Combs of the Wind

(posted on behalf of

If I had to choose one aspect of this experience that I enjoyed the most it would be the fierceness of the Basque culture. Throughout this trip, that has been the theme that has been carried over again and again. From the willingness of my host family to answer any and all questions, to the smile on a local person’s face when I stumble my way through “hello” or “thank you” in Basque, this experience has picqued my interest in cultural immersion. The Basques are a passionate people, intent on sharing their culture with anyone who is interested to learn.

An example of this desire to perpetuate their culture is literally cemented in rock. The Comb of the Wind is an architectural structure of three pieces created by Basque artist Eduardo Chilled Juantegul. The three sculptures, each within varying distances, symbolize the past, present, and future. The aspect that I enjoyed, however, was what they were constructed with. Each sculpture was made from iron gathered from a multitude of ore deposits in the Basque mountainside. So, right down to the core, all of the sculptures are entirely Basque-made. And, because they are directly on the coast, these structures are the first thing in the city the air touches. So, even before the air reaches the city it has already been enriched with a piece of Basque culture. This symbiotic relationship between the mountains, sea, and wind in this sculpture signifies how much the Basque people value, and work to maintain, their culture.

From the Comb of the Wind our group traveled to the top of Mount Igueldo, which had the most incredible views of San Sebastian. There was also a hotel and amusement park at the top, so many of us passed some time on the bumper cars or riding the roller coaster. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon, and the funicular rides up and down the mountain provided a relaxing and unique mode of transportation.

This trip to San Sebastian has been unparalleled to any other life experience I have had thus far. Traveling to Europe for the first time has undoubtedly expanded my previously closed-off horizons. San Sebastian, being a popular tourist city, has an amazingly diverse amalgamation of various cultures. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people so far, and each one has taught me something different. The Basques are an amazing, intense people. It is clear that they are deeply proud of their culture, and that is certainly what I admire the most.

I have had an incredible and unbelievable experience so far. Our previously mundane classrooms have turned into mountain tops and beaches, and our discussions about Basque culture are unlike those I have ever had. From spending afternoons on the beach, wandering and exploring the city at night, and yes, even the Spanish class at Lacunza, I have fallen in love with San Sebastian. I cannot reiterate enough how lucky I am to be in this position. Each day brings with it new adventure and I cannot wait to see what next week has in store!

The view from the top of Mount Igueldo!

The view from the top of Mount Igueldo!

2/3 of the Comb of the Wind sculpture (an attractive fence was blocking the third).

2/3 of the Comb of the Wind sculpture (an attractive fence was blocking the third).

These geysers are next to the sculpture. There are 7 representing the 7 Basque provinces. When the sea gets rough the waves shoot up through them!

These geysers are next to the sculpture. There are 7 representing the 7 Basque provinces. When the sea gets rough the waves shoot up through them!

The roller coaster at the top of Mount Igueldo!

The roller coaster at the top of Mount Igueldo!

Pintxos Tour

(posted on behalf of

When I found out that I would be spending three weeks in Spain, I was excited beyond belief. My mother brought to my attention of how I am such a picky eater in America, never mind in Spain. She was very worried that I not only wouldn’t love the food, I wouldn’t eat it at all.

When I saw the pintxos tasting tour on the schedule, I was a tad bit nervous. I have never heard of a pintxos bar before until I arrived in Spain. When I come home, I want to be able to tell everyone that I tried as much food as possible and took risks – something I do not ordinarily do. One of the pinxtos bars we went to was A Luego Negro, which was this really cool and funky place. The menu was quite eccentric as well. I decided to go out of my comfort zone and try crab ice cream. I did not think anything of it. I just thought, “Hey, ice cream.” I had no idea what to expect. When I heard my order was ready, I was really nervous; my face dropped. I could not believe that my ice cream actually came out in a crab shell. It looked awesome; however, the taste was not. It tasted like someone gave me a spoonful of salt water and fish. It was probably one of the worst things I have ever tried.

Another food I tried and did not like was the blood sausage. The texture threw me for a loop. The only reason I tried it was because the pintxo bar, Casa Vergara, is best known for three dishes: 1. Carrilera Agridulce (“Rato De Plata”) (2013 Compeaonato pintas de Guipuecoa”) 2. Hasanito (“2007 Label Vasco”) 3. Incomprendido (“2006 premio originalidad”). I cannot believe I was brave enough to try it.

I will say that I am very happy that I was bold and daring during the pintxos tours. I want to get in as much experience as possible. My favorite part of the pintxo tasting was seeing a dog named Whisky at Casa Vergara. I thought the dog made the place more fun and exciting. Everyone was going crazy over the dog: a friendly dog in Spain, we are trying pintxos – what can be better than that? Nothing.

