The Basque Country has fascinated travelers for many centuries, for its unique language and culture, for the beauty of its diverse landscapes and, more recently, for its political complexity, world-class gastronomy and cutting-edge architecture. Every year, Mimo hosts an incredible, culturally oriented tour of the Basque Country. It is led by acclaimed author, Paddy Woodworth.
The “Discover the Basque Country” tours offer unique access to all aspects of this vibrant region and its people. The tours have been developed by Paddy Woodworth, author of two acclaimed books on the Basque Country, and by Jon Warren, founder of Mimo.
This year, he has taken the time to create a summary of the experience’s special moments. Enjoy!
What a pleasure it has been to co-host another ‘Discover the Basque Country’ tour for the World Bank’s 1818 Society tour with Mimo!
This is our third tour for the Society since 2016, and every time it has been the unplanned, serendipitous moments that give these trips a very special, unrepeatable quality – even if they are occasionally nerve-wracking for the organisers.
On this occasion, we had gone to meet the leading Basque author, Bernardo Atxaga, in his native village of Asteasu, where his best known novel, Obabakoak, is set. Atxaga very generously joins us for a lunch on these ‘Discovery’ tours, and his warm, witty and deeply knowledgeable company has always been a highlight for our guests.
This time around, he decided to add something new to the experience. He invited a dancer from the renowned traditional/classical dance group Argia to perform an aurresku, the traditional Basque tribute of welcome to distinguished guests. This dance is accompanied by a txistu, where the same musician plays a small flute or fife with one hand, a drum with the other.
The welcome was to be a surprise for our guests, but it was pre-empted by another set of surprises. Firstly, Atxaga rang me the night before our visit to advise me that he had learned that a special Mass had been organised by the village’s baserritarak (farmers) in honour of their patron, San Isidro, at the very church that is our usual meeting point. However, he thought it would be over by the time we arrived, and there was no need to change our plans….
To read more, please head over to our blog, where Paddy continues discovering the Basque Country.
Paddy Woodworth’s book, The Basque Country: A Cultural History, is available on Amazon.