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15 aug202015

Spain in the Summer part II - Logroño

Logroño, SpainLogroño, Spain
The Land of Grapes
I have never been a big wine drinker. I don´t mind having a glass or two socially but it has never been something I would just buy for pleasure. Rum of course, but wine not so much. When I planned my trip Logroño seemed like a natural step. Even though wine as a drink is not of interest to me, I am always interested in seeing where things come from or how they are made. I realised that the city is the capital of La Rioja. {"type" : "www", "url": "", "date" : "13th August 2020", "title" : "La Rioja - Wikipedia"}

Despite its size of only  5 045 km2 {"type" : "www", "url" : "", "date" : "13th August 2020", "title" : "Autonomous communities of Spain - Wikipedia"} and being the smallest of the 17 autonomous regions in Spain, the people of La Rioja produce wine of the highest standard in the country and that´s what makes it such an important part of Spain. The name comes from Rio Oja that flows through Oja valley and into the Tirón river. 

Logrono has been created on the banks of river Ebro. This is the second time I met this river, after Zaragoza, but unfortunately it's also the last one. A lot of people pass through this city while walking the Northern Spain route of the Camino de Santiago, therefore wherever I went, I had to explain that I am no part of that journey, that I have my own :)
Puente de Hierro
This time I also chose accommodation closer to the city centre. Little did I know that I would be on the 1st floor above one of the busiest little streets of the city, which also forms the part of walking rooute of tapas bars. There were many on that street. Thankfully my place had really good windows that could block out all the noise. When it got hotter I resorted to keeping the windows open but blasting my latin music so loud that I could hear the hundreds of people talking.

Along the 300 metres route of Calle de Laurel, you can find an impressive 72 different places to eat and/or drink. {"type" : "www", "title" : "Calle Laurel de Logroño: ruta de tapas y pinchos - Todos a comer", "date" : "15th August 2020", "url" : ""}

During the week it was easier as the places had to close at midnight but I think during the weekend they were allowed to stay open much longer as one night I didn't fall asleep until 4am :)
The Walk
I had arrived on Thursday evening, thefore I didn't have too much time to explore until the weekend came. This time I wanted to have another 20+km walk but outside of the city. I chose one point on the map that looked interesting - Laguna de las cañas, a small nature reserve located just beyond the border of La Rioja and Navarra. Usually that is all I need. On pin on a map to kickstart the hike and then the instincts take over. The first pin is necessary, so that I don't wonder aimlessly and negatively.

First I had to get to the top of the Monte Cantabria. No clear paths, just a sign peligro..
Monte Cantabria
Once I got to the top my eyes were greeted with the sight I wanted to see - grapes, a lot of it, an abundance of it, and yet when I think how much wine is drunk every year around the world, you realise that there have to be many, many more fields like that to keep up with the demand.
Wine in the making...
Something that wasn't very obvious at the outset - there were many olive trees scattered around the grape fields. Quick research showed that it's not a coincidence that those trees can be found around the grapes. Not only both are perfectly made for this kind of climate but also are self-pollinating, which means they don't need insects or birds to carry pollen between flowers. The trees also shelter the grapes from strong winds that could affect pollination. Dream team! You can wine and olives at the same time :) {"type" : "www", "date" : "13th August 2020", "url" : "", "title" : "Why Are Olive Trees Planted Around Vineyards? | Home Guides | SF Gate"}
To Go or Not to Go
The weather for the first 3 hours wasn't great. At the top of the hill, even after all this climbing and walking, I felt cold. I checked the weather forecast and they said by 1pm the sky should be clear. It was past 12am and I was yet to witness it. For a moment I considered turning back but decided against it. Thankfully the clouds did go away at some point and I could enjoy some sun, and some better photos.

I reached the nature reserve and changed my focus to the little living things. It is great to shoot landscapes but appreciating those lives of insects, be it snails, dragonflies, or butterflies, and be able to get a good close-up of them, is where the micro-beauty lies.

