Day Two: Adventure to Mount Igueldo and The Combs of the Wind

To truly appreciate the nature of San Sebastián, exploring Mount Igueldo provides a perspective like no other. We began the funicular ride beginning near Ondarreta beach towards the top of the mountain that rests nearly 130 meters above sea level. The ride glides past beautifully crafted houses that sit within the tangled grass and trees; these houses reflect on the true beauty of French Basque architecture. Upon arrival at the top of the mountain, the first level revealed a breathtaking view of the city as a whole. As it is only the second day for our three week adventure, this provided a perspective of the size and vast beauty San Sebastián has to offer. However, walking up the stairs to the top level left me speechless; I felt as though I was at the top of the world. The pastel and faded colored homes, businesses, and apartments allow the light blue water, yellow sand, and forest green trees to stand out. Even though the clouds dominated the sky, we were still able to see the coast of southern France on the left side of the lookout. 

It was difficult to step away from this amazing view, but we continued on to see the attractions – a small amusement park for children. Bumper cars, a small pond with boats to ride in, trampolines – which did not look too safe or enticing – and small touristy stands filled with merchandise and games are scattered across the top. For those with sweet tooth’s like myself, the gelato stand cannot be forgotten to mention; unfortunately I had already had some prior, so I did not try it. However, the most exciting attraction we tried was the Swiss Mountain ride. Only 2.80 euros to ride, Professor Z directed us towards the most frightening, but amazing roller coaster I’ve been on before. This ride is the oldest steel rollercoaster to survive in Europe prior to World War ll, built in 1928, and it shows. Professor Z proceeded to inform us this short roller coaster that wraps along the top of the mountain is mechanically operated and “slow and calm.” That is truly an understatement. Although it is short, it is still thrilling with 3 quick and unexpected drops that resulted in a sore throat from screaming. 

View from the rollercoaster before I lost my voice

Following this, we hopped on the funicular and gravitated towards a sight that highlights the adopted values of protecting San Sebastián’s natural beauty. The Combs of the Wind perched not far from Mount Igueldo on the coastline. By the actual structures, we learned about the stone platforms that have large holes in them. As the waves crash onto the boulders and rocks on the shoreline, the water compresses the air within the concrete ground; this wind gets pushed up through the holes and creates “music.” These were created to reflect different notes of the environment naturally created. Although the wind and waves were not strong enough to play notes for us, this showed me the importance of nature that has been culturally valued since the beginning. As we walked past these towards the edge, we came across the Combs of the Wind: three ginormous iron structures – one attached to the rock wall where we stood, another to an enormous rock parallel to us in the water, and another perched on another enormous rock directly in front of us. These twisted structures were composed by Basque architect Eduardo Chillida from the iron minerals found within Mount Igueldo. He produced these looped, ring looking structures within his studio and positioned them exactly as they stand now. With many different interpretations, Professor Z unfolded an optimistic and inspirational explanation. The first structure we stood next to represents the present, the other which is parallel symbolizing the past, and the last which lays in front signifying the “not so distant future.” Important to remember and recognize is the red tint of rotting iron and faded black spots from the waves crashing on them. In life, we are always experiencing the present, reflecting on our past, and hoping for the future. Meanwhile, people, events, and outside forces constantly crash down and wear on the person we are. These structures no longer look as new and shiny as they did upon being built. However, we must recognize their purpose. These structures comb the air and water that enters this beautiful coastline to maintain the natural beauty. Chillida intended to remind those who visit and those who reside here of the true purpose of these combs; we must appreciate the beauty in each and every aspect of the present, past and future.