Camino del Norte 6 – Engineering

Bilbao is home to the World’s first transporter bridge.

When I was growing up there was a roll-on, roll-off ferry across the loch. One side would open up and cars and people would file on, it would cross the loch and then the other side would open up and everyone would move off without the ferry having to turn around. The transporter bridge is very similar except the ferry is hanging from a bridge a few meters above the river. Levitation 1890s-style.

The advantage of this approach is that the river is not blocked but people and cars can get on an off at the level of the land.

We both walked over the top of the bridge – which was high, let me tell you – and crossed in the gondola. It was a cool and unusual experience, all the more so because the gondola is used all the time by the locals; this is public transport, not a tourist attraction.

In spite of not being a walking day, or because of it, we decided on a big lunch in the old town. Purely by chance we happened upon what is touted to be one of the best pinxtos bars in Bilbao (we ate last night at one of the others). The food was unusual and excellent and made sitting in a cold plaza completely acceptable.

After re-warming back at the hotel, we headed out for another interesting bit of public engineering – the funicular up the hill behind Bilbao. We got thoroughly lost on the way and ended up in the very non-tourist part of town where dark stairwells substitute for streets on the steep hills.

The view from the top of the funicular was spectacular (although it is no higher than all the hills we’ve been climbing on foot). Strangely the only bar near the funicular faced away from the view but we whiled away an hour watching the locals instead.

We strolled, not hiked, about 10km today which our legs are thanking us for. Bilbao is a large, rich town with great food and interesting architecture; it’s proving a good choice for a rest-stop even without the art which is tomorrow’s focus.

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