There are lots of festivals in the Basque Country, generally commemorating saints or historical events. Northern Spain’s biggest festival is Aste Nagusia and it honours the virgin of Begona. The festival begins on the first Saturday in August following August 15th. The city throws one hell of a party with fireworks, pop –up bars and music every night. The festival lasts for nine days and the metro runs 24/7 for the duration. Each year around 100,000 revellers turn up to do what they do best – join in the revelry.
There is a Strongman contest in Arenal. I’m sure the winner has an extra swagger in his step knowing that he is the strongest man in a region renowned for its strong men.
Each district does something to mark the Semana Grande. In Erandio there are parades including marching bands, giant puppets and mice that chase children around with brooms (how the tables have turned).
There is also the curious sight of witnessing oxen dragging massive blocks of cement through the street. This is a tradition from the mountain towns. The oxen are timed and the distance they cover is measured. People huddle around the barriers, placing bets and shouting encouragement. It must be big business as apparently the oxen are tested for doping.
Aste Nagusia 2014 was my first introduction to Bilbao. I liked it so much I thought to myself ‘Maybe I will live here one day.’ Twelve months later I arrived for Aste Nagusia 2015 with all my worldly possessions in tow.
PS. Can anyone think of better captions for the photos? Add your suggestions below.