L'Atelier Anciart Bergara

French Basque Country

At this workshop in the village of Larressore, around 6km north of Espelette, craftspeople make the traditional wooden walking sticks known as makhila, which have been carried by shepherds, farmers and hillspeople in the Basque Country for as long as anyone cares to remember. Customarily made from medlar wood and topped by a decorative leather pommel capped with steel, bone, horn or bronze, each one is made to order to suit its owner and can take several weeks of work to complete.

Most makhilas also have a hidden secret – the hand-grip can be slipped off to reveal a sharp spike, effectively turning a harmless walking stick into a deadly weapon. The workshop offers three core models costing from €280 to €650, or you can order your own custom version for considerably more. Either way, it's a fascinating art that's well worth watching.

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