Friday, March 20, 2009

An Invitation to Visit Nabarra

This information was posted at the Sierra Mountain Times:

Discover the Cultural Riches of Spain’s Basque Country

This summer, Columbia College is again offering a unique opportunity to get an insider’s view of the colorful culture, art and history of the Basque Country of north central Spain. Located to the west of the Pyrenees along the Bay of Biscay, the region is rich in its Basque, Gothic and Roman heritage.

Based at Vitoria-Gasteiz, the seat of the Basque Parliament, those interested in going on the trip will attend the Zador Institute, an accredited school of Spanish language where classes will be taught by certified native teachers for four hours per day, five days a week in classrooms and neighborhood settings. Their website is located at Travelers will stay with Spanish families for a total language immersion experience. Of course, participants will also earn a total of six units of credit from Columbia College: three in conversational Spanish 10A, 10B, 20A or 20B – depending on initial assessed level of proficiency – and three in humanities (old world culture), taught by local expert, Dr. Susan Still.

Afternoon activities and field trips with Spanish-speaking guides will include city tours, art and history museum visits, bike tours, dining at typical Basque tapas bars and restaurants, and cider house samplings, as well as day trips to an ancient Roman saltworks, nearby lakes and a nature park.

Vitoria has a population of about 200,000 and with its excellent train and bus transportation and central location, excursion destinations are never more than an hour or so away. On weekends, tours are planned with Spanish-speaking guides to Pamplona in Navarra, the medieval walled city of LaGuardia, the La Rioja wine region and Alavese fishing villages. Students will also see Spain’s most famous Gothic cathedral in beautiful Burgos, the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in Bilbao and the inviting beach city of San Sebastian.

The two-week program begins on June 6, with an optional third week. The approximate cost for the two-week program is $2,900, and $850 for the additional week. This covers tuition, classes, airport transfers, home stay, meals, excursions and insurance – airfare is not included.

Columbia College Spanish Instructor Vonna Breeze-Martin is coordinating the program and is again leading the Basque Country visit. “It is so enlightening and inspiring to see how another culture views the world,” she said. “The Basque cities are modern, clean, prosperous and environmentally-friendly places, steeped in history dating back to the Bronze Age. Vitoria, for instance, boasts of its bike paths (and free bikes for loan); green spaces and parks that are among the highest per capita in Europe; walking paths; mall routes; a restored medieval quarter and excellent public transportation. And if you’ve ever had an opportunity to enjoy a Basque meal here in the U.S., you know what a real treat is waiting for you in Pais Vasco!”

Despite the title and the insistence in calling the Basques by the term Spanish, this article has some redeeming qualities. Is good to learn than more and more people are identifying not only the Basque Autonomous Community as the Basque Country but also Navarre and even Rioja (Errioxa). This means that people are recognizing the cultural identity of once sovereign and independent Nabarra.

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