Santiago and the Prince of Japan

We reached Santiago de Compostela under a warm sun. The streets were lively, filled with students, pilgrims and other tourists, including the Prince of Japan! It was very different atmosphere than our visit last year, which was both misty and mystic.
The cathedral was closed to pilgrims on the day of our arrival, due to the prince’s visit. But Santiago was as beautiful as ever, filled with marvelous churches, bars, shops, museums and restaurants.

Live music in the streets ranged from Italian opera to Spanish guitar, classical flute and haunting zither music. The cathedral bookstore played medieval Celtic music, while other stores played modern versions by popular local groups.

The sound of Galician bagpipes continues to greet pilgrims to the city.

The Sunday pilgrim mass was very crowded, as always, and very moving. A lovely choir sang, and priests from various countries co-celebrated the mass, including Italy and the US. It is hard to capture the sense of shared adventures, both physical and spiritual, from the pilgrims seated in pews, on stone pillars, on steps and on the floor.

The mass is famous for the oversized, swinging incense burner called a butafumeiro. Eight red-robed priests are required to lift it with ropes and let it swing across the transept of the church, swinging high up to the ceiling.

The pictures show a Galician bagpipe player, our arrival as pilgrims to the cathedral, the butafumeiro, the altar of the cathedral, a view onto the main square after Mass, and the musicians who played for the Prince of Japan.









Why do you know so many languages?

At our last lunch stop in Portugal, we found a simple restaurant where we feasted for about 10€ each. The place was filled with locals, and the sound of animated conversation bounced off the walls.
Our waiter was kind and efficient, and the food was very good. “Why do you speak so many languages,” I asked, after realizing that he spoke Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he replied. “I worked on an oil and gas rig in Brazil. My wife is a French teacher, and we have two small children. Now, I am working in my father’s restaurant.”

“This summer, I am going to Denver to study and work in the energy industry,” he added. It’s important to keep growing, and to feed the family.

Here is Joãopaolo and his father at their restaurant in the province of Pontevedra.

Also, a picture of sugar packets used by the restaurant, with symbols from Portugal.



Recipes from the Camino

We spent a whole morning talking about favorite recipes while walking on the camino. Lasagna with artichokes, zucchini bread, and an Arab specialty were among the choices. I have asked everyone to send me one recipe for the blog. Stay tuned as I update this post!

The traveler from Lourdes

This man we met along the way is from Asolo, Italy. He is traveling from Lourdes to Santiago. We did not feel we should ask why, and he did not tell us.
I asked how he found the time. He is a lecturer on operations management for the Italian campus of the University of Iowa. He changed his lifestyle after 15 years in industry. He is between semesters. This was his 46th day walking on the trip.


A stamp and a gourd

Pilgrims get their credentials stamped at least twice daily to show evidence of their pilgrimage. Churches, hostels, cafes, grocery stores and other establishments each have their unique stamp.
This shopkeeper gave us our stamp and a gourd. The scallop is more famous, but the gourd is also a symbol of the camino.


Pepe and the albergue of Padrón

(Part two)
At the hostel, my broken Spanish tumbled out, narrating the advice of the bar owner and the unusual reception at the monastery. Exactly five beds remained, and the setting was perfect.
The woman who received us pointed. “See that bike? The owner was also rejected at the monastery. You were lucky to be turned away. They make people cook dinner and breakfast, clean, and don’t let them out until noon. Tomorrow will be beautiful, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.”
“Of course you are pilgrims,” she added. “My daughter is only 24 years old, and she cannot carry a backpack. Two of her vertebrae are too close together.”

We left in search of a bite to eat. Near the hostel, a bar owner asked us to come in. “Please sign my journal,” he said, showing a pile of journals signed by pilgrims, and souvenirs from pilgrims on the walls of the bar. When we related the story of the monastery, he shook his head sadly, took each of us aside, and gave us a kiss on the head. His kindness, and that of the woman who received us, came at just the right moment.
Here are some photos of the view from the hostel of Padrón, the entrance to the hostel (turn left at the sign), and Pepe of Padrón.




On Franciscan monks, thermal baths and Galician barristas

When we walked from Pontevedras to Caldas dos Reis, we arrived too late for the hostel. (All hostels operate on a first come, first served basis.) We found a special rate at a hotel with thermal waters (the town is known for its hot springs.) In the morning, we took advantage of our good fortune, used the special pool, and had a late start.
We feel it is important to stop to visit chapels, pet dogs, speak to fellow pilgrims, greet people on their tractors and elsewhere along the way.
Others on the camino may travel much faster. They walk 30 or 40 km each day. We usually walked 18-25, and took our time doing it.
And so we found ourselves late in the day at an unusual bar. It had a kitsch life-sized cut-out of a medieval crusader. The bar was in a courtyard filled with trinkets for sale. A sign informed pilgrims that there was no need to compete with the immenseness of nature, and therefore no bathroom facilities were available. Nor would he provide free water.
He seemed a bit lonely, so we ordered cake as he shared stories of Galician Renaissance history. He also told us to bypass the hostel in the next town of Padrón. The road makes a fork, he said, and in about a kilometer and a half, there is an alternate hostel which is less crowded and far more beautiful.
Off we tramped. The signs to Santiago are yellow and those to Fátima are blue. The signs towards the monastery were red.
We walked on, asking locals regularly, all of whom said it was just a little further, about a kilometer. Nearly two hours later, having gone through a forest, a village, a steep trek down to a river under a bridge for cars, through vineyards, across a bridge near a waterfall and up, up towards a closed church, deserted village, we finally reached the lonely monastery in the evening sun.
We knocked. The Franciscan volunteer answered, and decided we were Romans on holiday. “YOU are not peregrinas,” he declared. “Where are your backpacks?”
We had sent our backpacks ahead, and had only our daypacks. The camino offers this possibility. We have members in our group who cannot carry them for legitimate health reasons. And even without backpacks, to walk over 20 km each day and sleep in dormitories takes a certain endurance, particularly when this is not our lifestyle. Each person brings to the Camino what he or she can.
We asked only that we be allowed to call a taxi. He said that was not possible, but we said we had a phone and only needed the number. It was posted next to him. Within minutes, taxis arrived.
To be continued. Meanwhile, a photo of where we crossed the river, before we walked up to the monastery.