Friday, February 10, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 31: Palas do Rei - Ribadiso

Another day beginning with fog. I leave Palas do Rei early and pass an old church. I cannot find the story behind this church. It's beautiful and makes an impression on me in the mist, early in the morning. The trail consiste otherwise of a lot of woodland today. A really beautiful forest and the path is good to walk on. There are many pilgrims around me and every time I sit down to rest a bit, someone comes and sits next to me and want to know where I come from. After 2 km I come to San Xulián do Camino. A small collection of houses along the gravel road.

Then I come to the village with the beautiful name of Casanova. If the village lives up to its name I do not know. There are only a few houses, but I also go past a small guest house for pilgrims here. I go over several Roman bridges in this area. I always stop a little when I come to these old stone bridges, allowing myself to be impress by the engineering skills which the Romans were in possession of.

Then I come to Leboreiro, which looks exactly like it should have done in the Middle Ages. A small Romanesque church, a hospital for pilgrims (which was in operation until 1811), and many nice small stone house. I go across the river Seco and come to Furelos. Another great bridge from the Middle Ages. Furelos is a very nice village to walk through. Time stands still for me so far today, as I'
ve lived in the Middle Ages all day. A strange feeling. But the feeling takes an abrupt end when I come into the city of Melide. This is the last major city before I some to Santiago de Compostella. Lots of traffic and a lot of commerce to see here. There's certainly a lot more to see here, but I know that I do not want any exhaust from cars and trucks and noise today. I want to return to the forest. Not long after I left Melide, I'm back into an enchanted forest of eucalyptus trees.

Inside the forest, someone who has set forth small baskets of raspberries. A sign says that I just have to put an euro in a glass and help myself to a basket of fresh raspberries. I buy a basket and enjoy them while I walk among huge eucalyptus trees. I walk to Boente and pass a sign that indicates that I have 43 km left to Santiago de Compostella. I'm still walking through the woods when I come to a revelation of a pilgrim guest house in Ribadiso de Baixo. I've had a fantastic hike today through magnificant woods and walked across bridges from the Middle Ages. And the day ends with this wonderful sight. I see first two young people sitting on a staircase with her legs in a brook. Then I see three buildings built of stone. This is the hostel for pilgrims in Ribadiso. This was a wellknown guest house and hospital for pilgrims already in the Middle Ages. Then it was abandoned for many years before a noble Spanish family bought it. Unfortunately the building decayed in these years until to the local government in Galecia bought the place back and made it into hostel for pilgrims again. All the building are original but they are restored in an impressive manner so that one can get the impression of what it was like to live here in the Middle Ages. There is installed modern bathrooms and showers in a separate building with a laundry. There is also a modern kitchen for everyone to use.

I have to wait an hour outside with a large group of pilgrims who want to enter here. A group of 6-7 Spanish boys, 18-20 years of age, flock around me and ask where I come from, how far I've walked, what I have experienced and want to know everything about me. I feel like the prophet Abraham, and certainly look like him by now. A lot of fun with this attention. The boys are a bunch of friends who are just out walking for a few days and to enjoy a night at this place. They say the house is very popular among Spanish youth in the region. Why? This is something I learn more about in the evening. There is room for 70 pilgrims here, but many had tents with them, and put them up on a large area of grass. The price was 5 euros for the night. After getting a bed for the night and showering, I bought dinner at a cafe they had here. Then people began to gather by the creek. Some had guitars with them, others wine and beer, and that's when the party started. Song, music and lots to drink until late into the night. I got an impression of how a party in the Middle Ages must have been, even for pilgrims. The Spanish youth who came here were able to get everyine with them in singing. If you were young or old, from England or Japan, Brazil or Russia, everyone participated in the party. Some had their feet in the water, some talked, others sang and danced. There was no trouble or hostility here. Everything went nicely. All were kind to each other. This became a party (a happening) I will not forget.

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