The Road to Santiago.

October 6, 2002


Octagonal Church in Eunate.
Church built by the Knights Templar in Eunate

Cizur Menor to Puente de la Reina

Puente de la Reina, 5:48 p.m., I just completed about 24 K (15 miles). Left Cizur Menor at 8:30 a.m. and I've been here for about 45 minutes. Took a shower, hung up my laundry, and staked out my bunk. With a 45-minute break and a 15-minute look around a 12th century church that comes to about 7 hours which means I was doing 3.2 K an hour. Since that is only 2 to 3 miles an hour you're probably thinking that I was dogging it. Well, you wouldn't if you saw the terrain that I had to cover.

We started out as a group of seven but soon everyone developed their own pace and the line strung out with the occasional overtaking or falling back. I realized that I wasn't going to eat for a while, so I tested my blood to be on the sure side. 106 — pretty good! The view was beautiful with various colors of brown where the fields had been plowed under in contrast to the green fields of almond or olive trees. There were also the occasional fields of asparagus plants three feet high and loaded with small red berries. I wondered why they hadn't been harvested and then I remembered that my father telling me that it takes 2–3 years before you can take your first crop. When I was a kid I would wait for the ring-necked pheasants to come and feed off of the berries. I wondered how many game birds were having a field day in that field.


Pilgrims and windmills.
Pilgrims and windmills
Then I saw something that I hadn't seen before — a whole file of windmills along the crest of a mountain. These were not your basic Don Quixote type windmills. These were modern, sleek wind powered with long thin arms giving the impression that it was a giant peace sign spinning. Suddenly my heart sank. I realized  that I was going to have to pass over that crest. The windmills kept taunting me, like cheerleaders doing the wave, "Let's go, Dudley. Let's go!" Over and over and over again. I soon came to hate those windmills. The only thing that kept me going was that I caught up to a Frenchman, named Luic, who was suffering from severe blisters. He was traveling at a pace that I could keep up with and during our frequent stops, our conversation made me forget about the difficulty. As we neared the windmills, the sound of the wind became a loud roar, similar to the surf at home during a nor' easterly wind. As we passed over the notch, the wind was quite strong. I hugged the mountain side since there was no railing and the drop off was quite steep. I had visions of myself wind milling right off the edge. "Let's go, Dudley. Let's go!"

Luc starting down
The rest of the trip was down hill and generally not too bad, except for some occasionally very rocky spots. I accompanied Luic as he limped into the village of Muruzabal. As we approached from the backside of town we went through an abandoned almond grove that was loaded with nuts. How sad that someone hadn't harvested all those tasty morsels. I figured that I could get a good lunch at Muruzabal. I figured wrong. All that there was available (besides wine or café) were packaged snack and a few bocadillos (Spanish bite-sized sandwiches). Also, there were two remaining tapas of fried shrimp. So I ordered those. I figured that the girl would heat them up but she didn't. Just put them on a plate and handed them to me. So I took my café con leche and cold fried shrimp and joined the other pilgrims at the outdoor tables for lunch. Delicious! (Fortunately I had some fruit and cheese with me, so I didn't suffer too much.)

After a good rest, I left for Eunate, the place where there is an octagonal church built by the Knights Templar. Since it would add a few more K, Luic decided that his feet didn't need any extra aggravation and he headed directly to Puente de la Reina. The trip to Eunate was quite pleasant through field after field of grapevines. You could see the church in the distance, sitting all by itself out in the middle of a sunflower field. (No, there were no sunflowers at this time — I know from seeing photographs.)

The church architecture is very interesting. It is a one-story, octagonal, stone building with an eight-sided roof support by a series of arches that intersect above the church. Around the church is a 12-foot wall consisting of eight sections, each of which has four arches. The arches were supported by a double set of two columns, about six inches in diameter. They resembled palm trees from the Holy Land. Some of the capitals were in the shape of fronds, while others exhibited saints and others monsters. There were even some figures reported to represent octopuses (an animal unknown in 12th century Eunate) — there is that number eight again. There were less than half the original columns, the others having been replaced by square brick ones. However, enough were there to give you an idea how truly beautiful the building had once been.

The Knights Templar were a group with an interesting story. They were royally screwed — literally. They were a group of monks trained in arms who had formed a brotherhood during the Crusades to defend the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. After having been expelled from the Holy Land by the Saracens, they rededicated to helping pilgrims throughout Europe. Like the Hospitaliers of Malta, they built churches, refuges, and even castles. As their numbers grew and their landholdings increased, they became very powerful. Their support was important to local political entities. They even lent money to the king of France to finance some of his military campaigns. The Pope, jealous and fearful of their power, conspired with the king of France. The king, anxious to avoid paying back some serious debt, eagerly complied. Together, they trumped up charges of blasphemy, sodomy, and even bestiality. To add insult to injury, they also concocted stories of black masses and other horrors. Many monks, as a result of the efficient methods of medieval torture, confessed to such acts, giving the pope reason to dissolve the order and the opportunity for the king to confiscate the lands and treasury. (I bet the pope got some of that money kicked back to him!) The tale of the Templars is one of the greatest acts of perfidy in the church's history.

Got to Puente de la Reina at 4:15. As I passed through the town, I noticed red peppers for sale every where. I figured that this must be the red pepper capital of the world. Then I noticed that the following weekend was the pepper fiesta. I wondered, what do they do at a pepper fair and do they have a Señorita de Pimientos (Miss Pepper) contest.

As I crossed over the medieval stone bridge for which the town is named, I saw the sign for the albergue — 300 meters. It was then that I knew why the proprietor offered to transport the packs from Cizur Menor. The 300 meters was at the top of a steep hill. If my pack weren't up there, I would have gone back to the center of town and stayed in the older municipal albergue. Of course once I got to the top of the hill, I knew I wasn't going back down until I was ready to leave town. I didn't have to. It was a large new building with a huge dormitory, several baths, a large laundry room, a big dining area and a smaller sitting room. Everybody did their laundry, which they hung out to dry on the back clothesline. Being on the top of the hill, the wind was quite strong and it took several clothes pins (which were provided) to anchor everything down.

Dinner was quite nice. There were menus at the bar and we each filled out chits stating our requests, the time of desired sitting, and of course our name. The choices were pretty good and tasted good. But as someone said, everything tastes good after a hard day of walking. I ate with Jean from England; the couple, Urlich  & Miriam, from Germany, all of whom I met the night before. We were joined by Cyril, a retiree from Staten Island, New York, whom I had met in the morning. He had in-laws who were Spanish, so he knew the language quite well. But his accent was atrocious; I cringed every time I heard it. Funny though — it didn't seem to bother the others. I also met three new people: a man from Salamanca (one of my favorite cities in Spain), a young women from France, and a young French-speaking woman from Quebec (who looked like the actress from My Cousin Vinny, Melissa Torme). The conversation bounced between Spanish, French, and English, with several side translations. All in all, it was a pleasant evening.
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