Monthly Archives: October 2010

Those Basque Names and Surnames…

  • Menéame0

As you all well know, in the Spanish Basque Country, Navarra and Basque French Country (complicated, uh!) there are three languages spoken, Spanish, French and Basque (and the latter, with 7 dialects!!). And that most signs are written in both languages (Basque and Spanish or Basque and French). Now I´ll deal with Basque people´s names, since they are also a particularity that make of us a rarity in the Iberian Peninsula…

Traditional names in the Basque Country were very common in the past: Jesús, María, José, Antonio, Francisco, Ángel, Ángeles, Piedad, …Yes, many people are called Jesus in Spain (without any religious connotation!!) And what´s more, they are called in many cases Jesús María (for a man) or María Jesús (for a woman). Or José María (man) or María José (woman). The custom was to put the name of the saint of the day to the newborn, or a biblical name. By the way, those called José are called Pepe (coming from P.P., short for Pater Putativo, a father that really isn´t), those called Jesus Maria are called Txusma or Jesusmari…Spanish names have a lot of “diminutive” alias.

In the 80´s there was a strong current in favour of  Basque names, based on Basque mythology or on nature. Hence, we got many “Aitor” (father of the Basques), “Amaia” (the mother), Garikoitz, Aritz (oak), Harri (stone), Eder (pretty), Garazi (special), Gorka (translation for George), Ibai (river), Odei (cloud), Ainara (swallow),  Oihane (scream), Irati (a virgin and also a forest),…These names have nothing to do with Spanish ones and are a clear sign of the origin (and sometimes, of the political views) of the parents. Also, many names are based on Virgin´s names, for instance, Arantza (from the Virgin of Arantzazu) or Begoña.

Basque surnames are also different. In many cases, they show the place of origin of the person. Etxebarria (or Echevarria) means “New House”, Madariaga (Place with Pear Trees), Ibarra (Valley), Urrunaga (Far Away Place), Arizmendi (Oak Mountain), etc. There are very long Basque surnames, with long meanings (Agirregomezkorta, Atxalandabaso, Aguinagalde, Uriberrementeria, Bedialauneta, Ocerinjauregui,…). An interesting place to visit and see the extraordinary long names in the tombs is the Markina cemetery, beautiful area and beautiful cemetery.

Last, in the Basque Country, as in Spain, we always use two surnames, the father´s first and then the mother´s. For example, a girl named Ainhoa, with a mother Ana García and a father David Zubizarreta, is named Ainhoa Zubizarreta García. Women don´t lose their maiden´s name when they marry. Now you can put the mother´s name first (as they do in Portugal, where they say that you always know who is the mother, but not so sure about the father…it makes sense!).

Yes, I know, what the heck has this to do with Basque tourism…but I thought you may find the above interesting!!

 

 

Wine, wine and more (of the very best) wine in the Basque Country…

  • Menéame0

101_6027I´ve just returned from a 7 day trip around the Basque Country, (Bilbao, Donostia-San Sebastián, Hondarribia, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, French Basque Country,…), mixing culture, food and drink, in the company of two very nice people from Atlanta, GA (pictures here). The last three days were intensively dedicated to wine, vineyards and wineries. We stayed in Laguardia (Biasteri in Basque), the capital of the Basque Rioja region, on the south of the province of Araba. A visit to the outstanding Marqués de Riscal winery, with its absolutely unique hotel101_5992 designed by Frank Gehry, was a must. Then we visited the Museum of Wine Culture Dinastía Vivanco, in Briones (Rioja), in my opinion the best and most comprehensive wine museum in the world. Of course, we had some glasses of wine and some Idiazabal cheese to go with them…Next day, we went to CVNE Viña Real winery, the building is not much known but it´s really amazing. It was the surprise of the trip, a really neat building in the shape of a giant wooden barrel. The afternoon ended with a visit to Heredad de Ugarte, with its Nichos and Txokos, where you can keep your bottles of wine in a kind of  “cells”, waiting for you to drink them in one of the txokos with friends and food. Last day we went to El Fabulista winery, named after the famous Samaniego fable writer, as it´s excavated right under his place of birth in Laguardia. A very instructive visit to one of the 5oo wineries that are underneath the streets of Laguardia…

Oh yes, we also visited other interesting places, like the incredible XIV century timpane of St Maria de los Reyes church101_6059, in excellent condition, or Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country, whose beautiful mediaeval Old Town is shaped as an almond, or Labastida and its two churches, the one on top also a defensive fortress…

A great trip, even if we missed so many places that we didn´t have time to visit…It was nice to see how my guests found the Basque Country a place full of unexpected treasures…