After I had circled around the reserve, I stood in front of another decision. Left or right. Left would mean I'm starting to make angles towards my way back and right meant going away from the city even further. I decided to go straight ahead and see where I'll end up.
The Grape World
I thought seeing those fields near Monte Cantabria was impressive. So far I had already visited La Rioja and Navarra, hence it only made sense to try to reach Basque Country and make it a trifecta. North it is! That's when I saw why they call La Rioja the land of the grapes. Of course the grapes are also grown on the neighouring fields that technically are considered a different region - that's why La Rioja - the region, is not the same as Rioja - wine region.

Every now and then I would stop to appreciate the surroundings and realised all I could see were grapes, grapes, and more grapes. Thankfully the fields themselves weren't that big and provided useful in navigating. Grain or corn fields can be so huge, you can get easily lost in them. Grape ones need a lot more space between the vines but also more access around the field. If I didn't know where I was, I would walk along the outer rim of the field and it would quickly lead to some kind of access path. 
Grapes as far as eye can see

Ocassionally I found a field other than with grapes but what I liked the most were the corbelled stone shelters scattered around those fields. This dome structure, according to my research is called Casetas de Labranza and are used to keep the tools, instruments, and equipment of the daily work. The one I found was very small with one little window to help the air circulation but the construction was amazing! {"type" : "www", "date" : "13th August 2020", "url" : "", "title" : "Corbelled dome architecture in Spain and Portugal", "author" : "Fernando Vegas, Camilla Mileto, Valentina Cristini"}
To Another Country!
After I had had a break in this little dome, hoping that nothing won't fall on my head or that the snake skin I found was left long time ago, I changed my direction and started going west. By that time I was running out of water and had to find a place where I could replenish it. Thankfully few kilometers west I had the town of Oyón-Oion in the Basque Country. Quick walk through the town's supermercados and a lot of O_o looks like this when I saw the Basque language (Euskara). {"type" : "www", "url" : "", "date" : "13th August 2020", "title" : "Basque language - Wikipedia"}

It is amazing how their language was basically surrounded by Romance languages and yet it emerged as a completely isolated one. There are many hypotheses and controversies around the history of this language as well as its connections to other languages. I didn't even have a go at pronouncing it, okay I'm lying, I did, but no idea with what kind of level of success. Just look at these simple phrases:

Egun on izan dezala - Have a nice day

or this extract of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Gizon-emakume guztiak aske jaiotzen dira, duintasun eta eskubide berberak dituztela; eta ezaguera eta kontzientzia dutenez gero, elkarren artean senide legez jokatu beharra dute.

Since it is Pre-Indo-European language it doesn't even sound like any of the languages we know. Pre means that they existed in the prehistoric Europe and Asia before the arrival of speakers of Indo-European languages. I really like the fact that All I had to do is walk for few miles, in order to be in a different country and not only different language, but a whole different history that nobody has uncovered yet.  {"type" : "www", "url" : "", "date" : "13th August 2020", "title" : "Pre-Indo-European languages - Wikipedia"}

I hadn't realised I was so fond of languages until my final exams in high-school at the age of almost 18. At that time I had only had English for 3 years and German for 8 but surprisingly both went really great. Of course having spent the nest 12 years in the UK with a great interest in the history and etymology of English language, helped me a lot. Now I am trying to do the same with Spanish but in reality I wish we had a completely separate part of our brain just for languages. I wish we had the ability to learn languages easier, so that we could talk to many more people in different parts of the world.
Hunting the Sunset
At the end of my ~28km walk I found some hills close to the city with a perfect spot for a break. It was just one tree at the top of the hill but the power of the wind would make its leaves make very loud sound that was even better because it would block out all the noise from the nearby road that was quite a busy way out of Logroño.

I think I sat there for at least an hour. Eating what I got used to eating on my walks: sunflower seeds and blackberries. Turns out there are plenty of blackberries in the North of Spain. I realised that I don't really need to bring any heavy food on my walks as long as I find some bushes with berries. Feeding off the planet just like it was meant to be!
After my break I had a decision to make: Do I stay and wait for the sunset or go home? Sunset was over 2 hours away and I was getting tired but still had at least 1 hour of walking until I would reach home. In the end decided to come back to this place the next day and it was a good decision. The sunset was spectacular!
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