London to Bilbao to Guernica

Slight change of plan for the start of this one. Having researched Bilbao prior to arrival and looked at the map for my potential route into San Sebastian on day one, I decided to modify things a little.

There’s a village in Northern Spain which I really wanted to visit. Guernica.

Had I stuck to my original plan and camped out in Bilbao for the first night, it was unlikely I’d have time to visit Guernica and still make it to San Sebastian the next night.

Furthermore, there is a stretch of beach right on the coast Between Guernica and San Sebastián which is used in Game of Thrones for the scenes around Dragon Stone and I’d quite like detour past it to take a look. It looks spectacular on film.

So the revised route plan; Land at Bilbao Airport, reassemble the bike and ride for Guernica the same afternoon.

So the first challenge of the day was to reassemble the bike;

That mission having been accomplished, not without a few struggles, I set off for Guernica.

The route I had chosen included climbs of around 1500ft – something I definitely hadn’t prepared my legs for. As usual with this trip, I’d planned it with good intentions of doing some training, but it never happened! The legs will just have to get with the program quickly!

Once I’d left the area around the airport, the scenery was lovely – lush, green mountains and valleys, dotted with small villages.

Some edited (roughly) highlights of the day riding;


The name Guernica is immortalised by Piccasso’s masterpiece which now hangs in the Museo Reino Sofia in Madrid. The painting which is famous the world over was inspired, or maybe beter to say provoked, by the dramatica events of 26th April 1937.

That day in the Spanish Civil war was widely believed to mark a precursor for German Luftwaffe tactics as part of “Blitzkrieg” doctorine which would extend into the second world war. Franco’s nationalists had identified Guernica as a communication centre and congestion point of withdrawal for beaten republican forces. 

The German Condor Legion, commanded by Richthofen and at the request of General Franco, led the attack and bombed the town for 2 hours with overwhelming force.

German military leaders later denied that deliberate targetting of civilians was part of any doctorine and declared it counter productive. Blitzkrieg was to be limited to rapid destuction of enemy military forces only.

Guernica however seems to have been a deliberate disregard for, if not targeting of, civilian targets and sparked international outrage. The town was effectively flattened by carpet bombing.

Depending on who is asked, the casualties from those two hours were somewhere between 150 and 1600. The claims vary wildly although today the general consensus is between 2-300. However it is resonably accepted that this demonstration of the destructive use of co-ordinated air power and its potential affect of civilian casualties and destruction of non-military targets was unprecedented.

What’s more concerning is that the village does not seem to have restaurants, so I settled for a supermarket and camping out in a cheap hotel room with bread and cheese. Tomorrow is a rather lumpy ride to San Sebastian.

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