Thursday, March 7, 2013

Festivals of the Basque Country: Markina & Lekeitio

the river meets the sea in Lekeitio

The Basque Country is a land of festivals, and spring means more than the hope for a bit of sunshine, it means a whole new lineup of activities. As I cover my wall with Post-its of all the towns I want to visit, and festivals I want to celebrate, (including, but not limited to the honey festival, the asparagus festival, and the chocolate festival!), I thought I would take a look back at my first festival in the Basque Country, an agricultural fair in Markina.


On a warm day in October I hopped onto a bus that I hoped was the correct one, and made my way to the town of Markina to see what Basque agricultural tradition was all about. I had heard that the festival would be a good way to learn about the Basque Country, and I was not disappointed. In town I found a bustling market with everything from colorful produce to sweet Basque pastries and savory Idiazabal cheese samples. While the better part of me could make an entire meal out of Spanish cheeses, I opted for the traditional fare: talo. A sort of Basque burritio, talo is a thick cornmeal tortilla that can be filled with cheese or chorizo. Like many traditional foods, a generation ago it was food for the poor. In Markina it was €4.00.

Perhaps the most significant thing about the fair, though was its place in my burgeoning love of Basque livestock. Here I took my first photo with Basque sheep, and although I resisted purchasing a cowbell at this fair, it's on my list of things to do before I return to the States. 

my first photo with Basque sheep!
I could put it on my bike, right?
serving up talo is a lot of work with this crowd
my first talo

The Spanish say el mundo es un pañuelo, the world is a handkerchief, and it must be true, because on the bus to Markina I happened upon a couple of American girls also destined for the festival. After we'd done a good bit of exploring and snacking in Markina I tagged along with them on a windy, nauseating bus ride to the nearby costal town of Lekeitio.

the beach in Leketio
the island in Lekeitio

Lekeitio is, like a great many small costal towns in Europe, charming and scenic. The beach is nice for surfing and there is an island that you can walk to at low tide. As it was high tide on a blustery autumn day, my new friends and I chose to follow the river inland on a trail that led us past chestnuts, boats, and more sheep!

Both towns merit a stroll, but if you ever get the chance to festival with the Basque don't pass it up! 

Basque fruit
flyer for the festival--don't miss it!

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