“No hay otra cosa en el mundo más bonita que Bilbao…” There’s nothing in the world as beautiful as Bilbao, or so goes the song sung by a group of men outside a bar in Plaza Nueva in Bilbao’s old quarter.
Because if New York has Sinatra singing “New york, New York”, Bilbao has its “txikiteros” singing “Bilbao, Bilbao”.
“Txikiteros” are groups of men who sing, drink and talk, being the singing what differentiates them from other regular bar goers.
They go from bar to bar, what in the Basque Country is called ” potear”, singing a different song in each bar.
They are called “txikiteros” because the small wine glasses they drink are called “chiquitos” or “little ones”.
They sing traditional songs in Spanish and Basque, but they are best known for their “bilbainadas”, songs that praise the wonders of Bilbao.
“Bilbainadas” portray Bilbao’s idiosyncrasy like nothing else.
The lyrics talk about the proudness of the former portuary town that grew upon iron, heavy industry and naval trade. The town and its surroundings were savaged by the industrial activity, but in the eyes of its people, there was nothing greater. The booming economy infused a confidence that lasts till today.
And ” bilbainadas” is also the term used to describe the common boasting people from Bilbao are known for.
The Bilbao of today is indeed beautiful, not the grey and polluted town of the past.
If you want to see the “txikiteros” in action, you need to go to ” las siete calles”. These seven streets make up the original core of what today is Bilbao. You won’t have a hard time finding them because, as the song continues, “they are famous throughout the whole world”.
These are the “7 calles” or “Zazpi kaleak” in Basque:
*The day of the “txikitero” or “día del txikitero” it’s every year on the 11th of October.