A message to all pilgrims approaching Santiago de Compostela: as you make your way through the modern suburbs, take time to look left, over the modern buildings to the hill beyond and the odd structure perched on its crest. It was Gail who first noticed it and pointed it out to me. And it was me, afflicted with an incurable architectural disease that allows me to identify the work of famous architects five kilometres away, that recognized this as the work of contemporary architect, Peter Eisenman.
We filed our discovery for future reference. There was the cathedral and five more days walking to Finisterre and Muxia still beckoned. But we have returned to Santiago for one last day. A day reserved for Eisenman. Continue reading
These are the last two days on our trek westward across Spain.
Our first day takes us along a brief 12-kilometre coastal walk to Finisterre, our destination for the day. After checking in at the austere Hotel Finisterre, we head off for an afternoon stroll to Cabo Fisterra.
This was the western tip of the known-world prior to Columbus and, as can be expected when looking out on to the unknown abyss, rituals took hold well before St. James arrived. We are in the land of pagan beliefs. We have left the historical path to Christian enlightenment, ending in Santiago. Beyond that the journey has led us back in time to one of Roman and Celtic mysticism. Here, the power of the church has been supplanted by the infinite plane of water extending beyond these rocks. It is an undeniably powerful space, so different from our trek to Santiago. Continue reading
Santiago de Compostela is the end-of-the path for most pilgrims. But there is more. The Camino Finisterre continues westward to its namesake destination, the seaside town of Finisterre or End-Of-The-World. And, beyond that, the camino leads slightly northwards to another world’s-end community, Muxia.
When we left Winnipeg, Gail and I had provisionally planned to extend our walk to Finisterre and Muxia – if our bodies and sprits were up to it. And here we are in Santiago, now veteran long distance walkers, the rhythm of the pedestrian life still strong and our bodies willing. Land’s end beckons. Continue reading
Today is the most anticipated day of our camino journey. Our destination is the Cathedral at the heart of Santiago de Compostela.
The 20 kilometres breeze by, barely noticeable. We pass alongside the runway of Lavacolla airport and climb the modest Monte del Gozo with its monumentally-scaled monument commemorating a visit by Pope John Paul II. More importantly, the hill offers the first glimpse of the twin towers of the Cathedral. We head down the slopes and into the suburban fringes of the city. Straight streets lined with modern buildings give way to the medieval centre of narrow, twisted passages. Continue reading
It’s a long 30 kilometres to our night’s destination, Arzúa. But the time passes quickly and our legs carry us effortlessly through the Galician landscape. No doubt the anticipation of reaching Santiago propels us onward, gravity drawing two comets to the sun.
The camino route weaves in and around the N-547 highway as it, too, approaches the sacred city. But it is hardly noticeable as our path takes us through lush forests, across refreshing streams and through tiny caseríos. Continue reading
Today we will walk a leisurely 22 kilometres through the heart of Galicia, a region with strong Celtic roots and its own distinct language, Galician, a cross-cultural mix of Spanish and Portuguese, the region’s southern neighbor.
Winding our way through the hilly countryside, the unique qualities of Galician architecture reveal themselves. It is a largely rural way of life, with small, isolated communities scattered here and there. Continue reading
Yesterday we surmounted the highest point on our journey. Today it is all downhill, a leisurely 21-kilometre hike to the modest village of Triacastella. Here, it is all about the scenery. Rolling clouds lap distant hills carpeted with the rusty hues of late fall. The air is cool and moist. Damp forests close in around us, then suddenly open to reveal gently undulating mountain vistas. Continue reading
Our 31 kilometre journey to Villafranca del Bierzo takes us through the lush vineyards of the Bierzo region.
Before imbibing we must pass through the bustling city of Ponferrada. Established by the Romans as the centre of a lucrative mining district, the city has had its ups and downs. First destroyed by the Visigoths and then by the Muslims it was finally rebuilt by the Catholics. Continue reading
Today we begin our two-day ascent of the highest peak on the Camino Francés route. It starts gently. Today’s climb is a mere 200 metres stretched over the 21-kilometre path from Astorga to Rabanal del Camino.
Leaving Astorga we can see our eventual destination. The mountain range hovers on the distant horizon, warmly glowing in the early morning sun. As we progress on our leisurely walk, evidence of an ancient mountain lifestyle becomes apparent. This is the land of the Maragato people. Continue reading
If arriving in León had been an experience in urban exploration, leaving the city was no less so. Its industrial fingers stretched out from the city centre, following major motor routes on their way to other metropolitan dots on the map. Our pilgrim path followed the busy N-120 – which itself followed the newer, faster, grander A-71 – leading us westward for 24 kilometres to San Martín del Camino. Continue reading