Can anybody come out to play?
So many pilgrims remark on the brand new ghost town of Ciriñuela. Golf course and club, elaborate sports complex, numerous apartments and terraced houses. Just a couple of parked cars…
And no people.
This is Spain in la crisis. A whole new town, destined to be some kind of retirement oasis, or maybe a dormitory suburb for…for Burgos? Maybe the English were keen when the pound was strong? Improve your swing among the vines of the Rioja?
Apart from Ciriñuela, the hike from Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada is scenic, through country that still has some shape to it, though it’s starting to look like meseta in parts.
Some curiosities along the track. A hops industry.
Outside Azofra, a pilgrim town since the twelfth century at least, is a special waymarker called a picota. It may also have been the spot where lawbreakers were taken for punishment or execution. On a winter’s morning, it certainly has a penal look.
Some of the action of Spain’s second national epic, of much less interest than the Poem of the Cid, occurs in towns around here. Authored by a grateful monk in the twelfth century, it concerns the life of Fernán González, a tenth century count of Castile…and generous patron of monasteries. It serves the purpose of legitimising Visigothic Castile as Spain’s political and spiritual centre. Those Moors and Navarese are put in their place, as is the king of Leon. If there’s a lesson in any of this, it’s to look after the journalists of your era. Louis IX looked after the guys who could write about him, now he’s a saint. Charles Martel, saviour of Europe, was rotten to the monks and has had nothing but bad PR since. As Sir Les Patterson says: “Sling the journos!”
Well, the town we come to next is the scene of a tale far more interesting than Fernán’s. It still ruffles feathers.