Postcard from Logroño
By Elaine Teng '12, Senior Editor

“Laguna? Logo? Logorno?”

“No, no. Logroño.”

I have this conversation with almost everyone who asks me where I’m studying this semester. It inevitably ends up with them nodding blankly and going away with the hazy idea that I’m somewhere in the nebulous triangle between Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque country.

True, Logroño is very small, about the size of Northampton, and pretty much unknown to anyone outside of the Iberian Peninsula. But that’s the way I like it. Sure, I’ll admit I glowered a bit when I saw all of my friends’ Facebook photos of the red rooftops of Prague, the glittering boulevards of Paris and the magnificent palaces of Petersburg, and I spent the past weekend falling in love with the grandeur and energy of Barcelona. But when I came back to my little city nestled in wine country, I didn’t feel jealous or bored, but rather that curious sensation you only get when you’ve left home for a while and come back to it.

Not that Logroño doesn’t have its own share of treasures. More than 900 years old, the city is a major stop on the famous pilgrimage route, el Camino de Santiago, and is the capital of the smallest region of Spain, La Rioja, renowned for its wine. Walking around, I’ve found plenty of fascinating relics of Spain’s history, from the plaza where heretics were burned during the Inquisition, to Francisco Franco’s name still etched in the cathedral wall.

But most importantly, Logroño has given me a view of Spain I could never have gotten in a major city. Here, even if we stick out and get funny looks in the street, we foreign students live more or less like logroñeses. I live with two Spanish girls and a French boy, and I literally speak so much Spanish that my voice sounds funny to me in English. We live, learn and party with the Spaniards, which lets us see exactly how our cultures are so similar and different. To spice things up, there are so many foreign students here from all over the world that I spend half my time in an international community, learning slang words from Chilean Spanish and practicing my French on the side. Hearing all the different foreign accents speaking Spanish is hysterical in itself, with the French still sounding like they’re walking down the Champs-Elysées and the Italians talking more with their hands than with their Italian-Spanish words. We all go out for tapas together, winding through the nearly 50 tapas bars in two or three streets in the ancient center of the city, each with its own very delicious, cheap specialty.

And of course you must try the wine, made in the endless fields of vines all around the city and sold at unimaginable prices in the markets — less than one euro for an entire bottle of wine. I never realized how seriously people took their wine until we went to Laguardia, a small town nearby with ancient city walls surrounded by grapevines as far as the eye can see. During the tour of the bodega, or winery, we were invited to come back in autumn to help dance and step on the grapes poured into an enormous vat, and we wound our way through the labyrinth of tunnels filled with barrels upon barrels of wine. Our guide nearly got into a shouting match — one that was way too fast for me to understand — with one of the visitors who questioned the quality of the wine, and for a few seconds, I started planning tunnel exit strategies in case of a showdown. Even here in Logroño, there are stories that horses and carriages were banned from certain streets because the hooves and wheels were disturbing the peace and quiet of the wine.

So while I fell head over heels in love with Barcelona over the weekend, (which I’ll be sure to fawn over in loving detail in my next article if they don’t kick me out of the newspaper first), I wouldn’t trade Logroño for all of Gaudí’s houses, even if my parents still don’t really know where I am.

Issue 18, Submitted 2011-03-09 10:47:20