, or is very recent.  All around are the green slopes of the mountains on either side, rising up with terraces of villas.
We were lucky to arrive on an evening when there was a festival.  Somehow I always manage to do this in Spain - or maybe there are just a lot of festivals!  It was to celebrate the midsummer and buildings were specially illuminated.  The theatre had a projected son et lumiere that cleverly used the features of the building - a bit like the recent Buckingham Palace concert.  There were street performance all over the city.  We saw a local choir perform miscellanies of Beatles and Abba songs, rather well, in the porch of the medieval church.
Next day we walked and walked all over the town, taking in the very well looked after park and finishing at the Guggenheim.  Of course this has a spectacular presence within the town, but its interiors are also very spectacular, and good for large scale modern 3 dimensional art display.  With some exceptions, the permanent collection is not so interesting as the building, sadly.  Though we did take in a David Hockney exhibition (recently seen in London), which at first I thought was a bit banal. but grew on me as I went into it more.

No comments:

Post a Comment