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Ganbara Hostel a Cheap Hostel in Bilbao

Posted at:5 August, 2015 in Ambassador Blog

July 30 (cont’d)

I got off the train in Zaragoza and found a bus that would be leaving 45 minutes later for Bilbao…

…Jackpot!  The man at the train station was right!  €19.30 for the bus ticket.  I had no idea what it was going to cost, and would have had no choice but to pay had it been €119.30 to get me out of Zaragoza and into Bilbao.  It was my lucky day.

I was in aisle seat number 26, and a man was beside me in window seat number 25.  It was a pleasant surprise when a pretty Spanish girl came to tell the man that he was in her seat, so he moved out and she moved in.  I told her that I thought it was a nice trade-off.  She gave me her telephone to contact my bosses to let them know I had figured out a solution to get myself out of Zaragoza and would get to Bilbao.  On the drive, the land changes so much.  It goes from an hour of desert landscape with dry hills and cliffs of gorgeous colors, to an hour of farmland range of cereal crops, to an hour of vineyards, to gorgeous forested mountains.  I could not believe the diversity.

I arrived in Bilbao, caught the metro to Casco Viejo Station and was starving so I dropped into a small bar that had sandwiches and other snacks all over the counter.  I found out these are called pintxos, which are a Basque specific answer to tapas.  For €1.60, I had a small meal to kill off the hunger.  The man in the bar told me what street I had to walk to where I would easily find Ganbara Hostel.  It was only a five minute walk away.  The hostel sits at the first bend of the street on Calle Prim so it is impossible to miss, and is an amazing but still cheap hostel in Bilbao.


Ganbara Hostel.

Ganbara Hostel.

I entered, checked in, and came down to the common area after to hang out.  This cheap hostel in Bilbao is well organized so that there are couches in the lounge area that make it easy for everyone sitting on them to socialize.  The atmosphere was great, so I just hung out on the couches and made friends until 2am.  It was a very nice and relaxing night in a quiet and cool hostel that is well thought out.

July 31

I had breakfast in Ganbara Hostel and then went for a walk around Bilbao to check out the city..

…  The city feels calm and it seems to be full of old men in funny hats who are carrying canes and taking tiny steps to get where they likely used to arrive a lot quicker in days gone by.  Bilbao has a Guggenheim Museum which was quite a surprise for me to find one here (New York, Venice, Bilbao, Abu Dhabi).  I made my way to the Azkuna Zentroa which is a sort of cultural center that has a gorgeous library.

Walking bridge in Bilbao.

Walking bridge in Bilbao.

Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque country.  The Basque country is in both Spain and France, so the Basque are divided over two countries, though the Basque themselves see it as one country.  In one country they speak Basque and Spanish and in the other they speak Basque and French.  Basque is actually the oldest language in Europe and it is one of the oldest in the entire world.  It confuses linguists because they can not understand where the roots of the language come from.  There are no connections between Basque and any other language on the earth.

The Basque would like to become their own country.  They are very proud people, and they are very individual to the rest of Spain.  It seems like everything they do is a little different from anyone else and keeps them as their own people.  The sports on television are Basque games played nowhere else in the world.  They wear their wedding rings on the right hand.  They have their own way of making wine.  For the rest of my life, I will always be able to recognize Basque words because of the atypical combination of ‘tx’ that they love to use to make a ‘ch’ should.

Here are a collection of Basque words that I have in my notepad.  I was not even trying to collect ‘tx’ words.  This is what I have:

-Txakoli – Typical Basque wine.
-Patxaran – A Basque fruit made liquor.
-Kacimotxo – A mixture of wine and Coke that Basque women love to drink.
-Pintxos – The Basque version of tapas.
-Txapelca – A type of hat that older Basque men wear which allows them to keep their heads dry when they change bars.  It is rainy in Basque country and the locals prefer little pubs where they can have a quick drink and move on to the next place to continue socializing.  (My friend who explained this to me seemed to be disappointed in Madrid or Barcelona where they have not figured out the usefulness of a Txapelca hat and might have to sit in the same bar for two hours when it is raining.)

This is one of the best photos I have taken in weeks.  These two men were talking together, traditionally hatted, canes in hand, taking very small steps to get to where they needed to be.

This is one of the best photos I have taken in weeks. These two men were talking together, traditionally hatted, canes in hand, taking very small steps to get to where they needed to be.

For ‘digestion’ (I love how the southern Europe is really behind this idea) we were served shots of Patxaran which is a local liquor made from local fruit that is a little of a cross between cranberries and cherries.  A shot is actually a double shot.  Look out memory!

