I don’t consider myself a connaiseur of fine dining. I like simple flavours and big portions for relatively small price. Polish snacks are in TOP5 of my gourmet snack’s list although my British friends think they are disgusting. How can you eat a bread with lard? – they ask. Yuck. Well I can! Moreover I think it’s delicious even though my veins are not so convinced. Anyway, when in Poland, just give it a go. So we already established I like to eat. It’s the main reason why I was so excited to write this post. I was so excited I did it twice coz first time I obviously didn’t save it properly. I’ve been waiting so long to share with you my short but how rewarding trip to the Basque Country.
I hope that no one of you guys is on a diet because I could describe my trip in just 3 words. Paradise of flavours.
Mysterious Donostia is better known as San Sebastian in Spanish. Small town in the northern east Spain with famous film festival. Basque St. Tropez or Cannes-ish. Bold and beautiful. You need a special itinerary to enjoy this place. The Itinerary full of good addresses. Pintxos are the main reason of all the pilgrimages to Donostia. And the main reason we are here today. Saturday 9am. Me, Pia and Shun barely recognize each other behind huge sunglasses. Camouflage. Or rather Friday Night Fever. We count on a nap on a bus but Pamplona is only 1hr from San Sebastian. Well, let the gentle wind of the sea wake us up! We walk towards famous La Concha beach. We aren’t here to play tourists but it is too early to hit all these tempting pubs so we decide to give San Sebastian a chance to seduce us with its beautiful views. Check them out as a part of my short introduction.
Hungry? so are we! So to the point. Or I should rather say to a bar! So why everyone is so crazy about pintxos? In my previous post about Pamplona I explained that pintxos are similar to spanish tapas but they exist only in Navarre and Basque County hence their uniqueness. There are so many different type of pintxos you will really have a headache from simply looking at those tasty little colorful things on plates. I suppose no one have ever tried every single one during one pub crawl. It should be the next challange for the guy starrying at Man vs. Food!
Pintxos.. small masterpieces. Colours and flavours of basque’s world. In basque language word pintxo means “a sword” and I have to admit that this name is very appropriate. You will probably need a sword to get inside a pub in the high season. Pub crawl in Basque Country is kind of a sacred sport. Forget old fashioned tradition of “one pintxo, one drink”. Today a better slogan would probably be “eat as much as you like”.
Other sweet lie is that you pay with colorful toothpicks after you eat (different colour, different price). Although it sounds like a good idea it simply isn’t. Why? Because there are hundreds of tourists coming to these little pubs everyday and I wouldn’t believe they are all honest if it comes to paying. So this is more or less all about pintxos. Talked the talk now it’s time to walk the walk. Live it up!
I also have to mention why San Sebastian is worth seeing in January. Of course – Tamborrada! Festival held annually on 20th of January (Saint Sebastian’s day) If you are not into FUN and NOISE – avoid. It’s all about loud sound of drums in the air! So where did it come from? From the end of 18th century, as the city was the subject of several military actions, sieges and damage, sometimes with dire consequences in which international powers were involved. The origin of this custom is said to be that locals mocked the marching soldiers stationed in the city by aping their daily procession from the San Telmo headquarters to the Main Gate at the city walls, using for the purpose buckets and hardware from the water-pump. The comic procession in carnival mood may have developed into a youth music group – the Carnival of Donostia started at this point on the 20th of January. Nowadays it is the most important event for all citizens of Donostia. This day is important also for children. They dress traditionally as soldiers from Napoleonic times and march around the city playing little drums honoring the heroes of the defense of the city and its patron.
Now wake up your inner soldier coz I command you – to pubs, for pintxos, GO!
A post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t add some extra spice. So we came to San Sebastian at 10am. Shun booked the last bus back home. Great. 10h. It is literally NOTHING to do in San Sebastian for 10 hours. We walk around the Old Town once, twice.. we eat and drink. Would be just perfect to take a nap somewhere… Next five hours and it’s so hot I really feel I have had enough. When I came back home my face reminds a mature tomato, changing its structure within next couple of days to a.. toadstool (allergy! here it comes again!). I presume it was San Sebastian’s revenge for saying there was nothing to do there. But this is how I feel. You go to Donostia for pintxos and even though they are small, after all, you realize it’s a huge thing. It’s a lifestyle. IT IS the Basque culture. One and only.