Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 30: Portomarin - Palas do Rei

The day begins with fog, but it doesn't lasts long before the sun peeks eventually out of the clouds and it will be a warm day. Today I thought of walking to a town or sity called Palas do Rei, a distance of nearly 25 km. It is comfortable to walk on the gravel road for long periods today. I hear from other pilgrims passing by me that now we will soon arrived at Santiago de Compostella. Is the pilgrimage over so soon? The landscape today is constantly shifting between the forest, open fields and small villages. The first village I come to is Gonzar and just after that Castromaior. No shops in these villages. Now I see great eucaluptus trees for the first time on the trip. Eventually there will be a whole forest of them. These are trees that do not naturally belong in Spain but has been introduced from warmer countries further south. Many say that it is a pity that these trees have taken over the natural forest that belong here. I think the trees are beautiful.
Then I come to the village of Hospital de la Crus, where there in the middle ages was an important hospital for pilgrims. Just before I come to the next village, Ventas de Narón, I see a stone which has the number 79 carved into it. This means that I'm only 79 km from Santiago de Compostela. Going forward, I'm constantly faced with these stone tablets telling me how many kilometers I have left of my journy.
Then I come to Cruceiro the Lameiros. Here, I meet a 4 meter high stone cross from 1670 placed the roadside. On the base of the stone cross is carved pictures of hammers, nails, thorns, skulls, everything suggesting something of of death. On the top of the cross is carved images representing fertility and life. This cross has stood here for nearly 350 years now. Thousands have passed by it and also touched it. A little later I am in Ligonde. The village looks like all the other villages, but I notice here a large and beautiful cross in front of a big open field. This whole field I am standing in front of is a pilgrim cemetery from the middle ages. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of pilgrims buried here. No memorial stones which marks the graves. Here are all buried in the same way as they have walked through life as pilgrims, in a big communion. Many pilgrims were exhausted when they reached as far as this and were not able to continue. This is the place for those who died only a few days before having reached their goal: Santiago de Compostella.

 Next village on the day tours Eireze, a name which simply means Church here in Galeicia. The village is called this because of the very well-preserved Romanesque church here. It is thus built between 1000 and 1200 again. I am impressed that it is so well preserved. It looks almost new.

I proceed past some houses on the road ahead, but I would not call the villages. The path I follow the last part of today's walk goes next to the main road to Palas do Rei, N-547. After nearly 25 km of today hike, I come to a lively and noisy city, Palas do Rei. Lots of traffic in the city and the pilgrimage route runs right through the city. Here I have to keep an eye on the yellow arrows. This city has been an important place for pilgrims since the Middle Ages. It was here that they prepared themselves for the last part of the journey, a journey that for many has lasted several years. Remember that they have come from all parts of Europe and Scandinavia. And all of them have walked. Some have come because of an illness in hoping of being be healed, others to be blessed, and some have gone for several years as part of a punishment for a crime they have committed in their home country. In this town they have all began to prepare for the very last part of the journey. It is 65 km to Santiago de Compostella. I find a pilegrim hostel with beds for 60 people. Each and every bed is occupied tonight and there are some who have pleaded to sleep on the floor. Having showered, I come in contact with a lady from Poland whom I share a room with. We are 10 people in the room, men and women living together. This has been the same all along the route, except at the monastery in Carrion. There men and women were separated in different rooms. This Polish woman says she is tired and does not know what to do. I put my hand on her forehead and notices that she has high fever. I say we should contact the front desk so that she gets medical help. She does not want to be a burden for anyone, but allows me to go down to the lobby and see to it that a doctor comes. It takes a few hours before a doctor arrives, and she seems to get worse at this time. I have seen this several times before the trip, and each time it been an allergic reaction to mosquito bites. And so it was this time too. The doctor examines her thoroughly and give her medication for the allergic reaction she had received. The fever disappears quickly, and she sleeps like a log (and snoring loudly) all night. The next morning, she is ready for a new part of her journey and happy for the help she received.

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