May 4, 2015
Wandering Around Santiago de Compostela
It rained all night, except for a bit, and was still pouring when we awoke this morning. We did not rise before 8 AM. How do I know it was not raining all night? We are in the city on the third floor in a narrow stone street lined with stone buildings, we hear every night noise and its absence: seagulls squawking (closer to the ocean now!), church bells but muted, young voices laughing and shouting or singing at all hours, cars passing, garbage truck gathering, rain and then not rain. I had a good night’s sleep, but I heard the night noises.
I probably should not have worn my socks in my sandals. Fashion faux-pas aside, once they were wet, they just held in the cold. We scurried to the cathedral but still got very wet.
The original chapel was built in the ninth century but this cathedral was started in 1075, constructed largely in granite. The towers are undergoing a cleaning so one of them and part of the other is surrounded in scaffolding and blue plastic. There is plenty of granite in this area. The curbs here and in O Pedrouzo are made of grey granite.
The largest Romanesque church in Spain and one of the largest in Europe, the Cathedral of Santiago was proclaimed a world heritage site in 1896. We spent an hour or so peering at the many carvings in the central nave and the many side chapels, craning our necks to view the twenty-two metre high vaulted ceiling. Then we secured our seats and waited forty-five minutes for the noon pilgrim mass. The church holds a thousand people. It was full. There are no heaters attached to these benches!
A cheerful Spanish nun in black habit led us through singing practice. Even without understanding every word she said, we knew she was having fun with us, exhorting one side than the other to sing with more gusto and outdo one another.
It would have been great to hear the enormous organ, but, alas we had to be content with our own alleluias.
Several visiting priests con-celebrated the mass. A group of eight wine gowned brothers (or volunteers?) pulled the ropes that made the incense burner (botafumeiro) swing wildly back and forth across the central nave. Its original use was to disinfect and disguise the stench of smelly pilgrims. Fortunately hot water and daily laundering has brought most pilgrims to church in relatively pleasing odours.
After mass and lunch, Brian and I did some window shopping then came back to our hotel for a rest. Margaret is a more serious shopper who stuck at it longer but bought nothing. The three of us met James and Danielle at 4 PM for drinks at the Parador, fancy hotel, originally built as a hospital for pilgrims. If I were a sick pilgrim there today, I would not want to leave!
There was an elderly lady dressed in black wearing a sparkling black sequinned beret nodding off at the table next table. She was dripping with silver jewelry. Spread out on her table were handwritten notebooks and notes written on s napkin. James said she was at the same table yesterday. He figures she lives at the hotel. She awoke to answer her cell phone. All I got from that was she was Spanish. I would love to know her story. She was probably writing ours!
for a drink.
We have been watching for pilgrims who did much of the way with us. We have not seen many but Brian and I were delighted to run into our Italian Swiss boys ( our age). Although we did not share much conversation along the Camino, we saw one another almost daily and greeted with smiles and ‘Buen Camino’. We did not send them yesterday but hugged Franco and Fausto today and met Franco’s wife who had come to meet them. She did part of the Camino with Franco last year but her artificial leg balked at doing more.
We also met our young bearded German smoker. Every day we saw him stopped having a smoke. We did not chat along the way but he greeted us like best friends when he arrived today. He had just asked someone what town this was and was surprised to learn he had arrived in Santiago. We are beginning to wonder what he has been smoking.
We just ran into Francesco from Valencia. We saw him in his long red raincoat on wet days. Until four days ago it was hard to get more than a grunt out of him, but that day I showed him where reception for an albergue was and he has been smiling and waving since. Two days ago we learned his name. Today he greeted us in the square with handshake and smiles and Spanish chatter from which we learned he is flying home this evening to Valencia where it is always warm! He was very happy!
This walk has not just been about endurance or the scenery or the history, but a lot about people and relationships, an inward journey as well as an outward one. A most rewarding experience. It has been fun sharing it.
The title today is from the quote as seen between two bronze hands on a windowsill in this hotel.