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About one month ago I travelled to the Basque Country with my main goal being visiting San Mamés for (maybe) the last time as our beautiful stadium will be demolished, probably within a year from now. I picked that weekend because I could see Athletic twice at home (one Europa League match, and a league match) and I could visit Real Sociedad and Osasuna as well, Osasuna even for the first time which made me fullfill another desire.

For those who're interested, here a short report of my trip, with some links to my pictures and so.


Thursday December 6th
Early in the morning I took a cheap flight from my backgarden (airport Weeze is a few kilometres from my home) directly to Bilbao where I arrived at about 9.30 in the morning. This day I was lucky as there was some kind of holiday in Spain and everyone got a day off. That meant for me it was football day! As I did all the sightseeing stuff during my previous trips already I had time enough left to see some lower league football, something I really like for some reason.


From the airport I took immediately a bus to Termibus where I left my bag and took the metro to Erandio. At 11.15 the local side kicked off versus local rivals Loiu. I picked this match in the morning, at the fifth level, because of the lovely old fashioned stadium (watch well, anything is painted in the club colours) and the beautifull scenery it's lying in, with the Sestao's dockyard and the beautifull Basque hills in the background.

--> Erandio - Loiu pictures

After the game I went back to Termibus to collect my bag again, ate some tortilla and moved to my hotel for these days to check in. During the siësta I relaxed a bit before I moved to Casco Viejo to take the Euskotren to Zamudio for the 2nd game of the day. At the fourth level Zamudio hosted Lagun Onak (meaning: good friends) from Azpeitia. As this game kicked off at 16.30 I had time enough left to be on time for Athletic's match versus Sparta Prague later on this evening.


Zamudio is a town located next to Lezama which well known for us Athletizales as the training facilities of Athletic are located there. Zamudio is just a small club who're playing in Tercera for years without having achieved something. The match was quite fun as the guests saw a player sent off in the first half, despite that they took the lead just before half time. Just after half time Lagun Onak scored again, and a few minutes later the saw another player sent off, however with nine versus eleven they did defend their lead very well.

-->Zamudio - Lagun Onak pictures

After this match I returned to Bilbao to see Athletic Club versus Sparta Prague. Despite I saw many European away matches in the stadium, I never saw a European home match yet. Despite this home match was of no importance anymore, it was special for me as it quite likely might have been the last European home match every in San Mamés, a stadium with a beautifull European history.


As you all know the match wasn't of any importance anymore, but it felt good to be back in San Mamés. Unfortunately the game was horrible and the ball more looked like a bouncing-ball sometimes. Despite that we saw some youngsters play and Athletic at least didn't lose.
After the match I walked back to my hotel after a busy day ;).

--> Athletic Club - Sparta Praha pictures

See my next posts in this topic for the other days.
 

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Friday December 7th
As I planned four days full of football actually this day was planned for other things. However, in the end I couldn't resist when I found out there was a match scheduled for this evening.



Anyway, I woke up quite early to do some shopping before the shops would close for the siësta. Then I went to eat something before I headed to Termibus again to take a bus to Santander. In the evening a small Tercera club would play a home match which is quite unusual for a friday evening. As I flew a lot to Santander in the past I think I was here for the fourth or fifth time in my live, but once again in darkness, it's some kind of curse I think, but I like Santander at night. I even wonder how that city would look in daylight, perhaps I'd never return then ;).

--> Atlético Albericia - Cultural Guarnizo pictures
 

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Saturday December 8th
This day I was extremely lucky with the matches in the way they were scheduled by RFEF. That was because it was possible to visit Real Sociedad in the afternoon and Osasuna in the evening. Osasuna I still wanted to visit once while I wanted to visit Donostia as well, lucky as I was I could do it both in one day today!

So once again I woke up early in Bilbao and took an early bus to Donostia. Also in this city I've been more than once, but I never did what anyone should do when being there, taking the funicular up to Monte Igueldo from where you've got a beautifull view over La Concha.


After I arrived in Donostia first I went to the old town to find a good pintxos bar where I had a great breakfast. I was filled up enough to start the walk from the old town to Monte Igueldo. After a beautifull walk I took the funicular from where I had a beautifull view, I recommend this to everyone!


