Thursday, May 29, 2008

De Triacastela

These photos relate to the journey described in the post below. That journey was from Ponferrada to Triacastela via Villafranca del Bierzo and La Faba, from 27-29 May 2008. The photos follow the (chronological) of the narrative in the post itself.
316. Making a relatively late start from Ponferrada317. In the suburbs of Ponferrada, an unidentified iglesia of special interest to me for its modern murals (see below)
318. Another view of the church. Its special devotion seems to be to Mary.
319. The modern mural of the Annunciation at this church
320. A detail depicting two especially dear to me, at least in their shared names
321. The nearby (at Compostilla) former hermitage Iglesia Santa Maria de Compostilla
322. The Ermita (Hermitage) San Blas y San Roque in busy Columbrianos. This town is an outer suburb of Ponferrada and not therefore a dedicated pilgrim village as so many other, more urban remote villages, are.
323. Another view of the Ermita at Columbrianos
324. A view of the market gardens around Camponaraya
325. Catching up with old friends at Camponaraya. Ana is tending to Alex's swollen knees.
326. The way to Cacabelos
327. Groves on that way
328. And more vineyards
329. On the beautiful section from Pieros to Villafranca via Valtuille de Arriba. The serious rain held off for this relatively deserted section. Many took the carreta route because of the rain threat and the prospect of more heavy mud.
330. The Romanesque C12 Iglesia de Santiago in Villafranca still welcomes all, whatever the size of your ears. The Junta sign announces its restoration.
331. Another view of this beautiful church
332. The albergue where I stayed in Villafranca
333. Palacio de los Marqueses in Villafranca
334. The portal of the Romanesque C12 Iglesia de Santiago in Villafranca
335. Detail of that portal
336. Dinner at Villafranca. From left, Lars (Sweden), Tomas (Germany), self, Nathan, Will, Justin, Nicole (Switzerland), Sandra (Switzerland) and Mary (USA).
337. The three Calgary pilgrims, Nathan, Justin and Will, and Mary, on their way back to the albergue from dinner. The church is illuminated in the central background.
338. Others were still enjoying the night outside the albergue
339. Early morning at the albergue at Villafranca, with pilgrims preparing to head off
340. You have been warned! Informal, and no doubt well intentioned, advice to those tempted to take the Ruta Pradela rather than the Ruta Carretera but I do not regret the decision to press on even though I could not describe myself as a bueno caminanto.
341. The path up the ridge in the slowly enveloping mist
342. The mist accentuate the colour variety of the vegetation
343. Even cyclists such as Tomas from Germany, with whom I had shared a meal in Villafranca del Bierzo the night before, might take the high road. He was doing it with ease.
344. A view onto the distant road below and the less fortunate pilgrims who opted to take it
345. The vegetation in the higher reaches has such rich colouring
346. These may be called chestnut trees. Whatever their name, they are delightful especially in the soft misty light at the top of the ridge on the Ruta Pradela from Villafranca.
347. The road out from Vega de Valcarce before the slow climb to O'Cebreiro 348. The slow climb up the Montes de Galicia towards the crossing at O'Cebreiro
349. Approaching La Faba en route to O'Cebreiro
350. The restored medieval Iglesia San Andres (why did the first church to this Apostle on the Camino so draw me?) at the La Faba albergue run by a German Confraternity. The pilgrim sculpture in the foreground is modern.
351. Dinner at La Faba
352. Pasta is the go all round
353. The early morning climb from La Faba to the peak at O'Cebreiro in increasing mist354. Galicia's waymarks for the pilgrim with the distance to Santiago de Compostela
355. We are in Galicia now
356. It's lonely up here in the mist
357. Mist and moss
358. Beginning the descent from O'Cebreiro in clearing conditions
359. The valley below emerges slowly
360. Iglesia San Esteban at Linares
361. The weather is clearing to show the view below
362. Pilgrim monument at the Alto de San Roque
363. The descent into Triacastela through the green fields of Galicia
364. The descent into Triacastela
365. The descent into Triacastela continues
366. The moss is everywhere
367. The parish church at Triacastela with its C18 bell tower
368. More of the approach to Triacastela

This blog is sent from the medieval village of Triacastela, about 143 kms from Santiago de Compostella which I hope to reach next Wednesday.

There has been limited internet access since my last post from Ponferrada. Here´s a brief update of the highlights for anyone interested.

Tuesday 27 May, Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo

It was rather dull walking out of Ponferrada enlived only by naive external murals on the Inglesia Santa Maria in suburban Compostilla that had a beautiful Annunciation that included, along with Mary and Gabriel, Santa Ana. Fully captured digitally.

We then passed through peaceful but largely unmemorable market gardens until reaching Cacabelos with a population of 5,000 and a couple of lovely churches: only the more modern, parochially active, was open (there is apparently theft of art, gold leaf etc from the altar pieces etc of these medieval churches and so they are usually cerrado).

Then the daily rain came. Many pilgrims clung to the highway into Villafranca but a few of us stuck to the longer recommended route through vineyards. This 5 km stretch was the best walking of the day, in empty, remote green fields and though the tiny village of Villaturba de Arriba. Farm tracks mostly. Beautiful as the rain lifted and the birds resumed their song.

