Fog City Boy on the Camino Frances
Burgos, Spain – April 21, 2015
Burgos is a busy, bustling city, and quite astonishing after spending parts of six days walking through the rural countryside of Spain. It is good to be in a big town for a change and to be able to access the internet – having finally been able to publish FCB #13 and compose this FCB #14.
But before sharing images of quite a remarkable cathedral, I´ll share some images and thoughts about the Way from Logroño to Burgos.
The Way from Logroño traverses an extended city or regional system of parks. The Way through the parks is paved but access is limited to those who go by foot or by bicycle. The author of the guidebook used by almost all English speaking/reading peregrinos grouses about the paved Way, but for me, it was a relief. The open trails and track of the Camino generally are studded with embedded or loose rocks of varying sizes and difficulty. (And furthermore, my boots that served so well in Portugal last year, and have served well to this point in Spain, are starting to fall apart! Yikes!)
While the scenery adjacent to these tracks is beautiful, a wise peregrino is staring at the Way so as not to trip or turn his ankle! There was a dirt trail adjacent to the paved Way for peregrinos who preferred the more traditional footpath.
Emerging from the park system, I passed a young olive orchard, graced with wildflowers, and began a climb that eventually brought me to Navarrete, another town that welcomes peregrinos.
I continued on to Ventosa where I spent a comfortable night in a Casa Rural. There was no food service in this small hotel, but peregrinos (most spending the night in an albuerque in town) gathered at a local cafe and enjoyed the menu del peregrino – three courses including wine, water and bread, for €10. I joined a table that included a 74-year-old lady from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, a young Bavarian fellow, and a recently retired American woman from Seattle. At desert, I invited a an older gent from Finland to join us. Good conversation followed. We repared to our respective lodgings.
I was up early the next morning and out on the Way. I passed a curious structure as I neared Najera. I have not learned its purpose or its history.
The Way through Najera winds through the old town and then climbs steeply before settling into pleasant framland. A series of handsome waymarks placed by the government of La Rioja keep the peregrino informed of progress from kilometer to kilometer.
Unfortunately, many have been relieved of their conchas and/or distance plaques by peregrinos or others who took them as souveneirs. Some passersby simply complained about the statistical information provided, and apparently removed it out of spite.
My energy level this day was good, and I reasoned that at 1400, it was too early to overnight, so I continued on the last leg of the day, from Azofra to Cirueña, a distance of 9.1 additional killometers. There was weather along the way that afternoon. Not a downpour, but sprinkles and mist along the way. The town is emblematic of the economic problems Spain confronts. The town is essentially a newly built suburb of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, the next town of substance along the Way. Row after row of newly built housing blocks stand vacant and signs of “vende se” are on every street. There was a nicely manicured 9-hole golf course, but no golfers.
All in, all done, the day was a 16.5 mile day for me and I was tired but I felt ok. When I checked in at the Alberque Victoria, a welcoming glass of vino tinto provided by the hospitalero certainly helped. The next morning, however, I felt it! Vino or no!
There were eight other peregrinos there (one from an adjacent Casa Rural operated by the same folks who run the alberque). All nine of us enjoyed the menu that night. The Finnish guy and the Bavarian from the night before were there, as were two Dutchmen, a Swede, a woman from Japan, another American and another German woman.
After dinner, which of course included wine, we had another bottle of wine. And then another. The conversations were spirited, needless to say. And cordial. The big take-away for me was the unanimous concern voiced by the Europeans about the recent Russian adventurism on the borders of Central and Eastern Europe. The fellow from Finland mentioned a recent military alliance with Sweden that was unprecedented but that both countries felt necessary in light of the Russian military presence not faraway. And the unpredictability of its leadership.
On a less harrowing note, the Swede provided me with something that all my life to that point I had not known: “Knut” (the proper spelling of Knute) is a very old Swedish name that literally translates as “knot.” He observed that many old Swedish names have a common language meaning in addition to serving as given names. Well there you go! It´s taken 70 years, but now I know!
I could go on about the days between Cirueña and Burgos, but I will spare the gentle reader all that detail. Here are a few highlights:
I arrived in Viloria de la Rioja (having crossed from La Rioja to the state of Castilla y Leon) and stayed at a Casa Rural named MiHotelito run by a delightful Basque woman who reported on the progress of her adult children and goings on about town. She was not able to offer dinner and there were neither restaurants nor cafes in that small town. I made my way the small Alberque Acacio y Orietta that sleeps just 10 peregrinos. They were sold out that evening, but took me in for a family style meal of green salad, rice, lentil stew, and ice cream for desert. The hospitaleros (Acacio and Orietta) asked to go around the table with each guest giving their name and where they were from and why they were on the Camino. When it came to my turn, I told them of the physical challenge – the endurance challenge – that was at the center of my peregrenacion. I spoke to the confluence of body, mind, and spirit. My sentiment was well received.
Thank you Jim.
In Belorado, the Way passes by the Iglesia de Santa Maria y San Pedro. The belltower is home to four storks´nests and at least one stork!
And nearby is a wonderful mural commerating the success of Alfonso the Brave in battle nearby. An advertisemet seeking the attention of passing peregrinos was not added by the artist.
The trek from Villafranca Montes de Oca (altitude 950 meters to the second summit reached on the climb – 1120 meters) literally started at the backdoor of the Hotel San Anton Abad which also included a substantial alberque under the same roof and management. The two peaks are separated by a narrow valley formed by the Aroyo Peroja. Here are two views of the Way at that point.
And having crossed the Aroyo on a small woodplank bridge, come up the other side!
Spain appears to have made good use of renewable energy, and to be sure, there are regular gusts of wind at the crests of the hills across the plains. Windmills have accompanied me along the Way.
A day later, on the last (quite chilly) segment of the Way before reaching Burgos, the Camino traversed a Roman road, eventually reaching a summit shrouded in mist. A reminder of the faith stood out in the mist. A bit further, devoted supporters of the Camino have constructed a waymark from stones collected nearby.
Burgos is a city serving as a government center with many substantial buildings. The most dramatic, of course, are the churches.
The Way takes the peregrino into the old city through the Arco San Juan.
The Way eventually arrives at the Cathedral of Burgos which is spectacular, to be sure.
I ran into the Baverian fellow and the Canadian lady who graciously memorialized my presence there.
I took a tour of the Cathedral and stood in awe of the majesty of the structure and the extraordinary collection of religious art that graces it.
Today is a recovery (and blogging) day for me. I´ll be up early tomorrow (the 21st), and continue along the Way. I´ll post again in a few days.
With that, I´m off.