November 2, 2002
San Martin del Camino to Astorga
|In Galicia, the Asturias, Cantabria,
and around the edges of the meseta where the land is hilly and
irregular, the latifundios are not practical. In those areas the
minifundio is common — small individual farms. Houses are
more spread out and the farmers tend to raise livestock as well as many
different types of crops. The farms are more like those found in the hills
and mountains of New England. In many places, stonewalls mark the boundaries.
One thing a small farm with animals needs is a silo. The horrero
is like a silo. It's a small, loosely built structure that allows the
circulation of air in order to dry out corn. It's set on posts well above
the ground, and between the posts and the floor are broad stone slabs
to deter rodents.
|About 3 K before my day's final
destination, I came to a hill that rose about 100 meters. At the top there
was a six-foot stone cross and a resting area where a couple of pilgrims
were having lunch. In the distance, through the fog, I could see the cathedral
of Astorga. What can you say about a city that is over 2000 years old?
It's an impressive site, placed on the heights above a valley. As you
start up the road to approach the city, you can see the ancient Roman
walls of Asturica, upon which was built the medieval city of Astorga.
|The cathedral dominates the hill,
but there is another building that grabs the eye. It is a smaller building
behind the cathedral and it looks like a castle from Disneyland. Actually
it was a palace — the bishop's palace — and was designed by
Antonio Gaudi in 1889. The bishop who commissioned the construction was
from Barcelona, and he convinced his paisano (compatriot) to design
and build a private bishop's residence. Unfortunately, the bishop died
before it was completed. His successor was embarrassed by the edifice
and refused to occupy it. In fact, it remained vacant for some time until
the church realized that they had a treasure. Now it is a museum housing
art related to the pilgrimage. The interior is indeed beautiful!
|That afternoon at 4:00 I had lunch at a fine
restaurant in a three-star hotel. I was tired of the standard menu
del dia (menu of the day) that I usually ate so I took a lujo
(a luxury) — I ordered a la carte!
That night, since I had had a late lunch (or was it an early dinner?), I didn't need another big meal. Instead I went out for a glass of wine and a tapa. Tapas are small snacks that are served in bars and restaurants when dinner is not wanted. When I asked if anyone wanted to go with me to find a bar, a young Korean woman said yes and that she knew of a good place. Well, a young person's idea of a good bar is one full of other young people and loud music. It was fun, although I looked a little out of place.
Her name was Min and she was a very interesting person. After getting her college degree in social work she went to India to volunteer for the organization created by Mother Theresa. More recently, she performed volunteer work in Kenya. Afterward, and prior to coming to Spain, she traveled by bus all though Africa — going alone didn't seem to bother her. She wanted to travel and volunteer some more before returning to Korea and graduate school. She wasn't sure where she was headed after Santiago.
We got back to the albergue to find it full of the same kids from the previous night. After everyone went to bed, they remained in the anteroom playing cards and having a gay old time. A gay, noisy, old time! As much as we tried to ignore them, we couldn't. Finally a Frenchman jumped down from his top bunk and went out to address the multitude. I don't know if they understood him, but he was loud and angry. I think they got the point, for one by one they got ready for bed. The constant opening and closing of various doors was almost as bad as the talking and laughing.