Sunday, March 25, 2012

A trip to the enchanted mountain

With incredibly sunny weather predicted for Saturday, Joseba and I decided to try a new coastal hike.  Located near where I used to work in Hondarribia, Jaizkibel mountain is the furthest northern point on the Basque Country coast and has amazing views of the small medival town, France and the sea. 

We arrived just after a quick breakfast and set off to the top of the mountain, only about 1750 feet high.  Without a cloud in the sky we could easily see the cathedral tower in the Old Town of Hondarribia towering over the roofs and the boats floating in the port of Hendaye, France.  As we walked along, our town, San Sebastian came into view down the jagged rocky coastline and when we squinted you could even see the iconic mouse mountain where the small fishing town of Getaria is located. 

We passed two dolmens, or better stated, the remains of them.  A rock-formation (normally 3 or more stones vertically placed and one horizontal one on top), they are placed on top of a tomb and date back as far as the Neolithic period over 3000 years BC.  Since it is believed that Basques existed all the way back to caveman times, there are these type of dolmens all over and if it hadn't been marked, I probably wouldn't have even have noticed this mass grave.  A bit of a hill with stones scattered atop it, I am sure it was much more impressive when it was made, but the fact that it even remains in any state is impressive.

The hike continued on and instead of taking us along the side of the mountain that looked over the land, we soon turned towards the coast and headed downwards towards the shore.  A massive coast full of inlets, we kept wishing it had been a bit warmer and we could scale down to the water and dip in.  The calas, these inlets are called in Spanish, aren't really little beaches, but just merely rocks that reach the water and dive in.  On a summer day, you lay your towel on the large rock and just enjoy the sun and the sound of the waves crashing around you, and if you get hot, you just jump in!  Returning here is already on our summer to-do list.

As we walked along the trail more, a pathside sign informed us of the rich but dark past of Jaizkibel mountain.  Sorginak, a Basque version of the word witches, are said to have inhabited this mountain years ago and danced, met and conspired.  The word sorginak can signify the Basque goddess Mari's assistants as well as pagan preistess, which makes it difficult to decide which those who lived in Jaizkibel were. 

The sorginak were known to dance each Friday night, which was the day of the witches' sabbath, or akelarre locally.  This word has even converted itself into the name of the dance that was performed during these meetings.  The name is said to come from a mix of two Basque words - aker (man-goat) and lerre (meadow).  This worship in the mountains of a half man half goat only added to the dark aura surrounded these ladies who are also said to eat children, turning into the mean cats and poison crops. 

With the Spanish Inquisition, witch hunts began with abundance in Spain.  The most force was applied in the previous Basque region of Navarre, in a town called LogroƱo.  With over 300 women accused and killed of witchcraft, many were even burned at the stake or tortured to death.  The search for these sorginak is said to be one of the most famous witch hunts in Europe!

Leaving this harsh history aside, we continued along our walk all the way back to the start, only to find that while we were gone, a car rally race had been set up and our car blocked into a parking lot with police tape.  After 5 hours of walking we just wanted to go home, but weren't allowed to leave until the race finished!  Luckily a restaurant was open and we were able to sit down and fill up our bellies and then headed back down to some of the little inlets where we took a siesta on a rock in the sun.  Finally at 7:30 we were allowed to leave!  Maybe it was the sorginak who cursed us!


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