Unfortunately I suffer badly from vertigo and/or have a ridiculous phobia about heights (depending on which way you look at it) which often manifests itself on exposed hillsides, even not particularly steep ones. It’s a form of agoraphobia, if you like, which affects all my balance mechanisms when a certain combination of open space and height kicks in. It doesn´t particularly bother me when I’m surrounded by trees or buildings, but as soon as they disappear I go a bit funny.
So my appreciation of the Basque hills has been somewhat limited this year. I’ve enjoyed looking at them from a distance, and taking trains through them: I like a nice hill as much as the next man. And many of the Basque hills are very satisfyingly green, forested and alpine. But I haven’t ventured up many of them. Which is a shame, as by all accounts they are extremely good to venture up, and provide some excellent views.
Bilbao itself is entirely surrounded by substantial hills, the reason it is sometimes called ‘El Botxo’ (‘The Hole’). Directly above the Casco Viejo is Mount Artxanda, served by a funicular, whilst on the other side of the river is Mount Pagasarri, which many Bilbainos walk up at weekends. Wherever you are in Bilbao, you can see the green (or white in winter) of the surrounding hills.
Even though I would have probably have been petrified.