The Road to Santiago.

October 23, 2002

By moonlight.
By moonlight

Castrojeriz to Fromista

It was a clear morning! The stars were out and a full moon was shining brightly overhead. Finally, the wind had stopped. Perhaps it would be a good day. The hospitalero and a friend had made coffee for everyone. This time I ate some of the breakfast cookies that are served at every Spanish breakfast. I even took a few in a plastic bag with me just in case there were no places to stop on the way.
Just outside of Castrojeriz was a high colina (hill) which looked imposing but turned out to be not too bad. I took it in little bits and made my way slowly. I couldn't help but think that it must have been impossible in the rain the day before. There was a little picnic area at the top where I rested a bit. The sun was well up by then and it felt good to be in its warmth. The view was magnificent and you could sense that it was going to be a nice day.

The meseta.
After about twenty minutes I came to the other edge of the colina. I looked down at what appeared to be an almost endless landscape of plowed fields. Every thing was a shade of brown or gold.
Pilgrim hospital.
Pilgrim hospital
After about two hours, I came to a river which had an ancient pilgrims' hospital on its banks. The groomed grounds and the well-cultivated flowers were an obvious sign that someone still lived there. I'm not sure if it was still a pilgrimage stop or not.
The river was the Pisuerga and marked the border for the Province of Palencia. I stopped at the plaza in Itero de la Vega, the little town next to the river. There I found a small bar and went in for a late cup of coffee — it was 11:30. After a twenty-minute rest, I continued on.

Although the next 8 K were at a slight upgrade, I was feeling energized and able to make pretty good time. I reached the next town, Boadilla del Camino, at 1:45. There was no restaurant but I found a small "supermarket" where I bought cheese and chorizo for lunch. (A small supermarket may sound like an oxymoron — like jumbo shrimp — but in Spain it's not. It's the equivalent of our corner mom-and-pop grocery store or mini-mart). Had lunch in the tiny square next to the fountain where I was befriended by a small, homely dog. I eventually gave in and threw him a couple slices of chorizo.
Canal of Castile.
Canal of Castile
About half a kilometer outside of town, I came to the Canal of Castile which the camino followed all the way to Fromista. Just outside the town, I came to a sign which told about the history of the canal. It was begun in 1755, wasn't completed until 1849, and became a part of a canal system that reached its hey day in the 1860's, eventually to be eclipsed by the railroad. According to the sign, the canals were used until the 1950's to transport produce. As the photo indicates, it was a narrow channel of water and the size of the vessel had to be limited. Obviously, the Spanish canal system never reached the importance of that of France, Belgium, or England. And it had nowhere near the economic importance of our New England canals, which were used for the hydropower that drove the industrial revolution.

Soon I could see in the distance one of the churches of Fromista and it was quite an emotional event for me. For it was in Fromista, six years ago, when I first saw the camino and became interested in Santiago. Later that trip, we drove to Santiago via the northern coast, having had our interest piqued in Fromista.

I checked into the albergue at 3:45. After I staked out my bunk, I went to the outside sink on the patio to wash some laundry. I was hanging it when I saw the little man and his black dog enter — the ones ejected from the albergue the night before. When I asked where had he slept, the answer was la calle (the street).
San Martin.
San Martin
After I took care of the little pilgrim necessities, I went across the street to visit the church of San Martin, which Michener states is the finest example of a Romanesque church in Europe. I agree with him. Its simplicity and proportional balance of form and space make it truly a beautiful place. It is a pleasure just to sit on one of the simple benches and look all around. Its restoration began in 1893 under the impetus of an influential man, Violet le Duc, who was a perfectionist. All non-Romanesque additions were removed and those capitals and portions that were restored are marked with an "R." The result is a truly remarkable piece of architecture that has been declared a national landmark, open to the public on a daily basis. Although it doesn't have an active congregation, it still is a consecrated place where weddings and special services are held.
Capital. Peregrino.
Capital Peregrino
I went looking for the restaurant where I had an exceptional meal six years ago. I found it where I thought it would be and the inside was just as I had remembered it. Of course it was too early for dinner, so I bought a glass of rioja wine and a tapa-sized serving of olives and went into the sitting room. Sitting at a table was a German woman whom I briefly met the night before in the albergue. She invited me to join her. She introduced herself as Gundrun and told me that although she was from Berlin, she now lived in Majorca, one of the Spanish islands in the Mediterranean off the Barcelona coast.

Finally it was 7:00 and we set out to find a restaurant in town that opened early to accommodate pilgrims. It wasn't hard to find because it was near the albergue and through the window we could see a group of pilgrims eating. We went in and found Martina dining alone. She invited us to join her. Just as we were finishing, into the restaurant came Ugette. She had taken a long, long time to get to Fromista, but she was happy and carefree — she obviously had "found her heart" again!
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