Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 14



Last April, the European Group Executive Committee surprised us with an invitation to Cantabria. We were able to discover an unknown Spain for ourselves with numerous lovely places, and enjoy an extraordinarily pleasurable climate for that time of the year.  That box of wine, promised by Pepe López to San Pedro so that it would be good weather, resulted in a splendid investment, since as soon as the majority of the participants were leaving, it started to rain. Then, “unfortunately”, we could not open the courtesy umbrellas.  Cantabria’s nature offered us a variety of multi-coloured prairies and forests, beautiful beaches with rocky cliffs and ravines, and as colophon, magnificent snow-topped mountains.


The topic of this Euromeeting, in which 480 pensioners from 8 European countries participated, was “Economic discrimination of the elderly”. To start off the General Assembly, different representatives of each country exposed their presentation for this topic.  We discovered that in some European countries, the elderly people have been very neglected by their governments. The sparingness of their pensions hardly gives enough to pay the heating bill or to pay their daily expenses. Many people have lost faith in their leaders. Finding a solution for these important problems and overcoming these unsustainable situations will always be a constant fight for our Group.


Mr. José Manuel Pérez Gómez, our guest speaker, explained in his intervention that to be able to fulfil the mission in our life, it is necessary to have a positive attitude and vital behaviour, and a big personal initiative as well. On the other hand, the members of the Assembly approved in Santander the adoption of a new name for our group. Now we will be called European Group of Pensioners of Saving Banks and Banks (EGPSBB).  Congratulations!


The first day of our stay, escorted by our very qualified guide Lourdes, we visited Santander, capital of Cantabria.  She explained to us that during the devastating fires of February 1941, more than 40 streets were destroyed and the Cathedral form the XIII century suffered big damages. The city was rebuilt with wide avenues and magnificent, lovely corners and parks. The Cathedral was rebuilt. In its vaults are the rests of the Santanderin writer and scholar Marcelino Menéndez and Pelayo.


Through the lovely views of Reina Victoria Avenue, we arrived to the peninsula of La Magdalena, where they built the summer palace for King Alfonso XIII in 1912. Nowadays, it lodges the summer University. In the pretty surrounding areas of the palace, we can find a mini zoo with sea lions, penguins, and the reproduction of caravels. In the north part of the peninsula, the fantastic Sardinero beach stretches out into one of the most beautiful bays in the world with its sea walk, terraces, big Casino, and, of course, our Hotel “Santemar”. Towards the East, we arrived to Cabo Mayor (Major Cape), with its lighthouse and natural monument, golden bridge, a lime rock bridge with a considerable height that powerfully called our attention.


With more than 600 caves, Cantabria is known internationally as the European Centre of Speleologists. We visited the “caves of Soplao”, one of the most important caves in the world, that stretches the length of 14 km. Long ago, it was used as mines. In 1977, it was granted an authorisation to visit 1,500 m of this space. The contemplation of its multi-shape establishments, its stalagmites, pisolites, rock curtains, cannulas, and rocky formations was simply fantastic and we were under a spell by the magic of the lights, shadows, and sounds games.


After a well-needed rest, we started the following day happily excited for the next trip. What long ago constituted iron mines in the valley of Pisuerga, nowadays is the great natural park of Cabárceno, where there are hundreds of species originating from five continents, living there all together in semi freedom. This park has a high percentage of success in raising wild animals, like the African elephant, tiger, or brown bear that, of course, the visitors find quite nice.


Afterwards, we crossed the San Vicente of Barquera Bridge that is 300 years old.  It is a typical fishermen’s village located at the mouth of the Escudo River. Crossing the old bridge entering the city, we went up some ruins of the castle and the church/fortress Santa Maria de Los Angeles, from the 13th century, with a romantic gate and gothic style tombs inside. A popular saying says that as one leaves the city, while crossing the bridge, one must hold his breath and make a wish. Will all our wishes be granted?


