The second stop on the program’s itinerary is Burgos, a city in northwestern Spain at the edge of the central plateau. Founded in the 9th century , but retaining its Visigothic name signifying consolidated walled villages ( burgos), the city has a long history which extends to the Roman empire. It was after a brief Moorish occupation however, that Alfonso III, king of León, reconquered it in the mid-9th century and Diego Rodríguez "Porcelos", count of Castile, gathered the inhabitants of the surrounding country into one fortified village, which took the name of Burgos. In 1574 , Pope Gregory XIII made its bishop an archbishop, at the request of King Philip II , and the city has been the seat of a Catholic bishop from then until today. Burgos was a major stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela and it still possesses more ecclesiastical monuments than any other Spanish city, more even than Toledo. The three most outstanding of these are the cathedral, with its chapel of the Condestable; the monastery of Las Huelgas; and the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores. The cathedral is the burial place of the 11th-century warrior Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid , who was born in a little town near the city, now called Vivar del Cid.
From Burgos, we will make our way north to Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Province and a major seaport and industrial center. The city has recently undergone major urban renewal, in order to move away from the region’s industrial history and instead focus on tourism and services. The developments are centered around the new metro system by Sir Norman Foster and most of all, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry. The museum opened to the public in 1997 and immediately vaulted to prominence as one of the world's most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism. The museum’s design and construction serve as an object lesson in Frank Gehry's style and method. Like much of Gehry's other work, the structure consists of radically sculpted, organic contours: the Guggenheim Bilbao claims that it does not have a single flat surface. Part of the building is crossed by a highway bridge, and a large portion is sheathed in paper-thin titanium panels. The museum, sited as it is in a port town, is intended to resemble a ship. Its brilliantly reflective panels resemble fish scales, echoing the other organic (particularly, fish-like) forms that recur in Gehry's designs, as well as the river Nervión which it overlooks. The exhibitions in the museum itself change often, but most of the work is contemporary and 20th century art. In addition to the famous Guggenheim Museum, the city also houses the Fine Art Museum (recognized as one of Spain’s finest art museums and recently refurbished) and the Maritime Museum on the Nervión’s banks.