Gernika or Guernica - take your choice of Euskera (known as 'Basque' to Anglos) or Spanish - no matter how you spell it, this town and its people are fascinating for their history of how man can visit horror on his fellow man and their present and future in demonstrating how goodwill can triumph.
During the Spanish Civil War Franco arranged for a German air attack on the town of Gernika on Monday April 26 1937 - a busy market day. While exact numbers of casualties are slightly elusive, it is generally accepted that this unprovoked attack on defenseless civilians left 2000 people dead and the village itself in ruins with very few buildings left standing.
The incident has been widely publicised by Picasso's painting - click here for details.
Having inspected the painting Guernica in the Reina Sofia Gallery in Madrid, we decided to take the opportunity to see the village first hand.
For the princely sum of around 5 Euros a ticket we set off from Bilbao to visit Gernika.
After a 45 minute journey in a very comfortable train, through country that resembled the Alps we arrived exactly on time.
Above the newer section of the station platform, and below the station itself which managed to survive the bombing largely intact.
Heading off in search of the museum, we came to the town square with the Basque flag proudly flying
Opposite the flag we discovered the Gernikako
Bakearen Museoa - Gernika Peace Museum spread over three floors to explore the
What is Peace?,
What happened in Gernika at a time when peace was absent? and
What is happening to peace in the world now?
The image below shows a circular room in which visitors are shown a film on the importance of reconciliation as part of the process of achieving peace. Of possible interest to Australians is the fact that Prime Minister Howard appears, in the same presentation as President de Klerk of South Africa among others, and is commended for his part in moving towards a reconciliation with the Aborigines.
There is also a 'Peace Park' which contains significant pieces of sculpture by Henry Moore,
and Eduardo Chillida.
Lunch in Gernika featured one of the local delicacies called 'gulas' or baby eels. Interesting texture like rubbery pasta and a faintly fishy flavor. Below you can see them as part of a tapa plate, but they also featured as a topping on our gazpacho and our salad. (Denise still maintains that had she known what they really were she would not have eaten them.)
As we headed back to the station, the quintessential Basque gentleman appeared, complete with beret (or whatever it is called in Spanish)
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