Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 15: Rabé de las Calzados - Castrojeriz

Another early start to the day with a beautiful sunrise behind me as I walk in this desolate landscape. I walk alone all day. Want to feel the nature and the environment here which is so famous for its solitude and silence. Today's distance is 30 km and all the way is a blazing sun with no shade. There are almost no trees here in the highlands of Spain. There are cornfields as far as the eye can see. I do not know where to look up as I walk. I do not feel anxiety, but I feel a bit of dizzy which the silence gives me.


I walk with my shadow in front of me all day. My shadow and I have familiar with each other. We talk often, not so much about childhood memories anymore, as we did in the first week of our travel. Now we are talking mostly about how we are right now. My shadow and I agree that life is burdensome sometimes. Not unbearable, only burdensome, complicated, and sometimes chaotic.Vi share many examples of the chaos of everyday life. But today, life is not so chaotic. Today I just put one foot in front of the other, for hours, making sure to drink as much water as I can, and to rest my feet regularly. I am glad to be right here right now with all of myself, what Heidegger calls Dasein. I think of Dasein, but I try mostly to feel what it means for me to be-in-the-world-right-here-right-now.


The villages I pass today seems deserted. I see noone in them. But I see clothes hanging out to dry, thin and long-legged dogs running around in search of shade. I do not see people. Not a single car, not a TV antenna, not even litter. I walk into the villages and feel that I'm living for 2000 years ago. I have old Roman walls on both sides of me as I walk down the narrow streets. The first village is called Hornillos the Caminio. This is a village that actually got its first hospital for pilgrims in 1156. I walk past the hospital which thankfully enough is not used any longer. It was not just a hospital, but a special hospital for pilgrims with leprosy. There are wierd thoughts that come into my head. I see that I'm walking among lepers in this desolate and godforsaken landscape. I feel myself privileged to walk this path with them. They're just in my head of course, but I can see them and know that we are together. This is where I belong right now. I do not feel sick like I did in the Burgos cathedral when I saw the result of human madness. Here, outside of a hospital for lepers from 1156, I feel at home. I find myself, I know where I belong, and know where I am in the solitude and silence that characterize my surroundings now.

I walk past the village of Arroyo San Bol, which is not only abbandoned, but it has been so since 1503. Curiously, the village still stands here. Consider that this town has been abandoned for over 500 years. Probably everyone left the village because of the plague. This village was also known for its hospital for lepers pilgrims. A hospital which was founded in 1352

The next village that appears after a while is Hontanas. The village seems poor and desolate, but it's actually here all the rich farmers in the district live. It is said that they rather put their wealth in the bank istead of building large and beautiful house in this wilderness. They live as they have done for hundreds of years here and have obviously no thoughts about changing anything here.
I come then to the Convento de San Anton. The Order of San Anton was established as early as 1095 The monks ran over 400 hundred hospitals across Europe. The monks specialized in treating gangrene, and they developed a treatment called "San Anthony's fire". Since it was believed that gangrene was contagious, these hospitals were often placed outside of the cities. I also visited the monastery and saw where it all started. A wonderfully comfortable place to be. The Order was abolished in 1791. The monastery has been empty for over 300 years.

I walk a little further before I reach a sign pointing the way to Castrojeriz. I'm almost done with todays journey. It is an impressive sight that meets me. In the distance I see on top of a hill, a huge Roman fortress. This town, which originally had the Roman name of Castrum Sigerici, was founded in the year 760. On these plains which I walk over now, there has been fought countless battles between Christians and Moors.


As I walk through the streets here I get the impression that there are more churches than there are homes. There are churches everywhere and they are old, over 1000 years old. It is a pleasure to wander around this peaceful town and see people after today's lonely journey. I like it here. There are shops where I buy what I need of food for tomorows walk. I sit on a bench with a cold soda and a popsicles, and just watch people. I'm happy to have people around me.


Then I find a municipal-run hostel with room for 50 people. Here, I find out that the pilgrims can pay according to their ability. There is no set price for accommodation. What you want to pay, put you in a box by the door. There is a large kitchen here which everyone can use, spacious and clean bathroom with showers and a laundry room to wash clothes. There are benches outside where I can sit in the shade and eat my newly purchased bread with delicious tomatoes, drink a bottle of red wine -while I enjoy the view and speak with new pilgrimage friends throughout the evening. I can feel that today's lonely journey has done me good. I have lots of new impressions that I need to work on through the night and sleep very well in the large dormitory -which is filled tonight with 50 snoring pilgrims from all corners of the world.

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