If you’re walking through the Basque city of Irún, you may notice a more modern look compared with many other Spanish cities of similar size. Ancient sites are scarce and not much seems to date earlier than the mid-20th century. Why is that?
During the early days of the Spanish Civil War, Irún was important due to its location on the border with France. Weapons destined for Republican strongholds, especially in the Basque region, would enter from France, by road or carried along trails through the hills. To stop this flow of weapons, General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist Army planned to take over the city in what would be later known as The Battle of Irún. On August 11, 1936, the Nationalist Army began a bombardment of the city, first from sea, and soon after, by air and ground. Although the Republican Army outnumbered the Nationalist Army, they couldn’t come close to the firepower. Added to that, the French had closed the border on September 8, causing a shortage of weapons and ammunition.
The battle lasted until September 5 when the remaining Republican Army retreated while burning any remaining building that they thought would aid the Nationalist Army. This destruction of a Basque city by Franco was by no means an isolated incident. If you’re walking the Camino del Norte, you will soon arrive at another important and rather sad reminder of the complete destruction of what I understand was a beautiful Spanish city. This is Guernica, a few days of walking from here.
I left my last post, Starting the Camino Del Norte, Hendaye to the Irún Albergue, at the albergue, located two to three blocks off the main road that the Camino follows in Irún. Now, let’s walk back up to the Fuenterrabia Kalea and continue our journey.