To leave Sarria, the pilgrim crosses a medieval bridge, and this one is choice.
Note the typical and delicious stonework: granite below, graduating to fine shale at the top. Those keen on masonry could well take a study holiday in these parts.
I came to the church and monastery of Santiago in Barbadelo, still in mist by late morning. Their origins are traced to the very start of the second millennium.
Lunch was at a bar along the track. A group of pilgrims were clustered outside in a sun-trap, and I joined them.
One German gentleman who had passed me earlier at considerable speed was enjoying a truly Teutonic serving of sausage, egg and potato, with beer on the side.
Between tables, a conversation began, which drifted to various opinions of global evils and deserved catastrophes, with such luminaries as Al Gore and Michael Moore referenced as quasi-biblical authorities.
The German gentleman, rolling a cigarette after his mighty lunch, was passionate on the evils of Western capitalism, and the impending destruction of both itself and that object of much recent concern, the planet. As his voice grew more shrill, and his face twitched, I decided to concentrate on my tortilla. When a certain type of German gets tense about lebensraum, he is best not provoked.
It seemed that things could not be worse. Then, from another table came a prediction that civilisation or humanity or the world (not sure which) was about to end anyway, with the Mayan calendar, that most certain of references, cited as proof. This set up a kind of contest between adherents of cosmic and anthropogenic cataclysm.
Shortly after, the group of us – transported by jet to this enchanted region, most of us alive only because of recent medical marvels, fed and housed better than many princes of centuries past – walked off into the mild spring sunshine.
There had been no rain, but the land was awash. Parts of the Camino de Santiago were racing streamlets. Two new friends with whom I would pass the day had to help me over a small crossing.
Una is Irish and a biologist, Yarrow a Canadian version of what we’d call a roustabout in Australia. One of his rural crafts and enthusiasms is stone. He was in the right place.
Soon one comes to the famous 100k-to-Santiago marker. It was most considerate of the cola drinker to deposit his or her empty can behind the stone.
Two specialties of Galicia: camellias…
These are constructions for conserving grain. They come in many styles, can be elaborate or merely practical, and be made with varying proportions of timber to stone. While I can see that they are vermin and bird-proof, it seems odd that the roofs are so slender. In Australia, the rain seldom falls vertically, and anything contained in such a narrow and porous structure would be quickly soaked. Does any reader know more about these hórreos?
The day brought us to Portomarin, which used to be here till the 1960’s.
No, I mean down there in the water. The Miño River was dammed for hydro-electricity, and the town actually got carried away.
When the waters of the Belesar Dam get low, you can still see remnants of the old Portomarin, which has been moved uphill to Monte do Cristo. The approach to the new town is impressive; no doubt much of the superb stonework is new or refurbished.
Some 2000 hectares of fertile land as well as the town were the exchange for a handy 225MW of power.
An afternoon view from the new town.
Much of the old town’s important patrimony had to be moved stone by stone – but Galicians are good at moving and fitting stone. Most unique and striking is the Church of Saint Nicholas (or Saint John). It is a late Romanesque structure from the period when the Knights of Saint John, or Hospitallers, controlled the town and served pilgrims. It serves fully as both church and fort.
Bring your crossbow, or bring your rosary beads.
FOOTNOTE: The KiwiNomad has linked to a bewitching camellia shot on her daily photo blog. Please check it out in comments if you have a love for the camellia. They are flowering here in Dondingalong as I write, and I may find an excuse to run an Australian sample against this NZ challenge.
Meanwhile, this camellia was photographed when I got lost in Galicia, though not on the the main Camino. I’ve been wondering where to locate it on this blog, so I’ll shove it in here under a paper-thin pretense of relevance.
As far as camellias go, this is about as perfect as I’ve seen.