Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Santiago de Compostella – Extra Day

We had intended to get up early this morning and attend the English pilgrim's Mass at the Cathedral, but sadly our alarm clock went unheeded in the dark, cozy, warmth of our room.  Apparently we were a lot more exhausted than we realized.  By 9 am we were awake and heading down to St. Martin's restaurant below our hostel for a breakfast of small pastries and cafe Americano.  Afterwards we made our way to the Cathedral through streets that were already heating up under a bright, hot, sun. 

On our last visit to Santiago we took a tour of the Cathedral which we enjoyed greatly. On our first tour we were able to explore the Cathedral museum, as well as being taken 'behind the scenes' and up onto the roof.  This year the tour didn't include a trip to the Cathedral's roof, but it offered a tour of the Portico of Glory, which were also excited to see.  After some difficulty purchasing tickets, which we apparently could only buy using a credit card (not cash or debit), and then only by tap, which at first did not work and then seemed to work (making a 20 Euro purchase into a 60 Euro purchase) even though this feature is disabled on my credit card, we gained admittance to the museum. 

The first floor of the museum features displays explaining the restoration work that has been done on the Cathedral since the early 1900's.  The next floor up illustrates how parts of the Portico of Glory and other Cathedral doors have been created and replaced over time.  The museum was relatively full of other tourists and pilgrims, as well as several school groups.  We made it as far as this second floor before a security guard spotted Sean's camera and told him to leave.  He tried to explain that he hadn't taken photos inside the museum, but the guard was firm - he had to hand over his tickets and camera or leave immediately.  Although we'd visited the museum before, it was a pity to once again miss the chance to visit the Portico of Glory.  Some things just aren't meant to be.

Somewhat disappointed, we emerged back out into the bright, hot, sunny courtyard in front of the Cathedral.  Almost immediately we ran into Peter and Sue, two pilgrims we had met along the Camino Portuguese and spent quite a lot of time getting to know.  It turned out that they had been receiving our texts for the past few days, but weren't able to send a reply.  If we hadn't been unceremoniously hoofed out of the museum we probably wouldn't have gotten a chance to see them again before we headed off to Finisterre.  We've had these fortuitous meetings before on both our Caminos, where people we assumed we'd never see again turned up in the most unexpected ways. 

We spent a lovely hour or two sitting at an outdoor cafe in the shadow of the cathedral, enjoying coffees and Santiago cakes and talking about the Camino Portuguese, and our plans for future hikes.  We discussed whether we would recommend beginning the Camino in Lisbon or Porto, and talked about how different it felt to arrive in Santiago the second time.  It was a beautiful Camino and a pleasure to remember it in the presence of those who shared it.  Eventually we parted ways, hoping to run into each other once more before returned to our respective continents.

Finding it too hot to explore the crowded city streets, we opted to visit the Pilgrim Museum.  The museum offers fascinating displays that explore what pilgrimage is, how it has changed over the years, and what pilgrims used to look like and carry.  Many different art forms depict pilgrims throughout the ages.  This time there was also a stunning photography exhibit that showed scenes from the Camino Frances and Japan's Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.  These two Caminos are twinned, and people who walk both are known as 'dual pilgrims' and are eligible for a special Compostela.  The photographs were presented by Aoife Maire Nidhubdha (Ireland) and Luis Gago Sotorrio (Spain), who run a Spanish travel blog 'Destino Ikigai.' The brightly coloured temples, delicate vegetation, and majestic mountains of Japan's Kumano Kodo pilgrimage certainly look beautiful.  Perhaps one day we will be lucky enough to have the chance to walk along it.

As siesta began we settled down in the shade on an outdoor patio to enjoy a couple pints and look through the guidebook to prepare for our hike to Muxia and then Finisterre.  As we sat there we noticed that the streets and Cathedral were full of armed police.  The alleyways and winding streets were being methodically combed by pairs of officers, and all the entrances and exits to the square had police vans parked across them.  Nothing seemed to happen, but it was slightly unnerving all the same.

Realizing that we will have a long walk tomorrow, and wishing to minimize our chances of getting lost right out of the gates, we wandered around the Cathedral to find the beginning of the Camino Finisterre.  We easily found the first marker, and saw a well-delineated path leading out of the city.  Satisfied that we at least knew where to begin in the morning, we headed back to the Pilgrim Office to ask for information on the buses back from Finisterre, and to obtain new Credentials on which to collect our stamps.   The credentials were free, and we were helped by a very friendly and enthusiastic volunteer.

Since it was late afternoon, hot, and the streets were still swarming with armed personnel we decided to head back to our room for a bit to work on the blog, take care of some emails for our upcoming hike across Canada, and prepare for tomorrow.  A bit later we headed out to a nearby Lavadaria and washed our all clothes. 

As the sun began to set we walked back through the beautiful park to the old quarter of Santiago.  We stopped at a restaurant we visited in 2016 for dinner, and then made our way back to the square, where the colourful Spanish folk band Tuna de Derecho de Santiago were playing guitars, bagpipes, pan flutes, small handheld drums and other traditional instruments under the archways at the edge of the Plaza del Orbradorio.  The band was dressed in long black cloaks with red sashes, decorated with patches boasting of their many accomplishments.  People of all nationalities were singing, dancing, and making merry together.  The sounds of the joyful, shared celebration attracted a growing crowd, and the lively, humorous, and talented performers kept people there. 

Eventually we wandered through the empty streets of Santiago, listening to the distance sounds of music from the square, and the patches of laughter spilling out of various bars and restaurants along the way.  It was a peaceful and beautiful end to a restful day.  Tomorrow we begin our walk to the 'end of the world.'

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