However, a day without football, is no day, so I had to return from the hill back to the city. At 16.00 Erreala would kickoff and I'd visit Anoeta for the 2nd time in my life this afternoon. Despite they're our rivals, I don't really dislike them that much. After I had a great meal next to the beach in some nice 'jatetxea' I walked all the way down south to the stadium where I saw Erreala equalised in extra time versus Geta.

--> Real Sociedad - Getafe pictures

After the game I left Donostia quite soon to on a bus to Pamplona. I was fortunate there was a bus heading for Pamplona about 30 minutes after the final whistle. I was quite unlucky though it was a slow bus driving to all small places inbetween, like Betelu, Azpirotz, Lekunberri and Irurtzun. After an adventurous busdrive we arrived in Pamplona 90 minutes before kickoff.



First I walked to my hotel in the city centre where I checked in as fast as I could to walk immediately to El Sadar (thank god it's named again like that). On time I arrived and after a nice bocadillo with bacon I was ready for the match. Unfortunately Osasuna were too weak and Valencia won their first away match of the season under their coach Valverde.

--> Osasuna - Valencia pictures
 

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Sunday December 9th
This morning I left Pamplona as early as possible back on my way to Bilbao which was via Vitoria-Gasteiz which made me visiting all big Basque cities these days.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to be on time for Bilbao Athletic who hosted Barakaldo at Lezama. In the end I decided to pick a lower league game in Basauri as there wasn't much left to do this afternoon anyway.


Before travelling to Basauri by metro I checked in in the first hotel again near San Mamés. The game was quite fun and I as for the first time in Basauri, but for the rest it wasn't that much special.

--> Basauri BEA - La Merced pictures

Main thing was to be on time for the 'preparty' before Athletic-Celta this afternoon. Athletic and Celta hardcore fans are friends and as Celta didn't play in San Mamés for about five years a lot Galicians travelled this weekend. The atmosphere was very nice and friendly in the city and around San Mamés with a lot of drinking, games and fun.
Important especially there was asked attention for the murders on Aitor Zabaleta (like in Donostia one day ago too) and Iñigo Cabacas.


Both sets of fans behaved great and I even saw Athletic win today, something which isn't too normal this season ;).


It's not sure yet, but it's quite likely this was my last time in San Mamés. For the last time the arco, for the last time in Spain's oldest stadium, for the last time in the Cathedral... I really hope the new one will feel as good as the old one, although it will probably need a lot of time.

--> Athletic - Celta pictures

Monday December 10th
Today I had to travel back home and it wouldn't be as easy as when I came to Bilbao. First in the morning I took a bus to Zaragoza, from where I flew to Charleroi from where I took some trains home. Overall it took me 17 hours to reach my home again, but it was worth it, especially as I saw the Pyrenees from the plane ;).



I wrote this all very quick so I probably forgot a lot of nice details and stuff. Also I'm sorry for spelling mistakes and typos, but I'm a bit tired too :). I thought it was perhaps nice to share some experiences / stories / pics.
 

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Fantastic images Knoert....I must say I know nearly every bar in Bilbao and that one on the top right doesn't look at all familiar...can't say I recognise the pastry based pintxo second from the right in the pic either...I give up!..where is it and what is it!!?
 

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I must say I know nearly every bar in Bilbao and that one on the top right doesn't look at all familiar...can't say I recognise the pastry based pintxo second from the right in the pic either...I give up!..where is it and what is it!!?
Hehe you're completely right, that picture comes from a bar in the old town from Donostia. Thanks to Google Earth I found the name; Bar Gorriti, not too far from the constitution place. Ate quite some pintxos there as it was for breakfast on Saturday morning, not too expensive and I was quite hungry, but unfortunately I didn't try the one you're talking about so can't comment on that one.

In Bilbao I went to some pintxos bars too, mainly in Casco Viejo and a few around San Mamés, I just love that food :D, but I didn't take pics of them.
 

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Wow what a great trip Knoert, so well planned to get so many games in! :cool: Personally I am in agreement with you about Erreala, they are a respectable club by any standards, from a lovely city, proud Basques and promote from the cantera as much as Athletic. Unless you live in EH and experience the local rivalry, there is no reason for an Athletikzale from abroad not to be a fan of RS as well. But you can't get behind them 100% of course!

I am finally going to Euskadi for the first time (well, I was in Santurtzi port briefly en route to Santander when I was 12!) in March for a weekend around the Valencia game. I'm a little bit worried about tickets cos I would rather buy them in Bilbao than online, but it might be a popular game and sell out - so any advice you guys can give me on tickets and anything else would be great! My Spanish is almost nothing, so the more I can get planned in advance, the better!

