Over the last few years I have sometimes had reason to visit Pamplona (or ‘Iruña’ as it is in Euskera). Signs in Spanish to this city going through the Basque Country are non-existent (for reasons one can only imagine). But I now know the way (essentially – head for France and turn right – or, if you get really lost – ask a gendarme).
Pamplona, by the way, is considered by the heavier members of the Basque independents as being the capital of Euskadi even though it’s in Navarra - a province (and one-stop autonomy) that stands on its own. Euskera is the second official language (anecdotal note).
I was in Pamplona in a cyber-café, full of young Turks bashing away at the keys, passing the time by writing a letter to The Diario de Navarra – a rather staid and boring daily from the Correo group.
‘Does anyone here know how to say ‘where’ in Basque?’ I asked. No, they didn’t. ‘Guys, I’m writing a funny letter to the Diario. I got lost in Vitoria and asked someone how to get to Pamplona – so, I need to say ‘¿donde está Iruña?’ to make my point. Now, I’m not a linguist, but I can say ‘donde’ in Italian, German, French, Greek, Portugee, Spanish and English. So, since you lot (there was about twenty people in the shop), since you lot, I say, are in a bi-fuckin’-lingual province, how do you say ‘donde’ in Basque?’.
Somebody took pity on me – ‘In Navarra, no one speaks Euskera outside of the mountains’, I was told.
Can you imagine such a conversation going on in Catalonia?