Monday, January 30, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 20: Reliegos - León

I leave the little village of Reliegos in the early morning hours, and watch the sun rise once more. I am looking forward to this moment every day now. It's so wonderful to be out on the open plains and watch the sun rise like this. It only takes a few minutes for darkness to change to light. The dark sky changes to a beautiful and colorful sky. I see many colors of blue with tinkels of pink and violet and gray. The sky is never only blue. If you look closely you can see all the colors you wish.
The road today will lead me to the city of León. I look forward to see this big city. I have otherwise gone through major cities as quickly as possible. But León, I look forward to visit. It is a city with a long history. But to get there I have to walk 25 km first. I follow a dirt road that no longer runs next to the car road. It's more quiet here and more shade.

I go through many small villages before I come to León. The first village is Mansilla de las Mulas, with its well-preserved city wall which encircles the entire city. There are only 1800 people here now, but was in "the old days" an important city with 7 churches, 2 monasteries, and 3 hospitals. Mansilla means  "hand on the chair", which is also reflected in the coat of arms I can see at the city gate. Mulas means just "cattle" and refers to the great cattle auctions held here. Then I cross the river Esla and come to the village of Villa Marcos, which is so small that it barely gets noticed. I go over the river Porma and come to Puente de Villarente. This village lives apparently of the traffic into León. It is next to the highway N-601. Lots of gas stations is what I see here. Luckily I will not follow the main road to León. I go to the village Arcahueja and on to Vadelafuente. From here I begin to see León in the distance. The next two hours I walk through a industrial area and must follow the main road. Not just follow the main road but I have to walk on it a long distance. It feels a little unsafe with lots of traffic and I have to keep my eyes open at all time.
Inside the city I can not find the yellow arrows anymore. Leon has chosen to replace the yellow painted arrows with scallops of bronze which is enshrined in the sidewalk. Through León all I have to do is simply to follow the scallops. Fantastic.

I see the big bullfighting areaen and think of Ernest Hemmingway who might once have been here to amuse himself with what he thought was something beautiful. I had not gone into this building to see a bullfight if someone had paid me for it. I go instead through León's many beautiful streets. I get so concerned with buildings and architecture that I forget to follow the scallops. I have gone astray and I have no idea where I am in the city. Instead of being filled with anxiety, I am happy. I have totally lost control and do not know where I am in this unknown city. In stead of walking into a store and asking for a map, I decide to continue my uncontrolled sightseeing and see what happens. Here are some pictures from my journey in León.

I was born and raised in large city so cities do not scare me. I understand the streets and how cities are designed. I am really confident that I will eventually walk in a circle and come back to scallops in the sidewalk, and I did. I had two glorious hours of wandering the city streets. León is just beautiful to get lost in. I love León. Tired and exhausted after 25 km of walking to León and then 2 hours of walking in the streets, I found a munincipal driven international hostel, the Albergue de Peregrino. The receptionist here spoke 5 languages ​​fluently and there were flags from every country in the world on the walls. There are beds for 150 pilgrims here, divided into small rooms with bunkbeds for 4 people in each room. 10 large showers. Free use of washing machines and dryers. A big kitchen, TV room and library. For those who needed it, there was also a nursing service in order to care for wounds, etc.. Price? 4 euros! I bought fresh bread, Spanish sausage and cheese with delicious olives for dinner today. It was for me a royal meal together with people of all ages and from different countries around me. We talk around the kitchen table into the late evening with one (or was it two) bottle of wine. Lights out at midnight.

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