Santiago de Compostela
The last stop for most pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago is right here, Praza do Obradoiro.
Yes, “praza,” because we are now speaking Galician. It’s another language of Spain, once forbidden by Franco. The atmosphere in the praza is a mix of celebration, tears, reunions and sheer relief. There’s also a lot of limping too. Clearly a spiritual journey for many pilgrims, and a bohemian-hippie experience for others. We were absolutely amused at the pilgrims continuing to parade with their packs & walking sticks – like a badge of honor – through the streets, restaurants and shops. I mean, isn’t that the first item you’d stick in a locker? Somewhat unfortunate was the scaffolding embracing the grand, 1025AD structure. No jackhammers here, lots of scraping & scratching though.
However, because it is such a renowned landmark, we can get a good look at it every time we pull change from our pockets. The iconic image is on at least a couple Euro coins.
We Attended Mass
I know, shocker. It probably wouldn’t have happened had we not landed in the church as we did: from the museum.
(The line to get in is long & chaotic, it seats a ton of people, but fills up quickly.) I was grateful for the Spanish service, the priest spoke steady and clear, I actually got the gist of it. Another bonus was the lighting & swinging of the large “el botafumerio.”
The original purpose of this big incense burner was to drown out the smell of stinky, sweaty pilgrims. Today, as a general rule, it is used on Holy days. But, for a tithing of about 300EUR, they’ll swing it for you. Someone coughed up the dough, and we were the benefactors.
It is in this church I get a true sense of the magnitude of Spain’s conquered wealth. Silver & gold so bright, my camera struggles to gain focus. Even the statue of St James is so bejeweled, guards stand by at all times. If you’re more curious about the Cathedral, this fellow did a great job giving us a self guided tour: A Texan in Spain.
For Me, it’s Also About the Food
We are about 20 miles from the ocean, so seafood is still taking the dining highlight. In Santiago they are especially known for their pulpo, or octopus.
Not eaten with a fork (they aren’t provided,) but with toothpicks.
It was tasty, covered in a couple different paprika varieties. I wouldn’t eat a plate of it, but a racion, small plate, was perfect. The local wine is white, called Ribiera, and served in white, asian-like bowls. Another specialty in Santiago are two types of mild cheese, curiously shaped like a woman’s breast.
Woody and I are especially fond of the pimientos – grilled, drenched in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sale. We eat ’em like popcorn!
Here’s the Best Part
After mass, while taking it all in at the main praza, my phone buzzes with a message from Carli, our North American based correspondent. In the text: “Mom, I think it’s a miracle. I think they found your computer! I was sleeping when they left the message”