I stayed at the Albergue Ave Fenix. It has a great reputation for its care of pilgrims although the English vicar Robin had warned me that it was in great decline. That was my experience entirely. It was unwelcoming, graceless and with a slightly mercenary ambience. Perhaps it is under different management or ownership. Jesus Jato, the scion of the traditional owning family, is said to have this saying on the albergue wall (although I did not see it): "El Camino es tiempo de meditacion interior, no itinerario turistico." That captures the spirit and character of the Camino nicely.

Villafranca is rich with religious (including pilgrim) sites although most are inaccessible. The albergue is adjacent to the C12 Romanesque church of Santiago which was happily open. It is very plain with a hemispherical altar space (can´t recall the technical term) rather like the pilgrim churh of the same period at Eunate. There is said to be a Puerta del Perdon (Door of Forgiveness) through which pilgrims too ill to continue might enter and receive the same indulgences as for completion of the Camino. The church of San Isidore in Leon has the same Puerta. Both churches are at the foot of major mountains which pilgrims must cross to reach SdC. They became end points for many in the Middle Ages, I expect.

Nine pilgrims, not well known to each other beforehand, had dinner together in the local restaurant all for the standard price of 10 Euros (about $16)! This was a great night with great food. Three Canadian young men were especially interesting and impressive--two brothers, Nathan and Justin, and their friend Will. They are experienced hikers. Will said he thoght the Camino would be a cakewalk after the Rockies but it was harder he said, because you only do 4 or 5 days in the Rockies. This just goes on, day after day, for 20 or 30 days. That takes a peculiar toll.

Wednesday 28 May, Villafranca to La Faba en route to O´Cebreiro

There are two principal Camino routes out of Villafranca to O´Cebriero. The first is by the roadside, the Ruta Carretera . The second. the Ruta Pradela, has you climbing a mountain range, an ascent of 480 m according to the Lonely Planet guide and trek fo 8 or so kms, before descending to rejoin the road. My guidebook recommends it although it adds 1-2 hours to the journey. A graffiti sign at the base of the mountain route says: "Camino muy duro. Solo para buenes caminantes." I took a punt and it was the highlight of the day´s walking. There were very few up and we could look down on the ants on the road below. There was rain and mist but the view was spectacular.

The Camino follows the road which I rejoined after the descent and after a long, flat, unspectacular walk begins the ascent to O´Cebreiro (from 600 to 1300 m). This is said to be the toughest climb of the Camino. The climb up was steep but not as steep as in the morning. The rain also stopped and the quality of the light was spectacular. I broke the climb at La Faba, taking the bed on offer there rather than risking missing one in O´Cebreiro where there is only a single albergue (there were two, pretty full, ones in Villafranca the night before!). That was a lucky decision. The albergue was just great and the night was memorable.

The albergue is run by a German confraternity, a voluntary association of friends of the Camino, mostly returned pilgrims putting something back into it (just like the English confraternity´s albergue at Rabanal). The hospitalera was a late 60s woman from Koln doing a two week stint there. Together we repaired the broken plastic panel on the women´s shower. (There was more talent available but I had offered to do anything needed and she came back to me with something that required skill!! Still, we got it done!) The sisters are showering again.

There was a service for peace in the chapel of the Albergue at 8 pm. It seemed the right thing to do to go even though I was to join some young friends for a communal dinner in the kitchen which they were cooking. (They didn´t start to cook until later than I expected.) Anyway, the service was conducted by a Spanish Franciscan who explained, via the hospitalera as interpreter in German and English, that he and a fellow Franciscan looked after 14 villages all on the Camino in this region. After thoughtful reflections, including from each of us (all of much of the same age), he called for five volunteers to come forward for an exercise to show how to make peace. Three German women immediately came forward to sit at the front of the church facing the congregation. The hospitalera gave me a wink to go forward and so did the only other non-German in the congregation, Peter from Kent in the UK. The priest then produced the Maundy Thursday basin of warm water, a jug and a towel and indicated to Peter, sitting at the end of the row of five, to remove his shoe on one foot. The priest washed it. I expected him to do the same to each of us, as on Maundy Thursday on commemoration of Christ´s action on the Last Supper. Instead he motioned to Peter to do the same to me, sitting next to him. I then did the same to the German woman next to me. As I did so, I looked up at her to give her a smile and saw that she was crying. The whole experience, including the warmest, tightest hugs I have ever received in the exchange of the peace greeting, were extraordinarily memorable.

Then there was dinner waiting for me, spaghetti prepared by Gregor from Poland and pancakes made by Alex from Spain. It was the happiest end to a lovely day in the company of special people. It only lacked Ana.

Thursday 29 May, La Faba to Triacastela

Finished the climb to O´Cebreriero after a 7 am start and made the slow descent over these mountians to Triacastela, about 26 kms. These mountains are where the winds from the Atlantic hit the hills for the first time as in western Ireland. It´s extraordinary green and lush and wet and windy. Now the most flattish last stage to Santiago remains, across the autonomous region of Galicia that produced both Fidel Castro and Generalisimo Franco. (Like Ireland before, poverty forces it to export its younger sons.) More follows soon.

Fondly, Paul

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Got message from Ana this morning, thought I'd try andpost a message to let you know I'm reading the blog - it's great stuff, keep moving I know where you are each day abd think you are doing grand as the Irish say.