Logroño and sun poisoning

the Camino — one does it for tapas (rather than in stages or “etapas”)

the end of our first week on the Camino brought us into Logroño, a university town and regional capital just over the border of Navarra in the Rioja region. the walk was long and hot and made more challenging by sunburns (from the stage from Puente la Reina to Estella) that flared into sun poisoning as a result of the sun and distance. thankfully, we found a great, comfortable hotel (f&g Hotel) at the intersection just over the bridge crossing the rio Ebro where we promptly decamped, showered and I set off in search of some Gatorade to help recover from the sun poisoning.

Puente de Piedra – built in 1884

once again, the original settlement dates from Roman times and, after Sancho Garcés of Pamplona and Orduño II of Leon reclaimed it from Moorish control, proved a prize over which kings of Navarra, Aragon and Castilla frequently quarreled. (records claim that El Cid, conspiring with Moors in Zaragoa intent on unsettling the Castillian border, attacked the city in 1073.) the charter granted the city by Alfonso VI, coupled with his successful aim of making the city strong and prosperous, only increased its desirability for enemies; very few medieval monuments remain because of the frequency with which the city endured violence. for example:: in 1134 Castilla took it from Aragon; in 1160 Navarra took it; in 1176 it was taken back by Castilla; in 1336 four men held off an attack by Navarra by defending the end of the bridge; in 1369 it fell to Navarra anyway; in 1375 it went to allies of Castilla in whose hands it remained until 1460 when Navarra, aided by Aragon, reclaimed it only to lose it almost immediately back to Castilla. it also fell to Napoleon in the 19th century and suffered heavily during the War of Independence and was occupied during the 1833-34 Carlist War.

during the 14th century, anti-Semitic riots destroyed the Jewish quarter, which stood just outside the city walls, while over the two centuries in which the Spanish Inquisition operated, Logroño was the seat of Basque witch trials. in 1569, the Hospital de Roque Amador, an albergue, was taken to serve as the center of Inquisition activities.

after a nap, two bottles of Gatorade, and some ibuprofen, the sun poisoning had abated enough to allow for dinner. the delay was something of a boon, in fact; rather than eating at the absurdly early hour of “before 7 p.m.” we wandered into the plaza in front of the Concatedral of Santa Maria de la Redonda (they share a bishop with two other churches nearby) to catch the tail end of some sort of trivia game and performance that had drawn quite a crowd.

out and about in central Logroño

we chowed down on some pasta — the first thoroughly enjoyable and filling meal I’d had since arriving in Spain — and wandered the streets of Logroño to see what there was to see. saw plenty of graffiti and a few murals (like the one pictured). saw some dodgier allies than those we’d seen in Pamplona. did not see any more prostitutes (but I avoided the back street I’d seen them working earlier when in search of Gatorade and aloe). saw the organization of Friends of the Camino in La Rioja. and called it an early night in the hopes that a good night’s sleep would prove sufficient to allow us to continue on the Camino the following day, rather than taking a day to let sunburned legs keep us holed up an unexpected extra day. sleep — with the help of our hearty dinner — did help. and though our meal wasn’t all that adventurous or special, turns out Logroño has one of the most distinguished culinary traditions in Spain, is well known for its tapas (again, see the mural above) and in 2012 was named the gastronomic capital of Spain.

(lastly, I just have to note that of all the small-to-medium-sized towns I’ve investigated via Wikipedia for these posts, the page for Logrono has been the most intriguing.)

Operation Motorman

the end of Free Derry came with Operation Motorman on 31 July 1972. after three years of keeping external police forces out of Free Derry (as well as areas of Belfast), at 4am the British Army launched a sweep of no-go areas. some 20,000 troops swept through the area, dismantling barricades with bulldozers and hauling people out of their houses. because of the superiority of firepower of the British, neither wing of the IRA offered resistance and Free Derry came to an end.

Battle of the Bogside

the other major, catalyzing event to occur in Derry was the Battle of the Bogside. i know i haven’t explained the nature of Bogside yet, but soon. tomorrow, maybe. for now, we’ll stick to this mural.

in August 1969, tensions were even higher than normal when the Apprentice Boys held their annual march, to commemorate the Protestant victory in the Siege of Derry (again, more on that in a later post). the Catholic community protested the march, confronting the Protestant gathering and ultimately throwing stones and what have you at one another. the police chased the Catholics into the Bogside, where they set up defenses and barricades.

in the mural, over the Rioter’s right shoulder you can see the Rossville Flats, which stood on Rossville Street. in a nutshell, they were shit flats, built to keep Catholics segregated in the Bogside and, because of insane property-owning-electoral laws, served to disenfranchise the Catholic population on a massive scale. during conflict with police, however, it became apparent that it was a pretty good location for launching attacks on police and troops down in the road. too high for their weaponry to reach and affording a good vantage point for lobbing stones and petrol bombs.

the rioting lasted for three days. in the end, British troops were called in to calm the situation; longstanding tensions between the Protestant-dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary meant that those defending Bogside would not let up if it meant letting up on the RUC. the B-Specials were called up to enter the fray, which would certainly only serve to escalate the situation. in comparison to facing down the RUC bolstered by the B-Specials, in late 1969 the British troops were seen as a neutral force, one that didnt’ necessarily have baggage or history with the Bogside community, and who might be reasonable in their policing, at least. as history attests, that attitude didn’t last. by this point, the Bogside was thoroughly mobilized; returning to the status quo, impossible. in fact, the previous month, the community set up the Derry Citizens’ Defence Association, to protect against oppression and aggression from the local police force. following the Battle of the Bogside, the DCDA took over control of the Bogside and, until Operation Motorman three years later, neither local police nor British troops were able to penetrate beyond the Free Derry wall.

