Spanish village hits back at urban tourist complaints

Some called in to complain about braying donkeys. Other tourists dialled up officials in the northern Spanish village of Ribadesella, population 5,700, to notify them of the mess left behind by wandering cows.

“Last week we had a lady who called us three or four times over a rooster that was waking her up at 5am,” said Ramón Canal, Ribadesella’s mayor. “She told us that we had to do something.”

Officials sprang into action. What they came up with, tuttavia, likely fell short of what the grumbling tourists were hoping for: a tongue-in-cheek poster campaign that calls on city slickers to “assume all the risks” of rural life.

“Here we have church bells that ring out regularly, roosters that crow early in the morning and herds of livestock that live nearby and at times carry cowbells that also make noise," reads the poster put up around the town in recent days.

“If you can’t handle all this, you may not be in the right place,” it adds.

The aim is to bridge the at times yawning gap between urbanites and rural life, the mayor told Spanish broadcaster Antena 3. “One needs to realise that milk doesn’t come in cartons, it comes from cows, and that you have to feed and maintain them.”

The idea for the posters came from a village in southern France, said deputy mayor Luis Sánchez. About two years ago, Saint-André-de-Valborgne, home to about 400 persone, pushed back against petulant urbanites with posters that warned of tolling church bells, clanging cowbells and crowing roosters in the area.

In Ribadesella, the complaints were limited to a very small number of tourists, said Sánchez. But officials seized on the opportunity to make it clear to residents where they stood on the issue. “To hear a rooster crowing at night is normal,” Sánchez told newspaper La Voz de Asturias. “If you come to a rural hotel, you have to be aware that this is daily life in the villages.”

The poster is not just about warning tourists. For those eager to embrace roaming sheep and rooster wake-up calls, Ribadesella’s poster extends a hearty welcome. “If on the other hand you’re one of the privileged ones who can bear all this, you’ll enjoy the wonderful surroundings and the excellent products made by our fantastic farmers, ranchers or artisans,” it adds. “Enjoy Ribadesella!"

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