Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 26: Villafranca del Bierzo - O Cebreiro

Today's journey is a little over 30 km and will prove to be quite strenuous. I start early and walk along an old road. There is little traffic here. Almost all traffic is now following the new highway. It's really nice to follow the road. There are more and more pilgrims here. People will just naturally interact with each other on the road. Skipping formalities as "my name is so and so, can I disturb you?". You only say "hey, isn't it beautiful here?" And then the conversation hhas started. Some come and expand the group, others leave the group.


The first village is Pradel. I only walk past. Looks pretty desolated. Then I come to Trabadelo. There is a cafe herefor those who want to eat breakfast. I stop and rest my legs and drink some water. There are many pilgrims that pass by me. The road has no traffic at all. I come to the village of La Portela and from there I come into the Vega de Valcarce valley. Here it is just so idyllic. Lush forests and a gravel road that leads me up to Ambasmesta which is a rural village.

Then come villages like pearls on a string. Vega de Valcarce which is a fairly large village, has lots of chestnut trees. Then Ruitelán and after that Las Herrerias. From here the path begins a fairly steep incline. It is beautiful, but steep. After a while the road goes down but then up again.
 I come to the village of La Faba and hope that the steep hillside is now over. But no, it goes uphill. The weather is fantastic and I get eventually a great view.
 I'm struggling a bit today in this steep rise that lasts for several hours. Fortunately, I'm approaching the top. First I come to Laguna de Castilla. This is the last village in the province of León. Now I come into the fabled Galicia province. Here I see a sign telling me that I has 152 km left before i come to Santiago de Compostella. I meet now houses I have not seen before. It turns out to be an old Celtic way to build houses. The houses are called pallazos. The people living here are of Celtic origin, but their language, galego, is Romanesque and most closely related to Portuguese. It is a beautiful language and I hear from other pilgrims that the language is especially suited for songs and poetry. Many poets come from this area.

Now I come to O Cebeiro which is the first village in Galicia and is called Apostle Jacoks Land. The village is surrounded by lots of mystery and legend. It is located at 1300 meters altitude and has always been the gateway to Galicia and has thus always played an important role. Already in 1072 there was a hostel for pilgrims here. The church is in pre-roman style and is very special. Chalice on the altar is a gift from Queen Isabel who visited the church in 1488. Thus, several years before she gave her blessings to Christopher Columbus to sail west and out to find a shortcut to India, which everyone knows he failed to do, but instead he discovered America in 1492. To walk among the historic buildings in this way puts the history you read in books in a very interesting perspective. History comes to life. I find myself a municipal-run pilgrim hostel that has a fantastic view. I have to actually stand in line here in an hour in order to get a bed for the night. Here I sleep in a relatively new building, built for the increasing pilgrim traffic, and it costs 5 euros for the night. A huge dormitory with space for 100 people. Here are large and clean bathrooms and showers, washing machines and a small store. I go out in the evening and eat a three course meal for 8 euros in a Celtic-like pub where they play Celtic-like music. I'm still in Spain, but this is very different than what I have experienced so far. Then I take a little walk around the village and feel the strong atmosphere in the walls and in the view. Afterwards I sleep really well.

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