My wife is coming with me so we are doing nice things like a Rioja wine-tasting - I doubt I will be able to persuade her to go to Lezama or catch any weird Tercera matches (this time), the main aim is to catch La Catedral before it's too late! Hopefully by then Athletic will have won a few more games so they wont need the points in a relegation battle! :err:
 

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Haha just had a wee look at your site Knoert and saw you were at the 5-1 game against Valencia in 2008! I would certainly like a repeat of that score and I'm sure everyone else would be happy with it too!

Also, what an odd little stadium Zamudio have!

The Tercera is a weird place, its both weird and nice to think that a long list of top players for Athletic have turned out at such places for Basconia. Not sure I agree with some players being promoted straight from Juv A to Bilbao Athletic nowadays, Muniain maybe because he was exceptional at such a young age but almost all the other canteraños (Yeste, Gurpegi, Llorente, Susaeta, Iturraspe etc) had to enjoy/suffer a full season there in the past visiting glamorous Getxo, Durango and Zamudio so I don't really get why they don't still want the best prospects to do so (Ruiz de Galarreta, Ramalho and Saborit only played a few games, Aurtenetxe and Guillermo skipped it altogether).

Maybe the thinking has changed again however, the latest cracks like Seguin, Undabarrena and Etxeberria are getting a full Basconia season and so did Laporte.
 

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Thanks for your comments crowsus, it's always nice to get some feedback :).

I am finally going to Euskadi for the first time (well, I was in Santurtzi port briefly en route to Santander when I was 12!) in March for a weekend around the Valencia game. I'm a little bit worried about tickets cos I would rather buy them in Bilbao than online, but it might be a popular game and sell out - so any advice you guys can give me on tickets and anything else would be great! My Spanish is almost nothing, so the more I can get planned in advance, the better!
Don't worry for tickets, you'll always get them. If you're in Bilbao before the match of Athletic, you can easily get them at certain times (will be published on the official website) from the taquillas at San Mamés or from the BBK ATM's around the city and in a lot of other cities too. My ticket for Athletic-Celta I bought on friday in Santander from a BBK ATM. Make sure you know Athletic doesn't sell tickets on the internet!

Anyway if you need any help in general feel free to contact me :).

My wife is coming with me so we are doing nice things like a Rioja wine-tasting - I doubt I will be able to persuade her to go to Lezama or catch any weird Tercera matches (this time), the main aim is to catch La Catedral before it's too late! Hopefully by then Athletic will have won a few more games so they wont need the points in a relegation battle! :err:
If you want to catch a Tercera match, try to combine it I'd say. For example visiting Puente Colgante and the riverside followed by a Portugalete or Sestao game. Or heading to Getxo's beach and promenade before visiting Arenas, etc. ;).

Haha just had a wee look at your site Knoert and saw you were at the 5-1 game against Valencia in 2008! I would certainly like a repeat of that score and I'm sure everyone else would be happy with it too!
Yeah that was one of the best ever, especially as my fellow Dutchman Koeman back then coached Valencia :D.

The Tercera is a weird place, its both weird and nice to think that a long list of top players for Athletic have turned out at such places for Basconia. Not sure I agree with some players being promoted straight from Juv A to Bilbao Athletic nowadays, Muniain maybe because he was exceptional at such a young age but almost all the other canteraños (Yeste, Gurpegi, Llorente, Susaeta, Iturraspe etc) had to enjoy/suffer a full season there in the past visiting glamorous Getxo, Durango and Zamudio so I don't really get why they don't still want the best prospects to do so (Ruiz de Galarreta, Ramalho and Saborit only played a few games, Aurtenetxe and Guillermo skipped it altogether).

Maybe the thinking has changed again however, the latest cracks like Seguin, Undabarrena and Etxeberria are getting a full Basconia season and so did Laporte.
Being a fan of non-league football I really love the Tercera. There's so much diversity, new grounds, old grounds, big cities, small towns, it's always a big surprise to me where I'll end up. During this trip I discovered how nice Erandio's ground is, really old styled with a beautifull view over the Nervion river.
As for the players I think it's good to play at this level for about one season just because they'll meet a lot of (physical) resistance by playing older and tougher players, with that it's only good to visit places and pitches who aren't as well developed as Lezama.
 
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