Marco…Polo! I make it to Basque Country!

When I woke up the next morning Ada had already left, rushing back to a early morning meeting that had been sprung on her at the last-minute. I got up early as well, having packed my stuff the night before, and grabbed a quick breakfast of bread and bread (which was really all that was edible) at the hostel before trying to find my way to the airport. This proved to be more difficult than I had thought, since it is on the mainland, where no boats go. I arrived at the Roman Plaza where I waited for the bus in a soft drizzle. This was surprising, actually; for some reason wherever I go has had really great weather for the most part and this was only the second or third day of rain in my trip. The bus is late, and when it finally comes there is the typical italian melee for seats. This time I am prepared, and battle my way to a seat with my backpack and banjo. Anyway, made it to Marco Polo airport (did I mention I saw his house too? I did!) and passed through all the security and stuff like that and sat down to wait for my flight. The “hurry-up-and-wait” mentality serves me well in traveling but it leaves large chunks of time where I am left to my own devices. I am becoming an expert in finding way of entertaining myself, and those of you know no me well will surely not be surprised. My fourth grade report card read (in what I took as a complement but perhaps was not intended as such) that “Jeremy has the unique ability to turn anything into a toy.” Little did Mrs. Marinopoulos know that that is one of the best things I learned that year! I fly to Barcelona, spending most of the time fast asleep. While asking the flight attendant if there is a place where i can put my banjo she admits that the flight is not full and the back two rows will be empty. I decide to give myself a free upgrade to a fully reclining seat and stretch out in the back of the plane. Over Barcelona the beaches and house are beautiful, I think i will try to come back. I don’t do much in the airport except get a little bit of food. The highlight was hearing over the intercom that smoking was “forbidden by Royal Decree!” Wow, I would be so much more excited about just about every law if it was still by royal decree. Well, maybe not, but still really cool!

I got into Bilbao that evening and was met at the airport by Oier, the leader of the Kezka dance group from Eibar, Basque country. He recognizes me immediately (height? banjo? general goofiness?) and escorts me to the car to drive to Bilbao. All the way there we chat about sword dancing, basque culture and my trip. I finish explaining what I am doing and he turns to me and says, “you are my hero for this!” It turns out that he studied anthropology and was considering the same Ethnochoreology Masters program that I am considering, in Limerick, Ireland. He is incredibly smart and well read, and totally passionate about dance and in addition to running the dance group, he also manages a great website (in basque, but still interesting) which provides information about all sorts of Basque dance.

He also tells me a lot about Basque history, and it’s relation to dance. For example during a period of time when political parties were banned, alternative politics and ideas were expressed through cultural groups. This proves to still be very connected, and throughout my trip in the region I found that politics and Basque nationalism was in almost every activity, from dance to parties, to religious celebrations.

The team put me up in University housing near to the town and Oier dropped me off there and helped me get situated. I was just about ready to fall over from exhaustion, so he gave me directions to the office where we would meet the next day and left me to sleep. The hospitality that I have received from all the Basques I’ve met has been overwhelming. Amazing, amazing, amazing!

I will write more at some point, but now I’m off to play some banjo in Cordoba! Also, I’m going to be teaching a Rapper dancing course when I return to Basque country next week! Woohoo!


About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at
This entry was posted in Basque Country, Italy, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Marco…Polo! I make it to Basque Country!

  1. Jan says:

    Love the potted history and stories of travel in Italy. My experience was the same!
    So you want to study @ Limerick? Colin Quigley, my UCLA ethnochoreology advisor (former member of Greenwich MM & Sunset MM and a fine fiddler) is there. It’s a great program, I hear. Have fun w/Kezka!

  2. Hi Jan! Glad you are enjoying! I’m now actually in the south of spain, (behind again!) but will be returning to Kezka in a week to teach some rapper! I am thinking about studying at UCLA, Limerick or a new Erasmus program that apparently has just started up. This is mostly because i haven’t found much information on any other programs? I would love to hear your thoughts on UCLA or any others that you know about!

  3. Jan says:

    UCLA was fabulous, but dance ethnology has now been subsumed by WAC (world arts & cultures). Clearly changed, but maybe still good. I was an undergrad @ Wesleyan, great for ethnomusicology but I’m not sure about dance. I’ll ask around.
    Speaking of Marco … Polo … Did you know he was born in Korcula? So do you think you’ll get there?
    I will read the rest of your fascinating blog when I have some proper down time. Keep dancing!

    • Hi Jan, I didn’t know he was born there, but I saw his house in venice. I will be going to croatia in february and possibly again in april or in the summer. We’ll chat about UCLA at some point when I get back! Do you know anyone still there?

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