murals of Bogside

the location that I perhaps enjoyed the most in all of my travels in Ireland was Derry. which, legally, isn’t a part of the Republic at the moment, though most of the people I spoke to south of the border don’t think in those terms. in one place, we went through a brochure produced by the Northern Ireland tourism board and crossed the “London” that preceeded Derry wherever we could find it.

the city of Derry is known for its walls. i’ll talk about the old walls in a later post, but first, some on the “other” walls — those of the Bogside. as in Belfast, Derry has murals commemorating events of the Troubles. but whereas the murals of Belfast often change to reflect current political realities, the murals of Bogside were commissioned and created by a group of artists. there are twelve in all, taking up the ends of row houses throughout the Bogside. i didn’t take pictures of all of them, but i’ll share the ones that i have, beginning with my favorite:

this one, Bernadette, depicts the Battle of the Bogside and features Bernadette Devlin (more on the Battle later). Bernadette was a student at the university in 1968, when tensions in the North were growing exponentially. she became a prominent voice in the student movement and was elected to Parliament at the age of 21, the youngest woman ever elected MP. rather than follow the tradition of abstentionism in protest of the treatment of Catholics in the North, Bernadette chose to take her seat at Westminster and raised hell. as seen in the mural, she supported residents during the Battle of the Bogside and, following Bloody Sunday, was temporarily suspended from Parliament (she punched the Home Office Secretary for claiming the British Army fired in self-defense).

in the mural, there are a couple of things of note. first, the residents at this point were not heavily armed. they used stones and basic petrol bombs to attack the incoming forces. it seems that neither side was ever very well prepared for the confrontations; sometimes that meant a deficiency in weaponry, inadequate defensive material, or an abject lack of information about conditions. resistance was gritty and sprung from frustration and survival instincts. second, during confrontations, women would keep watch and bang trash can lids on the pavement to alert others of police or other troops. third (of which more later), the Free Derry Corner was the locus for much of the resistance to British incursion in Derry. though the row of houses that originally stood on the site has been demolished, residents requested that the end wall remain as a reminder of what has transpired.

now for some pictures …

i may be back from Ireland, but never fear, dear readers, anecdotes are yet to come. and this time, with pictures! first up, Belfast.

murals became an opportunity to express political opinions, to vent frustration, and to honor those who died during The Troubles. they’re painted on the ends of buildings all along Falls Road (Republican), Shankill Road (Loyalist), and Sandy Row (Loyalist)

this first one, painted on the end of a row of houses that also hosts a Sinn Fein bookstore in Falls Road, honors the memory of Bobby Sands, an IRA activist and MP who died while on hunger strike in 1981. the protest arose from the end of Special Category Status–a policy wherein political prisoners were treated similar to those of war and not required to do certain chores or required to wear prison garb. ultimately, 10 people died while on hunger strike in 1981 and Thatcher was not moved.

this second photo, also along Falls Road, illustrates more contemporary political themes. whereas the murals in Derry are more artistic in nature (illustrating specific events and completed by artists), those in Belfast are more subject to change to address political issues, particularly those of disenfranchised or repressed peoples. the ones along this wall included one on Cuba, one on the Basque region in Spain, and a protest of racist treatment.

this final picture is as you enter Sandy Row, a unionist stronghold nearer the center of Belfast. (Shankill Road radiates west, Falls Road roughly southwest). it echos the mural in the Bogside proclaiming Free Derry (more on that to come).

finally, a mural from Shankill Road honoring members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. the hand in the middle (seen here in both red and gold) is the symbol of Ulster. you’ll often see flags depicting the red hand of Ulster on a white background with red cross as a symbol of unionist sentiments. all along Shankill Road this day, in addition to flags with the red hand of Ulster, there were Union Jack banners running between street lights.

there may be peace, but, as i mentioned in a previous post, that doesn’t mean that problems are solved or wounds are healed. there is still occassion to have the “peace wall”, which runs through the middle of neighborhoods along Falls Road and Shankill Road.


survived my flights. the guy sitting next to me on the flight from ORD to FRA was Muslim and took time out and prayed twice during the flight. the Frankfort airport was unlike anything I’ve experienced in Europe before, but maybe I just don’t travel enough in Europe (many of the gates are just ‘gateways’ and you take a shuttle out on the tarmac to actually board the plane — more like what I experienced traveling to Venezuela).

took an earlier bus to Belfast, so I walked around the city centre while waiting to meet up with Nico. the City Hall is still under renovation, so there won’t be a tour tomorrow. the bus centre is behind the Hotel Europa, which is/was the most bombed hotel/building (the language is upstairs at the moment) in Europe during the Troubles. Wouldn’t necessarily know it now, though I didn’t go inside. the two French girls staying in the same room as me say that central Belfast is pretty standard as far as city centers go, and it’s once you get out west of the city that things get more interesting — Shankill Road, Sandy Row, etc. saw one Loyalist mural near the bus depot, and i’m planning to head out to Falls Road for a bit tomorrow.

went to the bus centre to meet up with Nico at the time the bus i was *supposed* to be on got in. waited about 50 minutes but she didn’t come, or i didn’t see her. caught a cab down here and booked a bed. the place is clean, but more ‘hotel-y’ than ‘hostel-y’, as the French girls observed. they spent 12 days traveling from Derry to Belfast by thumb and it sounds like they had a great time. not necessarily something that i’d ever want to do, but all the positive things they had to say about all the people they’ve met give me cause to think this will be a great two weeks.

hasta … ?