Friday, 3 October 2014

The legend of Santo Domingo de la Calzada

This was day 8 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

It was the first night on the Camino without earplugs. The luxury of a private room for a price of a dorm bed is always a good thing.
The bad thing on the other hand was damp and moldy air in our small room. Our wet laundry drying inside the room probably also had something to do with the stench.

We quickly put our stuff together, hung our still damp socks on the outside of our backpacks and in a couple of minutes we were ready for breakfast. Homemade jam from blackberries and figs on a hot toast was exactly what we needed.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada was the first in a series of beautiful old towns on our way. We made a short stop but the Cathedral was still closed. We were too early again. Obviously the famous cock and hen sleep late into the morning. If you were wondering... Yes, they do keep a live cock and a hen inside the church.

This is one of the most famous legends on the Camino - The legend of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. There are many variations of the same story... here is one of them:

Once upon the time a German pilgrim family stayed in a local inn for the night. A young Spanish girl named Beatriz working at the inn fell in love with their 18 year old son but he was fairly indifferent to her advances.
Offended by the lack of attention, the girl decided to hide a silver cup, belonging to the innkeeper, inside the young German’s cloth sack.
The following morning, when the German family unsuspectingly continued their march towards Santiago, she denounced the arranged theft to the authorities.
The laws of the time, the Jurisdiction of Alfonso X El Sabio, punished the crime of theft with death and, once caught and judged, the young German was hanged without mercy in the gallows outside the town wall. Burdened with grief his parents had to continue the journey to the grave of the Holy James alone.
Several months later, while returning from Santiago de Compostela, the German couple went past the place of execution - when suddenly they heard their son talking to them from the gallows above: ’I am not dead, Santo Domingo de la Calzada has saved my life by supporting my feet.’
The parents immediately hurried to the house of the city’s judge with the news of the miracle. The judge was sitting at the dinner-table with a well-cooked cock and hen on a dish in front of him. He was just about to begin the feasting on this appetizing meal, when the German couple bursted into the dining room and breathlessly reported what had happened.
Incredulous, – and irritated about the interruption - the judge answered that their son was about as alive as the cock and hen he had on the table in front of him. But… just as he said these words, cock and hen both leaped from the plate and began to crow!

Since then – and this is true – the traveller will find a cage in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, with a live hen and a cock, always white, in memory of the great miracle of Santo Domingo.

Soon after the town we crossed from the province of Rioja to Castilla y León. Pretty quickly endless vineyards were replaced by wheat fields.

As we were closing in on Belorado I started feeling a sharp pain next to the shin bone of my right leg. It was getting worse by every step.
When I complained about it to M. she said with a worried look on her face: 'Say hello to tendinitis - one of the top reasons for not finishing the Camino in the first attempt!'

When we got to Belorado we were aiming for the Albergue parroquial - it is a part of a monastery and built partly into a cliff (look for the windows on the face of the cliff to the left of the church in the photo below). The building looks really interesting and also has a charming church with storks nesting on its bell tower. Too bad it was already full.

When we finally found a place in one of the other nearby albergues (Albergue de peregrinos Caminante) I was already pretty exhausted. Even though we walked only 29 kilometres this day from Cirueña to Belorado I would not be able to walk much further.

After the usual daily stretching-shower-laundry-massage routine we spent the evening in the main town's square. We had a few drinks and tasted a few varieties of local tapas... or maybe it was pinchos - I still can't tell the difference. The most interesting was probably their variety of a blood sausage. We washed it down with some good local wine for a bargain price.

We looked for some decent hiking socks (without wool) for M. in the nearby shops. Her allergy seemed to be slowly getting better. We also needed to work something out about her rain poncho - since we went for light-weight instead of quality, it started to tear in many places. We fixed it with some electrical insulating tape from a nearby shop. Hopefully a proper rain field test will not come too quickly.

M. tried to ease my leg pain with some ice massage. It helped a bit but after we finished our dinner, I still barely limped back to our albergue.

I was afraid what morning might bring. If the pain was the same or worse for the whole next day, I would be forced to stop for a few days. It would be just too much to bare...

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Camino Portraits: Pedro

You have already been introduced to Pedro in my previous post. He is the hospitalero at the Albergue Virgen de Guadalupe - a small albergue on the outskirts of the small village of Cirueña.

He is definitely a bit unusual and like no other hospitalero we have met on our way to Santiago. Although he seemed a bit wacky at first, he proved to be a very kind person.

The jam he makes from hand picked blackberries and figs is also really good. We were lucky enough to try it at breakfast on hot toast. Delicious!

The albergue he runs is pretty basic and like its owner it comes with lots of character. As far as comfort is concerned I could hardly say it was one of the better ones we have stayed at. Nevertheless, I am sure we will remember it (and Pedro) for a very long time.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Hard drugs, pilgrim style

This was day 7 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

When we got on the way we were surprised again by how cold it can get in these parts during early mornings at the end of May. Skies were cloudy once again. This was great for walking but we were definitely hoping it would stay dry.

By this time we were already deep in the wine region of Rioja. The main feature of daily beautiful vistas were endless vineyards. The winding road led us literally through them.

Unfortunately, there were not many opportunities to stop and sample local liquid products.

It felt strange walking without company again (we parted our ways with our Italian friends the day before). We hardly saw any pilgrims during the day. I guess this added to the feel of a really looong day. During the last stretch of the walk M. felt pretty much without energy.
I guess most people on the Camino have at least a few of "What was I thinking? What am I doing here?" moments. Well, for her this was one of those moments. The wool allergy on her feet did not help either. I on the other hand was doing pretty good and tried to encourage her when the road started climbing up a steep hill.

Our walking pace was getting slower by the minute and just before I suggested another short stop M. found a cure for the situation. She turned to hard drugs - Bon Jovi music. She put on her headphones and pumped up the volume.

We picked up our pace almost immediately and before I could comment on the terrible music choice, she was already jumping uphill and singing the tunes out loud. She would not have heard my comments anyway...

After a few minutes I could hardly keep up the pace. We were literally flying uphill! A small group of pilgrims just taking a short break at the top of the hill looked at us with disbelief as we flew by.

When the music drug effects started wearing off, we were already near our destination for the day - Albergue Virgen de Guadalupe.
It is a small private albergue on the outskirts of Cirueña. It was a long walk from Navarette - just over 33 kilometres for the second day in a row.

Since the albergue in Cirueña is rather small (only 23 beds) and the next option is roughly 10 kilometres further down the road, we made a reservation for two in advance.

When we got greeted by the owner it seemed like he did not remember anything about our reservation. Nevertheless he quickly found a solution, a small extra room in the attic. For once we did not mind an extra flight of stairs - we got our own private room! Just outside our room there was also a small chapel.

Pedro, the owner and hospitalero in one person is quite a character. He reminded us both of Ramón - a character in the film The Way. He is not crazy as the guy in the film and his place is not as creepy. Both him and his place are however a bit unusual and the albergue has lots of genuine character.
We definitely had a few laughs before we went to bed that day.

Since Cirueña is not very interesting and the nearest place with food is quite a bit away, we decided to have dinner in the albergue. So did everybody else staying there for the night. It also started raining pretty soon after we hung our laundry outside.

Dinner was pretty simple but quite tasty and there was plenty of food to feed a bunch of hungry pilgrims. Lentil stew was served in olive wooden bowls.

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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