Rain. It has a way of stripping away sentimental thoughts. Yes, the colours are more vibrant. And there is a fragrance of grass in the air.
But the grey sky presses down as we tread through puddles – boots, socks and feet ever more damp. The rain pelts against our glistening rainwear. Water ripples across our glasses, distorting the flat Spanish landscape.
Rain. It frames our travels for the next two days.
The 31-kilometre walk to El Burgo Ranero takes us through a drearily wet landscape, dotted with beauty, tinged with tragedy. At the midpoint lies Sahagún, historically an important Christian and economic hub. It was originally divided into religious and ethnic sections for Franks, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Jews in particular were attracted to Sahagún although, well before final expulsion in 1492, the population was largely decimated through riots in 1127 and upheavals in 1391. Perhaps it is imaginary rough justice, but today there remains only four of the nine original Romanesque churches and some of these are in danger of collapse. We leave town, passing through the Arch of San Benito, remains of the 1662 entrance to the long-gone church of the Monasterio de San Facundo.
Our path continues on an overly straight path, first passing a memorial to a fallen pilgrim, then the lonely hermitage of the Virgen de los Dolores. Next comes a recently tagged wayside bench with a disquieting reminder of persistent Jewish tensions. Our long, soggy walk terminates in El Burgo Ranero, a sleepy village of 250 souls.
The next day is more of the same. More rain. More grey. But the journey is shorter, a brief 19 kilometers to Mansilla de las Mulas. And the destination is rewarding, worth exploring after an early arrival and settling into our cozy room with its four-poster bed at the Alberguería del Camino.
Mansilla is a town with Roman origins. Its rectangular Roman town plan is still evident. The Moorish population was expelled in 10th century. By the 12th century, fortified walls were erected around the town. Still largely intact, the Mudéjar-style stone walls – three metres thick in places – give Mansilla its charming medieval appeal. There are two remaining gates and several towers along the perimeter. At least one can be climbed on precarious stone stairs. This affords a great view over the entire town.
Our two grey days of walking end with a colourful meal – paprika-dusted grilled octopus and a bottle of rich red wine at the restaurant La Curiosa.
This is the thirteenth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.
If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances