Travels - Links to each trip

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata Days 35-36 - Santiago de Compostela

Wednesday/Thursday May 4/5, 2016
This time a wrap up since tomorrow I start my journey back to the US.
These two days have been a time of forced rest and relaxation since I haven't been able to take long walks and have tried to give my body rest for healing. It seems to have worked since today (Thursday) I have stopped using the crutches and just used my hiking poles, mainly to keep me steady on the cobbled streets and many, many steps and stairs.
I also tried to take a few photos of some of the city but since I didn't stray very far from the hotel and cathedral area and the buildings are generally very close together except for the many small squares and the big plaza in front of the cathedral.
I think I have already posted a picture of the Western facade of the cathedral but this one is taken from across the square and includes part of the extensive cloisters on either side. The cathedral was built in the 11th/12th centuries in the Romanesque style with rounded arches, while the baroque western facade was added in the 18th century.
Here are some other details of the North facade of the cathedral. It may give an idea of the amount of detail one can find on the cathedral.
Across the square and facing the cathedral is a building that is now Santiago's City Hall.
There are many small squares with shops and cafés around them and since the weather has been beautiful it is very nice to sit outside for a coffee, a snack or dinner since sunset is not until about 10pm.
It has been a great place for forced relaxation!
Sometimes I have sat beside the narrow street where the pilgrims arrive as they enter the city and approach the cathedral. I have been surprised how often there are some that I have met along the way and we always enjoy seeing each other again and catching up on our latest news. Feelings are mixed on arrival since some are relieved the journey has come to an end and some are disappointed and have not prepared themselves mentally for the arrival after a couple of weeks of walking each day with an open agenda.
Thursday May 5, 2016
Ascension Day and one of the pilgrims I knew suggested we go to the 12:00 noon Pilgrim Mass in the cathedral. I readily agreed and it was even more beautiful than when I went on Monday. The huge cathedral was packed, many more than on Monday, perhaps because Ascension Day is a public holiday with schools closed etc. They had a school choir instead of a cantor to sing some of the mass using plainsong chants in Latin that I knew from my childhood growing up in a high church Anglican parish. I was very nostalgic. They also had about 10-12 priests, several from different countries, and each said a short prayer in their own language during the prayers.
At the end of the service I once again was able to witness the "performance" of the incense thurifer even though its regular schedule is only for the evening mass on Fridays, but it can be "ordered" by making a donation to cover the cost of the 7 extra people it takes to make it happen.The celebrant explained that the origins of this go back to the Middle Ages when pilgrims arrived in large numbers after months or sometimes years on their journey, often stopping and finding work along the way to finance their pilgrimage. The pilgrims would not be down in the nave but up on the upper level of the cathedral and it was necessary to swing the incense burner high up to their level to cover the unpleasant smells that would emanate from this generally unwashed large group. Hygiene was very different in those days! This time the choir rather than a cantor, sang the accompaniment to the music. The priest explained that today it is used to symbolize and encourage the arriving pilgrims to take God's message back out into the world when they return home, like the smoke drifting out from the cathedral.
After a small lunch I made my way back to the hotel. This will be my last night in Santiago. I want to organize things a bit so I am ready to leave in the morning. It doesn't take long since of course I don't have much but I will have a night in Madrid before I catch a plane on Saturday.
I then went down to the garden to start on my final blog and enjoy a cup of coffee in the garden. I was under a glass cover and soon it started to rain lightly as forecast. There were some men working in the garden laying turf on an area that had just been dust where the children had fun playing. The sun umbrellas were closed so I took another picture of the empty garden. I really enjoyed this quiet peaceful space while I was here this week,
Later, as planned, I went back down to the cathedral and met briefly with the family who had helped me and offered to do so much more. They start their return home in Australia tomorrow and I hope we can stay in touch. I had also arranged to meet with Mike and Ruth who I had travelled with for much of the Via de La Plata portion of the journey. I hope we will meet again in Richmond (they have children and grandchildren in Norfolk, VA) or in Denver. That was so nice and we had dinner together along with two girls from Germany.
I have seen so much on this journey starting in Mérida where the trees were laden with oranges and the streets had palm trees, and traveling north to Galacia where even the grape vines are not yet showing any buds of spring.
So for some final thoughts I quote from a book I found in the little library in the hotel. It was written by a Dutch author who quoted another Dutch traveler in Spain in the early 20th century and reflects in many ways the spirit I felt on the Camino this year as I travelled slowly from town to town and region to region.
"Reader, you have accompanied me on a long journey. Together we have marveled at treasures, churches and cathedrals, landscapes and museums... I could describe at length all the emotions that came over me...but that would take too long...too much have I seen..."
It has been a wonderful journey!
Thank you for sharing it with me.
Quote of words of Louis Couperus from "Roads to Santiago" by Cees Nooteboom


  1. Safe journey home! Can't wait to have you back. But thanks to let me travel with you.

  2. I have looked forward to reading about your pilgrimage every day. Thank you so much for the photos, detailed travel journal, emotional expression of your deep faith and how meaningful this journey has been for you. Be safe traveling home. Helen (Terceira, Azores)

  3. Thank you for the virtual journey you have allowed me to take. Be safe on your return trip.