the basque country

Bassussarry, Biarritz and the Basque Country

the basque countryAt Word Connection, we are incredibly fortunate to be based in Bassussarry, a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of southwestern France.

the basque countryBassussarry is located in the French Basque Country on the outskirts of beautiful Biarritz and just 35km from the Spanish border. Its Basque name is basusarri which means “dense forest”, but the area is most notable for its proximity to outstanding sandy beaches, the beautiful town of Biarritz and the stunning peaks of the Pyrenees. It is a region that boasts both incredible scenery and a fascinating history.

The beguiling Basque Country of France

the basque countryOne of the few places on Earth where it is possible to ski and surf on the same day, the French Basque Country attracts many tourists who revel the unique culture of the region. Visitors are fascinated by the Basque sport of pelota (a hybrid of handball and squash) and culture vultures can explore the gorgeous churches and impressive museums. After dark, the casinos of Biarritz provide an exciting distraction following thrilling days on the slopes or time spent enjoying the world-class surfing scene.

Basque food culture

the basque countryThe Basque culinary scene is also a compelling reason to visit the region. The offering is delicious and diverse with numerous must-try dishes including pinxtos (tapas), axoa (lamb stew). Fabulous ham and sensational seafood also featuring on the menu. Many recipes are spiced with Piment d’Espelette, a rare chilli pepper grown in the area. Meals can be accompanied by the excellent wines of the Basque Country or the local beers.

Labourdine Houses

the basque countryOur region is also distinguished by unique architecture. Etxea is the Basque word for home and the traditional etzea of our area are known as Labourdine houses. These properties are often substantial in size despite being largely the homes of working people as they were built to house several generations. They are white buildings, often with half-timbered facades, that boast windows with red shutters that were traditionally painted with ox blood.

Two countries, one people

map of the basque countryThe Basque country straddles the border of France and Spain and features the western Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay. It is home to the Basque people who are thought by many to be a largely unassimilated remnant of the Paleolithic peoples that inhabited western Europe prior to the Indo-European migrations. Recent research suggests that Basques are the descendants of neolithic farmers who became genetically isolated due to their location and the nature of the landscape.

the basque countryBasque tribes were mentioned by ancient Greek and Roman writers. Several tribes appeared to have existed but written references to all but one of them, the Vascones, ceased after the 5th century. Most people in the region had been assimilated by Roman culture and language by the end of the Roman era, but the ethnic Basques managed to retain most of their traditions throughout Roman rule and the subsequent incursions by various invaders.

History of the Basques

the basque country NavarreFrom around A.D. 824, the Basque Country was part of the Kingdom of Navarre, a medieval state that was ruled by a series of monarchs and straddled what is now the border between Spain and France. In 1515, much of that state was annexed to the Crown of Castile. It was incorporated into what is now Spain but enjoyed a great degree of independence. However, Basque self-government was abolished by the Spanish government in 1839. Over time, a Basque nationalist movement grew and argued for a separate Basque nation. During the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco forbade the use of the Basque language, stripped rights from the Basques, and ordered the destruction of the Basque city of Guernica. Due to the suffering of the Basques under the Francoist regime, the separatist movement Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) was established in 1959. ETA launched a campaign of terror that lasted for decades. The group was disbanded in 2018.

The Northern area of the Kingdom of Navarre was incorporated into France in 1589 when Henry III of Navarre became. Henry IV of France. The Franco-Spanish War followed (1635–1659). At the conclusion of the hostilities, the Treaty of the Pyrenees formalised the border between the two countries. The Basque Country remains divided by the border between the two nation states. As in Spain, the Basque peoples of France continue to seek at least some level of autonomy.

The Basque language

the basque countryThe genetic makeup of the Basque People has been the subject of much research. Thousands of years ago, huge migrations from the east brought agriculture to the west of Europe and spread both Indo-European languages and genetics across the continent. The genetics of modern-day French and Spanish people provide evidence of these migrations but those of the Basque people do not. Just as the genetics of the Basque people remained unaffected by the migrations, so did their language, Euskara.

Euskara is unrelated to any other language in the world and is still widely spoken in the region. The language was subject to dialectal fragmentation throughout history. The current standard form of the Basque language was only formalised in the 1960s. Today, seven different dialects are recognised. The formalisation of the language created a uniformity that ensured Euskara was practical to use in education and has helped to preserve it.

Connecting with the Basque Country

Word Connection is based in a visually stunning and culturally rich region that attracts visitors from across the globe. Our in-house team features Japanese linguists and project managers together with French project managers. We all speak English, and we are all delighted to live and work in the atmospheric, fascinating and unique Basque Country.

the basque country

Scroll to Top