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Santiago de Compostela
On Monday 22nd June we hired a car to visit Santiago de Compestela which is the capital of Galicia in northwestern Spain.
It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and the alleged burial site of the apostle, St James. His remains lie within the Cathedral de Santiago de Compestela consecrated in 1211.
We were up and out by 8am to get to the car hire place for 9am. A walk through a part of town we hadn’t yet seen. Neil was our driver and we went via the motorway. Getting out of the city took a couple of goes despite having a sat nav. It wasn’t too far, about 70km away but it surprised me in a few ways.
I expected the town to be an ancient town on its own and that you would drive up and be directed to car parks set apart. Not the case, we drove through a large modern city with the old part nestled in between modern ugly concrete office blocks.
Once in the old part however it was a mix of tourist shops selling souvenirs, the scallop shell symbol mainly, and modern shops selling clothes, bread and even a wool shop which was full of American ladies buying yarn. There was a good many quality bars, cafes and restaurants and we picked a nice Tapas bar for our lunch.
There were not as many beggars as one review I read had lead me to believe. Bizarrely, loads of police? The police station was just off the main square with over half a dozen police cars parked outside and a manned riot van parked next to the main entrance of the cathedral. The only thing I could think of is that they thought disappointed pilgrims might riot as the bulk of the cathedral was covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin as it is being cleaned. Typical when I visit we can’t see the cathedral in all its glory. The photo below is from the main cathedral entrance across the square to the other side.
I went to the Pilgrims Mass held in the cathedral daily at noon. I was lucky enough to get a seat. Although I understood very little of the spoken mass it was an uplifting experience. I was disappointed that they didn’t swing the enormous incense burner which hangs in the middle of the cathedral, I thought it was something that happened at every noon mass but obviously not. My photo is not very clear I’m afraid.
The Cathedral was stunning. The main part is surrounded by many small chapels all beautifully decorated including the ceilings. There were also many confessional boxes around with confession being heard in about 4 or 5 languages. They had electronic candles in each chapel which cost 1 euro to “light”. I’m sure they need to be mindful of fire but not the same I feel as lighting a real candle. I took the photo below just before the mass started.
In order to be classed a pilgrim you need to have walked the last 100km or cycled the last 200km to Santiago and have your Pilgrim passport stamped. At the mass they read out the names of the Pilgrims who have arrived and which country they are from. My friends Dad and brother walked the Camino way across the Pyrenees a few years ago and friends from Falmouth Marina, Janette (Watson) wrote about her and her hubby’s Camino in ‘The Camino Sketchbook’ which you can find on Amazon Kindle.
Neil planned to drive back via the A road not the motorway, however we did about 20km south before turning round, again despite having a sat nav. So we saw a bit more of the country and the towns and villages
We took the opportunity of stocking up at Lidl and driving back to the marina where we off-loaded our supplies including €2 Rioja then Neil took the car back.
The old town was really beautiful and despite the tourists had a feel of a historical place that is lived in. I’m really pleased we went and will add attending the Mass to my list of “experiences”.
Jake leaves us early tomorrow morning (29th June) and Neil and I continue on around Finisterre towards Portugal and more sunshine.
Check out Neils blog for new update www.thegledaproject.com