The following day, the road took us through numerous bends towards the picturesque Comillas, that was a highly visited bathing resort during the times of Alfonso XII. In the East part of the Plaza Mayor, a park stretches, next to the Neo-Gothic palace called “Sobrellano”, owned by the first Marquis of Comillas, Antonio López López. He descended from a very poor family and left for Cuba when he was 15 years old. He got married to a daughter of a ship owner and returned to Spain as a rich man.  Antonio López López lived in Barcelona even though he was always bonded to his birth city. He made it so that the first public electrical cable system in Spain was installed in Comillas.  He was also a wealthy patron of arts. His son-in-law, Antonio Gaudi, built him an Arabian style pavilion in Comillas, “The Caprice”, with a minaret, without any corners, with various windows with frames decorated as sunflowers. The Caprice was declared a historical monument in 1969. After being restored, it was converted into a Japanese restaurant. On the top of a little hill that separated the city from the sea, we found the impressive building of the University Pontifical Archiepiscopal.


Along the Suances trail, we passed through the cemetery with a statue of an angel holding a sword in memory of Antonio López López. In this city, we had a wonderful lunch in the El Caserio Restaurant, where seafood, fish, and splendid wine were served. Afterwards, during a digestive walk, we discovered in the reefs some magnificence flowers that pictures cannot reproduce with justice. Mother Nature had let them fall as a cloak of violet flowers.


In the evening, we gadded with Lourdes about a medieval village, Santillana del Mar, a fortress that was declared as an artistic historical monument. Sober in appearance, the arrogant noble houses of the place gave us a view of the Spanish nobility life. A walk through the paved streets led us to the City Hall that in the 19th century was still used as a prison. In the 12th century, the church was built where the remains of Saint Juliana are found. That building has 3 churches and a gold altar with Romanesque paintings representing the four apostles and Saint Juliana’s countenance. The cloister is supported by double columns, and their capitals describe biblical scenes.


On Wednesday, Lourdes, clothed in hunting attire, took us to the oldest city of the Cantábrico coast, the picturesque Castro Urdiales, next to the Basque border. In 1168, Alfonso VII granted the village the title of city, which afterwards knew an important the city rank, knowing beforehand of an important boom. Nowadays, it is a dormitory town because its house prices are lower than those closer to Bilbao. The Church of Santa María de la Asunción, with its Forgiveness gate, was built in the 17th century and presents some treasures, like the Crucifix of Gregorio Fernández and a white marble sculpture representing the Virgin Mary.


The trip to Picos of Europe was unforgettable, as well as the distance across a mountainous, wild and majestic mass with impressive chopped and vertical walls. This is the bean, wine, and cherry area. In the extensive birch and oak forest live brown bears, wolves, golden eagles, and hawks. Its rivers are overflowed with salmon and trout. The isolated villages have maintained its natural state.


Our buses snaked through the rock ravines that offered marvellous views, from the valley of the Deva River and the Saint Toribio of Liébana Trail. Toribio is located within the Santiago Trail and connects to Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago of Compostela, one of the four holy places in the world in which the pilgrims can receive forgiveness. In the Franciscan cloister, one can find what could be the biggest preserved piece of the holy cross, brought from Jerusalem in the 5th century by the bishop of Toribio. In the 16th century, the nuns made a coating with the shape of a cross that could contain the piece of wood, with a hole in the middle for its worship. The cloister is also famous for the Pious of Liébana, who moulded the Apocalypses in miniature polychromatic shapes.


Afterwards, we continued our trip towards Potes, a picturesque village surrounded by impressive mountains. Potes is the capital of Picos de Europa and its name means bridge.  This little city lives on tourism, even though it is also known for its vegetable produce, the distillation of Orujo, and Tostadillo sweet wine. We could see all of that in the food: lebaniego stew with garbanzos and different cooked meats and to finish off, tea from the peaks with orujo. Lourdes warned us of the “atomic effects” that we could suffer, so we strolled through the streets of this city that is a historical monument with its old bridges, noble houses, and the Infantado Tower of its City Hall.


The exercise did us good and soon we continued our journey towards the Picos station, Fuente De, at 1,000 meters in height. From the Parador Nacional, we went up with a cable car some 800 meters of a drop towards the Cable Balcony (1,840 meters). An incredible world of gleaming white snowed peaks awaited us there. We awkwardly walked in the snow under the gleaming sun and we could not stop awing of all the beauty


This week filled with long lasting experiences will remain in our memory for many years.  We are deeply convinced that Cantabria always deserves to be visited. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to President José Roberto López and his team.


We anxiously wait for the next Euromeeting to be able to see all the participants again.


Until next time,


Ruth Rebert and Christa Saia