The real world beckons.
The real world beckons.
La Iglesia de San Salvador de Vilar de Donas is a few miles off the Camino and is definitely worth the extra trek.
The church dates back to the thirteenth century, and was a final resting place for Knights of Santiago, who protected pilgrims along the Camino. The friendly caretaker explained the symbolism of the tombs: Dogs at the feet of the knights symbolized loyalty; The lions under the tomb are positioned over a wolf, on the left, and a wild boar, on the right, to symbolize the protection the knights provided.
The original murals inside the church are pretty spectacular, especially given their age. The history of the Camino is fascinating.
The Castro de Castromaior ruins are just a short walk away from the main Camino path, but very few peregrinos seemed to be interested. Maybe it was the early hour, or the light rain, but everyone seemed to be in a big hurry to get to their next coffee, beer, meal, or other destination. Which was fine with us, because we were able to explore the Celtic and Roman-era fortress ruins at our leisure, with no distractions or photo-bombers. It was a reminder that eras and distinct civilizations come and go.
And just about no one seemed to take any interest in a modest memorial to Rowland Ian Kitchen, a peregrino from West Yorkshire, England, who died in 2015 while walking the Camino for the eighth time, at age 68. It seemed like such a small effort to pause and pay respects to a fellow pilgrim who made such a significant effort himself and, as the memorial proudly notes, did not “go gently into that good night” of advanced age.
Your memory lives!
There were lots of sheep along the Camino…
… and plenty of random wildflowers to pause and admire.
Portomarin is a lovely small city, but after one night it was time to move on.
The old pedestrian bridge in the foreground has been closed off, but the one behind it had plenty of early morning pilgrim traffic.
More ruins were visible along both banks of the dry riverbed.
An abandoned brick factory on the outskirts of town carried a few nice messages. Spain had a lot more graffiti than I expected, and most of it was just ugly crap that looked like it had escaped from 1982.
But that’s quite a different take on the broken windows theory. And it kind of makes you wonder….
The Camino passes through many charming villages that are picturesque but seem ghostly quiet. You rarely hear the laughter of children as in so many other countries.
A newer bridge dwarfs an older one leading into the small city of Portomarin.
A close look reveals remnants of the village that existed before construction of a dam raised the river’s water level and forced many structures to be abandoned.
An old stairway leads from the bridge up to the city.
A steady stream of peregrinos makes the climb.
The fortress-like church was actually moved brick by brick to save it from the river when the dam was built.
It’s great to see some old folks enjoying the afternoon dancing to music in the plaza. Hope that’ll be us some day.
Timeless stone walls and gently rolling pastures speak to the deep agricultural roots of rural Galicia.
It’s a pretty easy life for some habitués, until that day when it’s not.
Apple trees are so prevalent along the Camino that a destitute peregrino could literally survive on them all the way to Santiago, at least in this season.
We wonder about the age and meaning of the strange symbol carved neatly into this rock.
The Camino is generally very well-marked, and random peregrinos often add mementos and commentary.
He didn’t start in Honolulu either. Or in France, for that matter.
Just what was the intended point here? An admonition to those who aren’t sufficiently pious in their purposes for undertaking the journey, or who didn’t take the longest route possible on foot so as to measure up to those who did?
If so, it’s exactly the type of self-righteous arrogance that’s always pushed me away from organized religion and those who use it to inflict themselves upon others. And the fact that it’s in English strikes me as hugely ironic.
But maybe the meaning is something else. Maybe it’s a gentle reminder that faith itself is ancient and broad, and an appeal to consider the roots of Christianity and not get lost in its subsequent imposition, trappings, and application.
I’ll just appreciate the ambiguity, embrace the latter interpretation, and be at peace with the world.
A broad winding path through a pleasant forest…
… populated by chirping sparrows …
… leads to a crossroads village of old stone houses patrolled by a friendly dog.
In the morning, a pleasant fog blankets the hills …
… and cools the path.