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The Casco Viejo. I have always loved it...

Published on 30 August 2017, In Event

By Aiala Lekuona, granddaughter of Fernando Artola ‘Bordari’, Basque writer and poet

The Casco Viejo (Old Town). I have always loved it, perhaps because the place inevitably makes me think of my grandfather in his long black coat, under which my brother and I hid when we walked along the Calle Mayor on winter nights. We did so because it was cold, but above all because the tenuous orange light of the few street lamps created shadows which frightened us. On rainy days, the smooth pavements of the road became slippery and we clung to his legs so we would not fall, while listening to the silence that has always been a source of comfort for me...

The Casco Viejo also pleases me because it is enveloped in its walls, like a bonbon in its wrapper...

There are buildings with names that you can roll over on your tongue: the Palacio Ramery, Palacio Zuloaga, Palacio Eguiluz, Palacio de Casadevante, Castillo de Carlos V... If you grew up reading Andersen, Grimm and Perrault, you can imagine these places as the settings for stories of knights, princesses, pirates and thieves. The look is perfect: narrow, cobbled streets, houses with wrought iron balconies and generous eaves, and a well-hidden square, the Plaza del Obispo, one of the oldest in the city, small but perfect, and only two minutes from our hotel.

I like these walls that whisper their stories. Sometimes they continue to do so all the way as I stroll down the Calle Mayor, or when I take a detour by Pampinot, Eguzki, Ubilla... to arrive always in the Plaza de Armas, where the transition from the twilight of the streets to the brightness of the sea makes these stories, my stories, always end well.

In this square stands the Castillo de Carlos V, with the tower of the Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion y del Manzano, characteristic elements of Hondarribia's skyline.

There are only a few days in the year when this silence is broken. The most important of these is probably September 8th, the day when the Alarde parade to the hermitage of the Virgin of Guadalupe takes place to celebrate and commemorate the lifting of the siege of the city in 1638, during the Thirty Years War.

Early in the morning, all the inhabitants of Hondarribia wake up ready to follow the txibiliti played by thousands of fifes and drums throughout the day.

The imposing Hacheros with their white helmets lead the parade, followed by the Tanborrada, the band of musicians, the Mayor and his cavalry escort, all the troops of the different quarters clad in their characteristic uniforms, and finally the artillery and the Council.

It is an eminently joyous day.

On that day, Casco Viejo is not silent, and yet still I love it.