Although quite a small town, Guernica (or Gernika in Basque) is the political and spiritual home of the Basques. The national assembly for the Basque country is here as is the Gernikako Arbola, an oak tree that is the symbol of their democracy, which is one of the oldest in the world.
The town is also known for being the subject of Picasso’s famous painting Guernica which hangs in the Reina Sofia in Madrid. The picture depicts the horrors of the bombing raid on the town inflicted by German aircraft on behalf of the Francoists during the civil war. 1,654 civilians were killed and much of the town was destroyed as these pictures show.
There is a tiled mural copy of Picasso’s painting called ‘Mural del “Guernica” de Picasso’
which you can see on Pedro de Elejalde Kalea, at the top of San Juan Kalea.
I’ve seen the original hanging in the Reina Sofia in Madrid. It’s a huge work and very moving, it made me weep when I saw it. Here’s an informative video about the painting.
The guerniqueses named a street in the centre of town after the famous Catalan painter. There are a few good bars and restaurants along here so it’s a good place to come in the evening.
There is also a statue here for José María Iparraguirre, the Basque bard, who wrote a famous anthem for the Gernikako Arbola.
There are a few attractive buildings nearby, along Carlos Gangoiti Kalea, probably built since the bombing.
The town was founded by Count Tello in 1366 as his statue attests.
As there wasn’t much else to do, I spent my Sunday walking around, taking in the scenes of everyday life.
Rain is a frequent occurrence so it makes sense to take precautions.
These kids going down a suicidally steep hill on anything with wheels reminded me of my own childhood!
Other things that caught my eye included the local council’s attempts at skimping on fountain repairs…
…and all the shop signs were written in Basque-style lettering with its distinctive As.
I was put up at the Hotel Gernika at 17 Carlos Gangoiti www.hotel-gernika.com which was fine if a bit dated but otherwise unremarkable.
There’s lots more to see and do no doubt, I was just unlucky to be here on the two quietest days of the week when everything was closed, I would happily have stayed on a bit longer though. Please see my next post for eating and drinking.
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Picasso’s Guernica discussed on the In Our Time programme on BBC Radio 4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09bxkdm