If you thought San Sebastián was paradise, you should step out of the old part. Don’t stop at the green paths of Urgull, or the city sands of La Concha. Parque Cristina Enea is our spot, our little wild paradise that is only a few minutes from our home.
Cristina Enea is a legacy of the Duke de Mandas, whose name lies on the street that leads up to the entrance. After a series of purchases, remodelings, and additions, the legacy came to consist of 95,000 square meters. And they are a charming, wild bunch of square meters. You can find peacocks, fig trees, holm oaks, chestnuts, red crabs, geese, laurel trees, mistletoe…it’s where we go to forage Christmas decorations. It’s also where we go to experience various levels of magic: from the hazy, British lower level, to the animal-packed upper level (over 100 species to be found in the park), to the hilly edges with trees and nooks for snoozing.
The park was set in motion in 1859, by the 27-year-old duke, as he was busy claiming Mount Urgull for the city as well. The population of San Sebastián hovered around 15,000 people back in those days. He bought up land from various landowners (Micaelene, Chicoene, Manuene, Manuelenea, Egañategui, Toledochiqui, Leriñene and Torres, to name a few) and then invited in Pierre Ducasse, the royal’s gardener, to design the landscape and ponds and plant trees from all over the world. The buildings were designed by Jose Clemente de Osinalde, combining the gingerbready trends of the time with traditional Basque architecture. One of the buildings is the Palace, which until 1980 was inhabited by a caretaker, then left to mold and be robbed.
The park was handed down from royalty to royalty with a curious stipulation that the owner must live a certain amount of months of the year in the park, and it was this demand that led to it be ceded to the Town Hall on July 6, 1926. Not, of course, without more demands: the name could not be changed, nobody could play soccer or other lowly games in the park, only three concerts could be held per year in the park, and, supposedly, no lunches or snacks could be had in the park. Which bodes interestingly for one of DSS2016’s biggest events…perhaps that’s why it’s a dinner.
Now Cristina Enea is more than just a beautiful park; it’s also home to the Environmental Resources Center and the Urban Sustainability Observatory. What does that mean to the average Jose? That there is a super cute library if you are looking for a secret, quiet place to read or study. And that the park has a government-funded body serving as an anchor, ensuring that we won’t ever lose this prime piece of real estate.