Tag Archives: Museum

There´s a Museum of the Basque Beret (Txapela), and It´s Fun!!

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101_6283Last Saturday I went to visit the Museo de la Boina La Encartada - Museum of the Beret (or “txapela”, in Basque), in Balmaseda, Bizkaia. It´s on the former factory that has been making berets for exactly 100 years (1892-1992). The museum - a classic , beautiful XIX century Industrial Revolution building- , surrounded by well kept gardens and a river, has been recently opened  and offers a very comprehensive and thorough visit (available in English on demand).

They show the whole process, as some of the machinery is still in good working condition. All the machinery has been restored and, as the power they use to make them work comes from just WATER (thrusted from a turbine moved by the force of the water of the river), it´s constantly in motion. A very good guide shows you how  wool is converted through a series of processes into a classic Basque beret, there´s a very instructive video (well, there are two, one is for kids and the other is for adults) and you also visit the home of the owners, kept as it was in early XX century. Entrance fee is very small and they offer berets for sale, at very reasonable prices. Nearby, the beautiful village of Balmaseda, full of beautiful churches, convents and a marvellous mediaeval bridge. A different kind of visit.101_6293

The web page is www.laencartadamuseoa.com, it´s just 30 kms from Bilbao and it´s off the beaten path, but worth the visit.  Not far from Ferrería (ironmongery) El Pobal and the Rolls Royce Museum.

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And this is me with the txapela I bought that day…

Basque Ferrerías, Ironworks of the Middle Ages

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el pobalOne of the main characteristics of the Basque soil is (well, it was) its rich content in high quality iron. Up to the XVI century, there were around 300 foundries! producing iron for all of Europe. Nowadays, iron still plays an important role in our present industrial activity (unfortunately, not as before…). At the very beginning, the foundries were located on top of the mountains and they used the wind as the main force to produce iron, using coal as their source of heat (in a very anti-economical way). Soon they found out that it made more sense to have the ironworks close to a water stream, and so “modern” foundries were established in many Basque towns.mirandaola

I´ve been to two of these foundries, both recently restored and open to the public . You can visit them (visits are also available in English) in order to watch “live” how iron was formerly obtained. The historical reconstruction is very well performed and what you see is probably very close to what it really was, they take great pride in transforming iron “the old way”. One of them is near Bilbao, in Muskiz (Bizkaia), Ferrería El Pobal, www.elpobal.com (this link will redirect you to another page available in English)- press here for a 4´youtube video of a visitor-. You can also see how they got flour from wheat with a water mill. Entrance tickets are cheap and very interesting, kids find it really amusing.

mirandaola2The other one is located in Legazpi, Gipuzkoa, where there formerly were 7 foundries. This one is Ferrería Mirandaolaon this link (not the best of webs, but at least it´s in English), located in the middle of a beautiful park where you can enjoy the incredible and beautiful landscape surrounding it. There are restaurants nearby where you can have a good meal after the visit, and even get all the way to Azpeitia, to the Museo del Ferrocarril (http://www.nekatur.net/museo-vasco-del-ferrocarril-de-azpeitia), where you can take a ride for half an hour on a real XIX century train powered by coal, apart from an interesting collection of old engines, trams,  buses, fire trucks, the workshop, etc…