Oiane, who owns Ganbara Hostel (Ganbara is the word for hayloft part of a barn), was waiting for me to return to the hostel at 2pm to take me to a town 45 minutes away called Mundaka.  Mundaka is a summer town and they were having a weekend party called the ‘The Basque Music and Cook Festival’ (  Five of the top 40 restaurants in the world are Basque, so food is a special part of their culture.  Oiane took me to the Mundaka Hostel Sports Café where I met her friend Iker.

Iker served us Txakoli, the typical Basque wine that comes from grapes growing in a humid environment, and for an appetizer he brought us octopus.  I have never tried octopus before.  We were eating the suction cup bearing tentacles.  Amazing.  It is really strange to see pieces of it on a plate, but the taste was delicious.  For our main course we had fish called ‘Bonita de Norte’ which is caught right off the coast.

Pintxos, the Basque answer to tapas.

Pintxos, the Basque answer to tapas.

I am pretty sure that no one needs a flying bat tattoo on the side of their neck, no matter how gothic they are trying to be.  But, some woman in the crowd seemed to feel the urge to have one anyhow.  It is now in my top three worst tattoos I have ever seen in my life.

Mundaka’s Basque Music and Cook Festival is in its inaugural year, and it is has a maximum capacity of 4,000 people.  It was awesome to be at a small-town music festival.  As I walked around with Oiane and her husband Josan, I felt like I was hanging around with rockstars because they seemed to know every person and child in town.  When it was time to go into the festival, Josan had three sandwiches for us to eat that he had stored in Oiane’s backpack.  The backpack was searched by security and we were not allowed to bring our sandwiches.  We went back to the square.  Josan wanted to smuggle the sandwiches in but Oiane was against the idea.  She said, “We are too old to be sneaking sandwiches into a festival.”  By then, Josan has his and her sandwiches tucked into the back of his pants with his jacket over top.

Oiane said that she was not going in to the festival with him.  It became a game for me so I was thrilled.  I hid my sandwich in the front of my pants.  Then Josan and I defied security with the illegal sandwiches and Oiane, embarrassed by us, came through the gates 30 meters behind to avoid any connection should security have busted our contraband sandwiches.  Josan and I high-fives as soon as security were no longer in our view!  ‘Sandwich Smugglers’ could have been our gang name!

The Basque Music and Cook Festival, in a park right next to the church.

The Basque Music and Cook Festival, in a park right next to the church.

There were a lot of people with sideburns in the crowd, so I knew I had found a cool festival.  We watched four bands: Cactüs, Dead Bronco, Loquillo, and Travellin’ Brothers.  Cactüs is a local band who sing in Basque and sound like 2000’s rock, Dead Bronco was a fantastic rockabilly band, Loquillo is a Spanish rockstar of the 1980’s who nearly everyone was really there for, and Travellin’ Brothers was a 17 piece band with an entire brass orchestra section.  The music was all fantastic, and I had a great time with Oiane, Josan, and their entire town of friends.  We drank a lot of beer, rocked out, danced, and had festival fun.  A Southern European festival is so different from anything I have ever been to because the bands started at 8pm, and played until 4:30am.  I am not sure if I have ever been to a festival that played past midnight because people who complain are so super lame, but even if 100,000 people have fun, society listens to the 11 complainers and makes rules according to them.  Here in Basque country, the headliner started playing after midnight.  So cool!  Oiane, Josan, myself and a handful of their friends left the festival together at 3:15am!

Ganbara Hostel's Oiane and Josan.

Ganbara Hostel’s Oiane and Josan.

Aug 1 Yikes…August!  That came fast!

It is crazy how time is moving.  When I look back at pictures from this trip and I see a place like Bergen, which was only about two weeks of my life ago, it feels more like it was two months ago as I have done so many things on this awesome trip.  Sarajevo, which was exactly a month ago seems like it could have been a year ago!

When I awoke, Oiane was already up.  She made breakfast and we got ready to head back to Ganbara, their cheap Hostel in Bilbao.  I showered there, packed, and she drove me to the bus station.  She told me, “Beaver, you must get some sleep or you are going to die!”  Yea, I need to ease up, but everyone has a fiesta planned for me when I arrive and I hate to not perform and not have a great time.  But the hostel parties for a couple of days and then I am gone again while I party every day because the next hostel will have plans for me as well.  What a crazy time!  ‘Partying’ is easy…it is the ‘not partying’ that I find so difficult.  Oiane dropped me off at the bus station and I bought my bus ticket for Madrid for €31 from a machine in the station three minutes before the bus was to depart.  It was a great time in Bilbao with Oiane and Josan in Basque country…

Ganbara Hostel a Cheap Hostel in Bilbao
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