26th August ~ A train Ride to Galicia’s Capital City!
This day was one of the very few days that we were happy that there was no wind to sail meaning that we could travel to this beautiful city feeling very relaxed!
In 1982 all the formalities of administrating the affairs of Galicia were transferred to Santiago de Compostela and above is a photo of the rather lovely Parliament building which we passed on our way to the Old Town!
A day to Remember!
….in a city which is a UNESCO World Heritage city and it is the final destination of the ‘Way of St James’! It is also the Third most Holy city in the world after Jerusalem and Rome!
We had beautiful weather for our small pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela , it was hot with wall to wall sunshine! The train journey was excellent, fast, efficient and ‘on time’ too!! Having arrived we made our way to the Old Town for a coffee and a pastry while we gathered our thoughts and made a plan! After this interlude, we found a tourist office and loaded ourselves with as much information about the town as we could, bearing in mind that we only had one day!
One of the best bits of information we picked up in the tourist office was a leaflet with a Union Jack on it telling us about a daily walking tour with an English speaking guide! We had a bit of a wait before the tour started and so we soaked up the atmosphere of the Old Town by wandering through the narrow streets which all seemed to lead to the cathedral eventually.
The colonnaded streets and a cafe from the Belle Epoque period!
Alameda Park ~ a beautiful green space!
We walked through the Alameda Park which has wonderful views of the Old Town and discovered that the intriguing pathways were set out for people to promenade according to their social status?
The Two Marias of Alameda
There is an interesting and slightly odd statue right at the beginning of the park which seemed to attract lots of attention and photography….The statues, created by a sculptor, Cesar Lambera in 1994, are replicas of the Spanish sisters Maruxa and Coralia Fanino Ricart. They are brightly dressed and heavily made up, one of them offering an open hand in a warm, friendly gesture, but their faces have a solemn expression, which tells of their troubling story of how they fell upon hard times due to members of their family trying to fight against the oppression of the Franco regime.
The two sisters would habitually enter the park at 2pm each day, dressed to draw attention and gallivant around, flirting with the local university students?! This continued until 1980 when one of the sisters, Maruxa died. Her sister died three years later. As I said they are rather an incongruous sight in this beautiful park but thought provoking none the less as to whether they were indeed flirtatious, slightly mad, older women or whether they were actually freedom fighters against inequality and oppression. Hmm??
Statues and views of the University Campus!
There were other beautiful statues and a great variety of exotic trees including a huge Eucalyptus (Gum tree), and viewing areas from where was possible to see well into the distant hills and to the university halls of residence too. Our guide later informed us that there are 30,000 university students studying in Santiago, reading a very varied range of subjects.
The University in Santiago ~ Beautiful buildings in a beautiful setting!
The Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
Utterly beautiful! The queues are endless for entry into this fabulous cathedral, however, we did have time before our walking tour began to join the queue to go into the cathedral and before we knew it we were going in!
There was a service in progress which just added to the magic of this place. The hymns and the chanting were ethereal and uplifting, we were so lucky to be part of it!
We did go into the Crypt and viewed the tomb of St James! It was very small, very gold and very dark so no photo was possible but amazing to see it!
The entrance to the crypt and one of the incredible side chapels!
The Camino de Santiago ~ The way of Saint James!
Legend has it that Saint James, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, is buried in the Catherdral at Santiago de Compostela. His disciples carried his body there by boat to the Iberian peninsular landing in Galicia, after he was beheaded for preaching Christianity!
The route is almost 800 kilometres long (approximately 500 miles) and starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and goes all along the north Spanish coast, ending in Galicia at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela!
We had seen evidence of this legendary pilgrimage route from the beginning of our travels in Spain this year, from Bilbao to Finisterre! The Scallop shell and a yellow arrow showing which way to go have come to be the symbols of the route and we saw them everywhere we went.
Thousands of pilgrims set off every year on their way to Santiago de Compostela and they all seem to carry the scallop shell in one form or another about their person, usually hanging from a rucksack or sewn on as a cloth badge. Many other people decide to do the route, not necessarily for religious reasons but as a personal challenge.
However, on the evidence we saw at the Cathedral even those who did it ‘for fun’ so to speak having arrived at the end of their journey, were clearly ‘moved’ once inside the hallowed doors!
This brass scallop shell is set in a flagstone just before the finish in the square, the Praza Obradoiro, outside the north face of the cathedral! Once inside this square the pilgrims or hikers must make their way to another stone in the middle of the square which signals that they have completed their journey.
Nearly there, a polished brass shell!
The end of the Pilgrimage or Journey!
They will then receive a certificate, a Compostela confirming they have achieved what they set out to do!
Our guide Alfonso had completed his own pilgrimage!
All pilgrims, hikers and bikers need to have a Camino Passport as above! They must complete at least 100 kilometres and obtain stamps along the way in order to qualify for a certificate known as the Compostela!
The Compostela, written in latin and awarded to those who complete the route!
We had an amazing day in this most sacred city. Our tour guide was brilliant. He was so full of enthusiasm for his subject, so much so that the tour, which was supposed to last for an hour and a half, continued for two and a half hours!! There were just six of us on the tour and we were all agog at the incredible insight he gave us into the city and its history and so when he asked if he could continue we all agreed with as much enthusiasm as him!
How could we leave and so we continued for another hour! It did mean that we would miss our train back to A Coruña but we just bought another train ticket and returned to Musetta feeling very grateful for having had the opportunity to visit Santiago de Compostela! A wonderful city and surely a ‘must see’ on anyone’s ‘bucket list’!
Onward we go……!