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They’re they are: shy, modest, without attracting too much attention, watching time go by. We’ll say it in the Basque language: lurra, haizea, sua and ura. Now in Spanish: earth, air, fire and water. Yes, they are the four elements. Their faces are sculpted into the lower part of a charming little temple, and each ends in a spout. But just where is this iconic fountain, known as “the fountain of the four elements”? Let us go to the Plaza Unamuno in Bilbao, a popular, busy crossroads, a welter of comings and goings in the heart of the historic city centre.

By the way, the eminent writer after whom the square is named –it bears a statue of him– was born on a nearby street. “In our opinion, the Plaza Unamuno is the ideal place for soaking up history and intensely experiencing the present. It’s a meeting point for many people in Bilbao,” we are told at the travel blog ‘Piensa en un lugar’.

If arriving by Metro, the stop is Casco Viejo. After strolling around for a while, it’s easy to see why the square has been designated an Historic-Artistic Site, and almost anyone visiting Bilbao will stop by at least once. But returning to the four elements, many people do not notice this discreet fountain, something understandable in a frenetic urban setting.

It should be recalled that since it was remodelled in 1984 by the municipal architect Ramón Lecea, these four taps with their symbolic faces have provided locals and visitors with an invaluable service, anonymous and unconditional. Impassive before the hubbub of the surrounding cafés and museums, a humble ornament amidst the powerful architecture of the Casco Viejo, the fountain pays silent tribute to earth, air, fire and water: the four elements in the heart of Bilbao.