Ibaialde Ikastola, Sartaguda, Navarra

Following a night of bad craziness in El Valle de Baztan (See previous entry) I found myself on the road once again.  This time we travelled from the north of Navarra were things are profoundly Basque to the town of Sartaguda in the south where the tradition of speaking Basque (Euskera) is not quite so well preserved.  That’s not to say that folks here feel any less Basque.  Neither do they harbour any sentiments of xenophobia towards their Spanish neighbours or itinerant Scotsmen who stumble into the fiesta.

On this occasion we were there to celebrate the anniversary of Ibaialde Ikastola.  The local primary school where classes are given in Euskera.  These schools are essential to the survival of Euskera.  While Euskera, like any minority language, is under serious threat of extinction it has undoubtedy experienced an extraordinary revival in the last ten years.  Certainly in Gasteiz we have gone from a situation in which it was seldom heard to a point where it can be heard on any street corner or bar.

The objective of the Fiesta in Sartaguda was to raise funds for the support of the Ikastola.  I have been lucky in that I have travelled to many different countries but I have yet to find a place to equal Euskal Herria regarding popular initiatives.  Here the parents association had organised una comida popular (a popular lunch) and sold 850 tickets for the event.  With sales on the door the number of attendees climbed to around 1000.

Thats a lot of people to cater for but it was achieved effortlessly tee tah!  Many hands make light work.

To mark this event we were entertained to a session of Bertsolaritza performed by four legendary Bertrolaris; Andoni Egaña, Maialen Lujanbio, Aitsol Barandiaran and Aitor Sarriegi.

What is Bertsolaritza?

A Bertso is a form of spontaneous poetry.  The Bertsolari works within certain confines.  It could be that they have to work within a certain meter, with particular words, and or with each other.  I don’t speak Basque although I’m working on it.  I therefore don’t appreciate the nuance and humour that each performance expresses.  Nevertheless, there is something magical and contagious about being in the presence of someone who is creating spontaneously.  For a more in depth and highly emotive account of Bertsolaritza see this video

As the Betsolari faces his or her audience s/he is open to all possibilities within the confines of the rhyme s/he has been set, the words s/he has been given and what his or her partners in the piece are saying.  Within those confines exists an infinity of possibilities.  That is my interpretation of what Bertsolaritza is about.  It’s as if they are saying, “may the conversation be lively and varied and all topics considered equally”.  Those are good principles to guard in any society.

The fiesta continued with two spectacular concerts.  Bizardunak “the beardy ones”.  Great band drawing on Irish influeces and styling themselves on the Pogues.




Pure theatre with The Zopilotes Txirriaos, a band specialising in Mexican Rancheras and their own brand of “Napar Mex”.  A bit like “Tex Mex”  More Photos Here


Gizakunde is a festival which takes place in  the small village of Arizkun in the north of Navarra.  It is to some extent a rehearsal for the Carnival Festival that will be celebrated on 16th of this month.  The tradition pre dates Christianity and involves several different characters who form a procession and walk from Arizkun to Erratzu a distance of around 5km through the surrounding hills.

Although the picture might suggest that the long cold winter nights lead to bizarre and bestial practices in these rural parts, we are in fact seeing the preparation of a Zanpanzar.  The Zanpanzarak carry enormous cencerros (cow bells) and lead the procession, opening the way by making an unholy amount of noise.  In addition to the Zanpanzarak various other characters take part in the procession.

The Zanpanzarak are followed by dantzaria (dancers) who perform various dances often involving apples.  There is a strong tradition of cider making in these parts and the procession started from an ancient and recently restored cider house which made just over 1500 litres of cider this year.  We drank a little of this along the way;)


There are also kindly souls who carry baskets of refreshments; cider, wine and patxaran in case anyone might feel thirsty.

There is a bear and his handler.  The bear is badly behaved, extremely randy and enjoys terrifying small children.  By return his handler treats him mercilessly.







Finally there is the Testigo or witness who is carried from Arizkun tothe plaza in Erratzu.  On arrival he is tried and condemned to be burned at the stake.  If you’ve ever seen the film “The Wicker Man” then you’ve pretty much got the picture.



Having burned the testigo and absolved our sins the fiesta moved to the community centre where we enjoyed a tremendous dinner of Corderro al Chilindrón (lamb stew).  Dinner was accompanied by Basque folk music and Bertsos.  I seem to remember stumbling home through the snowy streets at around 7am.    More Photos Here







Un cernicalo Americano or American Kestrel

More photos here Falconry (Spanish Cetrería)

At Bizipozatours we are interested in connecting you with the unusual.  Here we visited a local Falconry group.

Falconry is a very particular art requiring a tight partnership between man, bird and on occasion, dog.  It is certainly not open to large groups of people but then our tours are usually for very small groups.

La Feria de San Blas

TalosMaking Talos.

La Feria de San Blas

Some photos of The Ferria de San Blas which I took last weekend in Laudio.  Be warned they are not for the faint hearted.  While I am not a strict vegetarian I at least try to buy meat that has come from “happy” animals.  I can’t Vouch for the happiness of this particular “Txerri” but at least the people who witnessed the event see that meat comesfrom an animal and not just a packet in the supermarket!

La Ferria De San Blas is also known for some reason as “The Txerri Boda” or pig wedding.

Txalaparta Maratoia, Vitoria Gasteiz

The Txalaparta is a curious percussion instrument played by two people.  It is thought to be extremely ancient.  The playing of the txalaparta in the Basque country had all but died out by the 1950′s but in recent years it has enjoyed a revival and has evolved considerably.  The most typical instruments comprise wooden (oak) beams but players often experiment with steal, marble and even ice.  For a really excellent documentary on the Txalaparta look for “Nomadak tx”