A great opportunity to combine science and culture

Konstantinos Anestis, MixITiN’s ESR1, reports from the town of San Sebastián in the Basque Country.

February 2019

Last January I travelled to Pasaia, a small town close to San Sebastián in Spain. The purpose of my trip: learning more about water management policies. My secondment took place at the technology center of AZTI which was founded in 1981. The vision of AZTI  is to “transform science into Sustainable and Healthy development” and thus one of its aims is to generate knowledge which then is used for development and deployment of technological products and services. An example is the AMBI software which is used for the evaluation of macroinvertebrate communities and the potential effect on business. AZTI is an excellent example of how private and public sectors can collaborate in order to create a research centre with applied and basic science as well.

When it comes to marine science, the focus of AZTI is on maintaining healthy natural resources while boosting the development of business initiatives. During my discussions with PhD students who work at AZTI, I was impressed by the conservation oriented research and the number of projects focussing on either restoration or environment management. The role of MixITiN in such efforts is to work towards integrating a consideration of mixotrophic plankton into water management directives for the future of nature conservation not only in Europe but all over the world.

Views in and around San Sebastián, including AZTI by night (top left).

During my first days at AZTI, I heard many people discussing about a big drum parade in the city of San Sebastián called “Tamborrada”. I searched about Tamborrada on the internet and found some interesting historical facts. First of all, it originated in the 1830s as a tribute to the Peninsula War. Tamborrada initially started as a part of the local carnival. It started when Napoleon’s troops conquered San Sebastián and provoked major damage to the city. During the period in which San Sebastián was under Napoleon’s control (7 July – 8 September 1813 ), French troops were marching across the city banging on their drums. At the same time, the local women were beating on the buckets they used to collect water; their aim was to to mock the French troops. Over time, culinary clubs also became involved in the festival by forming bands and therefore now you will see lots of drummers in chef uniforms at the Tamborrada. In  the present day, Tamborrada takes place on the 20th of January every year.

This year Team MixITiN had a presence at the Tamborrada! I took the opportunity of being in San Sebastián during my secondment to attend the opening ceremony as well as the marches. At midnight, the whole city gathered at the central square of the city, the Plaza de la Constitución where the city flag was raised and the festival officially started. Hundreds of drummers were dressed in either soldiers’ or cooks’ uniforms and you could find them in every corner of the city. Yours truly was dressed more casually. More than 15,000 people and over 100 bands participated in the celebration by drumming.

The Plaza de la Constitución at midnight.

And, of course there was food. Delicious food was part of the celebration and many indoor and outdoor restaurants offered traditional snacks called pintxos and talo. The various bands kept drumming for a full 24 hours (from midnight of the 20th of January until the midnight of the next day). In the end everyone gathered where it all began – at the Plaza de la Constitución – in order to attend the closing ceremony.