In January of 1937, the Republican government, then mired in the Spanish Civil War against the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco, commissioned renowned Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, to paint a large mural to be displayed at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Picasso, who had left Spain in 1934 and not returned, had toiled with different ideas for the mural, and abandoned his initial project when he heard of a significant Spanish and World history changing-event.

The 26th of April, 1937 was a market day in the Basque town of Guernica (Gernika in Basque and officially Gernika-Lumo) but this day would be like no other in its long history. At 16:30, air forces led by the Condor Legion of the German Luftwaffe with support from Mussolini’s Italian air legion, began an assault that would last three hours, and destroy or severely damage almost every building in Guernica. Although the number of dead has been debated for years, it is now accepted to be between 200 and 300 with many more being injured.

Why did the bombing of Guernica happen? From the perspective of Franco’s Spanish Nationalist government, it intended to demoralized and break the Basque people and the Republicans. It may be arguable, but Hitler and the military of Nazi Germany were not only looking to complete a favour for their ally, General Francisco Franco, but were looking for somewhere to “practice.” Hitler and the Nazis wanted to test and hone their new method of carpet bombing that would later be used in Russia and throughout Europe in World War II.

Continue Reading…

For years, I had passed the Cathedral Provincial Park and Cathedral Lakes Lodge signs on the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) in southern British Columbia, Canada and wondered what it was like in the remote area close to the United States border. I had seen photos and heard so much about the unique rock formations, rugged mountains, peaceful lakes, and vibrant meadows. Cathedral Provincial Park is a true wilderness experience and was on my list of top places to explore. This year, I had an opportunity courtesy of the Cathedral Lakes Lodge and looked forward to my visit on a sunny weekend in late June. Well, my anticipation was more than met by the beauty and ruggedness of this remarkable part of the World!

Cathedral Provincial Park is located at the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountain Range in British Columbia. Unlike Manning Provincial Park to the west, Cathedral is influenced by the semi-arid Similkameen Valley that is evident along Highway 3 as you travel east from Princeton. It provides for an interesting and unique ecosystem in this small area of the province. The dryness is certainly evident, but as you increase elevation, there is a lushness under the canopy and in the meadows, due to the snowpack that normally lingers into June.

Now, let me take you on an overview of my visit to Cathedral Provincial Park. Imagine waking up to this! Just outside the Cathedral Lakes Lodge, the reflection of Quiniscoe Mountain on Quiniscoe Lake early on a Sunday morning. Later, the fisherman in the canoe arrived to the lodge with trout. Not everyone is here to hike!

Quiniscoe Lake Cathedral Park reflection canada

Continue Reading…

There are pleasant surprises awaiting for you every day on the Camino de Santiago. They may be another pilgrim who you meet and bond with, even if it’s for a short while. It could be the landscape, a field of flowers, a friendly dog, a tasty meal, or an ancient landmark or building. It could be yourself, as you get stronger, and what would have been a difficult climb at an earlier point in your life or even your Camino, wasn’t so daunting now.

On this day, as I walked through the hills east of Gernika, the surprise was in the form of a ancient structure that I had no idea existed. It was one that without the nearby sign, you could pass by with barely noticing. I’m talking about the Puente Artzubi and we’ll get there very soon.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Zenarruza to Berriondo, past Berriondo as we get closer to the town of Elexalde. Now, lets continue as we travel trough a mix of small communities and forest.

Berriondo Elexalde road basque camino del norte

Continue Reading…

I left the albergue in Zenarruza still feeling tired and weak after a long, hard walk the previous day from Deba. I didn’t worry about awaking early and was out by 9 AM. Markina-Xemein was a memory now and I wanted to put the experience of almost getting robbed behind me. Still, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy for the days to come.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Bolibar to Zenarruza, at the Colegiata de Zenarruza or Monasterio de Zenarruza. Now, let’s continue with the small town of Munitibar ahead. From Zenarruza, there is a good climb of about 75 meters before a steep drop to Munitibar.

Zenarruza basque Camino signpost norte

Continue Reading…

If you are walking the Camino del Norte in the hills west of Markina-Xemein, please give yourself some time to visit the Colegiata de Zenarruza or Monasterio de Zenarruza. I wasn’t expecting the monasterio and was quite surprised when I visited late into a very long day. I was absolutely dead tired after walking over 32 kilometers from Deba, of which the last two hours were not planned. I arrived to the quiet grounds and felt a sense of peace and started to regain my strength. It also helped that I wasn’t carrying my backpack, as I left it in the near-by albergue where I would be staying the night.

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Markina-Xemein to Bolibar, in the town of Bolibar. Let’s continue climbing with about 150 meters of elevation gain to Zenarruza. I couldn’t figure out what Ziortzara Doan Bidarria refers to. If you know, I’d appreciate a comment below. We’ll go right here…

Ziortzara doan bidarria sign spain

Continue Reading…

I apologize that I don’t have many photos of Markina-Xemein, but I had a rather unsettling experience as I entered the Basque town. The first three days on the Camino del Norte had already worn me down, and I was sick and very tired. All I could think of was finding a bed for the night.

While walking alone besides a farm just before the town, I was approached by a very large man (I don’t mean tall) who came right into my face. He demanded money and my phone. He wasn’t armed that I could tell, and although I was in shock, I said no and started walking away. He then got right in my face again, so I yelled and the farmer up the road looked our way. The would-be thief then went along the path toward the town. I didn’t want to go backwards so I cautiously went ahead, hoping he had disappeared. Instead, he was waiting around the curve and walked toward me again. This time, I picked up my speed to a jog, got around him, and even with my backpack on, the burley thief could not keep up. I kept checking back, but was lucky he quit following me. Or so I hoped…

I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Olatz to Markina-Xemein, just before this spot. The aforementioned incident took place below the farmhouse.

Markina Camino del Norte Basque

Continue Reading…