I cannot get over how cheap the food is over here compared to America. Especially the drinks and pastries. I am so blessed and fortunate to be able to spend three weeks in this beautiful city. I love being able to experience this lifestyle and culture. I cannot wait to get back home and tell everyone what a great time I am having and how much of a great experience this is. Three weeks is not enough, I would love to come back.


Julian addressing our tour group.


A plate of pintxos from one of the bars on the tour.

Different Lives, Many Experiences: San Telmo Museum (June 30th, 2015)


Que tal, mis amigos?

When I was a junior in high school, a choir conductor I was working with introduced me to the concept that music and the arts convey the human experience in a way that is unlike any other. Since that moment, my commitment to the arts has been truly integral to my existence. Though that may sound like a bit of a cliché, it is true. Architecture, visual arts, dance, theater, literature, and music are all of the utmost importance to me, and when I found out I was going on this trip I became ecstatic about the possibilities San Sebastian had to offer in terms of new and exciting art to experience.

Between eating at a myriad of pintxos bars, visiting and enjoying the beautiful beaches, studying in our Spanish classes at Lacunza, wandering around the city (with and without tour guides), and meeting scores of new friends, we’ve been kept quite busy over the past few days. Thusly, our biggest experience thus far with the history and art of San Sebastian was today at San Telmo Museum. San Telmo Museum consists of two parts. The first part is a mid-sixteenth century convent (the original San Telmo building) built using a mix of Renaissance and Gothic styles. The convent is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, San Telmo, from whom of course it takes its name. The second part of the building is the rest of the museum, which was designed by two modern architects, Nieto and Sobejano. The rest of the museum was designed to mimic the surrounding natural landscape (mountainous and verdurous) and has holes through which plants will eventually grow. The combination of architecture new and old is quite fascinating and in my opinion appeals to a desire for usefulness found within the basic survival instinct of animals and humans alike.

Animalistic survival instincts aside (am I getting too weird for a college blog post?), I found myself deeply moved by the original San Telmo convent. Even though I am not a particularly religious person, I was so taken by the immense size and beauty of the church’s interior that I nearly cried. Seeing the tremendous stone pillars and the high ceiling of the building stirred my imagination, and I began to consider what incredible lengths humans will go to in order to express their feelings through art. In the case of the church, the most advanced engineering and architectural skills of the time were employed to express a simultaneous love for and fear of God in the form of a building. The end result was a room that truly dwarfs its human occupants, demonstrating the greatness of God and our relative unimportance. You, like me, may not necessarily subscribe to the Christian God, but nonetheless Christianity must be taken into account when thinking about the intention behind a church.

After about twenty minutes spent in total awe of the church interior, I began talking to some classmates about the church, and eventually discovered some friends singing in the crypt under the altar. The acoustics were truly a wonder to behold. A vocal improvisation then took place between my friends and I – a divine musical experience that brought us closer together, if only for a short amount of time. As the vibrations of our final chord slowly fizzled out, we all shared a final moment of connectedness. Over the course of two more trips down to the crypt, I brought around ten total people to hear the wonderful acoustics through a short musical demonstration. Some Spanish tourists even got to hear the demonstration. This was truly meaningful to me – I was able to share my love of music and the joy it gives me with others, even though I am thousands of miles away from my home.

The rest of the museum was something that I unfortunately experienced mostly by myself. However, what I shared with others in the cathedral is something that I would not trade for any material good in the world. Art helps us to share and to better understand the human experience, no matter our religion or nationality, the languages we speak, or the experiences we’ve had in life. Though the impact the arts can have on our lives may differ between people – one person may listen to a symphony and feel great grief and wistfulness while another person may experience great joy and hope for the future – we are all changed in some capacity by the art to which we expose ourselves. Because of our artistic experiences still to come in San Sebastian, we will return to the United States healthier and more complete human beings. If growth as a person doesn’t make a study abroad experience worth it, I’d be hard pressed to find something else that could.

So please, enjoy some medium of art today. I hope that you have a wonderful and human experience in doing so.

Agur, y gracias por leer,

Eric Miller

Here’s a view of the inside of the church from the balcony. (sorry about my phone’s poor photo quality!)

The upper level of the cloister was cleverly equipped with one-way mirrors. The mirror side faced into the courtyard and created a feeling of continuity and openness, while the space behind the mirror allowed for the actual walkway to be used for exhibits.

The upper level of the cloister outside the church was cleverly equipped with one-way mirrors. The mirror side faced into the courtyard and created a feeling of continuity and openness in the cloister. The space behind the mirror in the walkway was therefore available for exhibits, and one could see down into the courtyard from the walkway.