It’s true what people say, the best things happen when you least expect it. I never expected to live in San Sebastian for three weeks. Furthermore, never could I have imagined being here with this specific group of people. Yet, now I can’t imagine it any other way. I expected the beautiful beaches and incredible gastronomy. After all, three of the top fifty Michelin star restaurants are housed within the city and this was where the Royal Family and aristocrats came to escape the court. Yet, they have not been the most memorable for me.
In the city surrounded by tourists, it is easy to believe that is all San Sebastian has to offer. However if you keep your eyes open, San Sebastian never fails to surprise. Whether its a coffee shop surrounded by bars or a mixed media painting along a tunnel, each time I step out onto the street I find pieces of history tucked away in the most unexpected of places.
For instance, located at the top of Monte Igueldo, is the Parque de Atraciones. This amusement park dates back to 1912 and hosts Spain’s third oldest funicular. There you can relive your childhood with a ride on the merry-go-round, bumper cars, and boat. You can also enjoy a view of the city on a ride around the mountaintop. But, what never ceases to amaze me is how well the amusement park is integrated with its surroundings. I would have never guessed there would be an amusement park on top of Monte Igueldo despite the number of times I’ve seen it from afar.
Similarly, the Comb of the Winds is an collection of sculptures that not only accentuates its surroundings, but tells a story of San Sebastian’s past, present, and future. The locals were fishermen and sailors who depended on the wind to survive. At the base of Monte Igueldo, the most prominent sculpture represents the present. Directly in front is the sculpture seated in a island shaped by the water and wind, representing a past where the Bay of Biscay had not existed. Meanwhile, seated at the horizon, farther away, is the future. However, unlike other installations, the Comb of the Winds does not dominate the space it occupies. Rather, it allows the wind and the waves to speak for themselves. The plaza leading to the sculptures is full of holes that make sound as water passes through. The sculptures themselves are open to the elements and blend with the granite allowing it to evolve alongside the city of San Sebastian.
The emphasis on preserving history and the natural beauty of the city is what makes San Sebastian so special. While back home space would have to be created in order for an amusement park or sculpture to be installed, here they add to overall character and history of the city. Combined with the relaxed atmosphere of the city and its inhabitants, I am always left wondering what else there is left undiscovered. I have no doubt the best is yet to come.