Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Little Hondarribia

Well, I found out today that I am living through a record-breaking year in Basque Country. The first record breaking fact is that the average temperature for November was 9.61º celsius (48ºF), which is the coldest November since 1928. Next exciting record-breaking event I am living through is the fact that Basque Country is experiencing the iciest year since 1934. Last but not least is the rain info. So far in November and December we have received over a third of the ANNUAL rainfall. San Sebastian has not had such a rainy year since 1923. Best fact though is that Hondarribia (the town where I work) received 67.2 liters (17.75 gallons) of rain JUST LAST MONDAY, which is the most rain of any day in December since 1955!!! Aren't you glad I could experience such record-breaking excitement this winter?!

On a brighter note, I thought I would share some photos of Hondarribia that I took awhile back, when it was sunny and not so cold as well some history of the city. I thought maybe this would be good for you to see pictures and therapeutic for me, so I don't go crazy when it rains all month hahaha.

According to history, Hondarribia dates all the way back to basically the ice age more than 50,000 years ago. Supposedly when the world was basically ice, cave men migrated south and stayed in caves and such, and one of these caves has been found in Hondarribia, and it is named Cape Higuer. In the next thousand years or so, Hondarribia was home to Vascons (get it- Pais Vasco?). These peoples basically had the land from the Pyrenees to the coast. During this time, a wall was built around Hondarribia to protect it but alas in the 400s barbarians came in and created quite a lot of trouble for the residents. After hundreds of years of unrest, Hondarribia finally gets peace...and thier name! In 1203, Hondarribia is awared foundation and by the Navarre King - Sancho VI. From the 13th century on, Hondarribia becomes an important Navarre port city for things to be shipped to Northern Europe, and is also an important fishing port city. Also important to note, Hondarribia is the Spanish name of the town - it is referred to as Fuentarribia in Basque language. After years of prosperity, in 1476 fights between the French and Navarre people start and in 1498 all but six buildings in Hondarribia burn to a crisp.

After this Hondarribia is rebuilt with all new buildings - new church, new walls, new castle - a while new look! Here are some pictures of what was rebuilt and still remains in Hondarribia. The Parish Church of Santa Maria de Asuncion y del Manzano. This church was rebuilt on the old walls that didn't crumble in the fires. In the book 'Los Pireneos' (The Pyrenees) by Victor Hugo, he describes Hondarribia as a “silhouette of a town of gold, with a sharp bell tower, in the depth of a blue gulf, in an immense area”. This famous Gothic belltower is what I see everyday on the bus and its always gorgeous, no matter what the weather is like! Another historical area is the Parte Vieja (Alde Zaharra in Basque) of Hondarribia. That which still stands was part of the original walled area of the city. With cobblestone streets, iron balconies and tiny pathways, the old part of town is always gorgeous. I would think that it would be filled with tourist shops or restaurants, but the truth is that it is hard to find a restauarnt in the maze of streets that are mostly just filled with very old houses!

However, with all of the wars during the next 300 years, Hondarribia has a hard time prospering because of bad relations which slow demand for thier exports. By the 1800s, Hondarribia is involved in the Carlist Wars and is taken over many times but eventually by the 1900s starts to rebuild itself by expanding the city center, strengthening the fishing fleet, and gaining land from the countryside to accomodate more residents. Here is a shot of one of the many boat entrances to the port. This is what it looks like now will have to use your imagination for how it looked in the 1900s!

Nowadays Hondarribia boasts a whopping 16,000 residents and is known as a small, beautiful village in Basque Country with heaps of good restaurants. I have met many tourists on the bus coming to Hondarribia just for lunch!

If you remember from my blog a loooong time ago about where I live and all that stuff, you remember that Hondarribia is the last city before France. It sits on the Bidasoa River and across the river is Hendaye, a French town. There is a long walkway along the river where you can gaze across the River and (when it is not pouring down rain like it has been) you can see France! I've not walked on the boardwalk for quite some time fact I can't think of the last day we didn't have rain haha! Oh well, I cannot complain, I love it here. Helena (my boss) keeps insisting to me that this is the worst winter ever and she hopes I come back next year to teach again and she promises that the weather won't be so rotten. In the meantime, I will stock up on hats, scarfs, boots and umbrellas!

I hope you're enjoying your week and you are not having as much rain as me! Hopefully we don't break any more records haha! Oh, and PS - I added a new pic of Hondarribia to my 'favorite shots' on the right. It's the one closest to the top with the boats and France in the background!


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