Wednesday, February 3, 2016

El Camino de Santiago, Part III

Legends and reality

By Valeria Idakieva

[Part II, “On the road again,” was published on January 5.]

I left the little farming village of Azofra early in the morning to head for Santo Domingo de la Calzada, named after Saint Dominic. The legends that surrounded the town were attracting me like a magnet.
    I have always been fascinated by legends and cannot help sharing one that I took from the guidebook I used. Santo Domingo de la Calzada is most famous for the legend of the cock that crowed again. A couple from Cologne were travelling to Santiago de Compostela on a pilgrimage with their son, Hugonell. Apparently the innkeeper’s daughter took a fancy to him and made advances, which he virtuously resisted. She hid a silver goblet in his possessions and in the morning denounced him as a thief, with the result that he was hanged. When his parents were preparing to depart they heard his voice telling them that he was still alive – St. Dominic was holding him up by his feet. The parents ran off to tell the magistrate the story but he laughed and said their son was no more alive than the cock and hen on his plate. At that the birds grew feathers, jumped off the plate, and fluttered around the room, proving that the parents’ son was innocent.
    It may be only a legend, but it is nice to hear that the good side won. I spent about an hour viewing the cathedral and paying my respects to Santo Domingo at his tomb inside.

    When I left the town the sun was high in the sky and mercilessly burning the only crazy people walking in the afternoon – some pilgrims.
    The sign informing me that there were “only 555 km” left to Santiago seemed rather encouraging, so I hurried through the cornfields and farm land to the village of Castildelgado, where I spent the night.

The next morning the clear, blue sky was promising another hot day. I had planned 35 km for the day in order to have fewer km for walking the next day in order to reach the city of Burgos earlier. I hoped half a day would be enough to see the famous cathedral there and roam the city.
    Walking under the sultry sun with a heavy backpack is not my favorite experience, so I really appreciated the trees offering some shade and the unexpected refreshments on the route.

    No matter how much I hurried, I spent an hour in San Juan de Ortega and the beautiful church there, attracted once again by the local legends.
    San Juan has a reputation of being the patron saint of fertility. The legend refers to an incident when the saint’s tomb was opened and a swarm of white bees escaped, surrounded by a wonderful smell.
    The bees were believed to be the souls of unborn children being kept safe by San Juan until suitable Christian women could be found to bear them. Queen Isabela la Católica visited the church in 1477, after having been childless for a number of years. She went on to have three children. The first, a boy, she named Juan, and the second, a girl, she named Juana.

Most of the pilgrims I met on the way were Italians. I started wondering whether I was in Spain or Italy and what was the reason for the “Italian Camino” this year. One of them answered that generally speaking Italians are very religious, but I don’t think I met anyone doing the trek for religious purposes, apart from a Polish priest.
    I liked the exuberant Italians – full of lovely energy and excitement, waving and greeting me boisterously when we met again – but sometimes it was too much for me. Having reached the coolness of the albergue after the long hours under the burning sun, I was enjoying my deserved rest when a group of young Italians came in. Soon noise and loud music filled the air and windows were opened, letting in flies and heat and destroying the peace, quiet, and cool air. Anyway, youth is youth, and I accepted that it was their time to fill the air with noise, laughter, and music.

After the usual cup of morning coffee, I headed for Burgos, ready to run the 23 km to this beautiful Gothic city. Soon I was treading on the land where some of the first people in Europe lived: Europe’s oldest human remains were discovered in caves near Atapuerca in the 1980s.
    Burgos was on the horizon.

    But it was not an easy walk. I was dragging my feet on the last suburban stretch into Burgos – it seemed endless – asking myself, Am I so unfit and weak that I have to make this many stops to rest? Upon entering the city, I was hit on the head by the colors and fragrances of its bustling streets, full of lively, elegantly dressed people. My sweating body, shaking knees, and burning feet seemed awkward. While I was passing a pharmacy, I saw that the temperature was 43° C (109° F). Shaking knees and sweating body fitted the picture! I hurried to the albergue to have a shower and enjoy the city.
    An hour later I was visiting the impressive Cathedral and roaming through the unspoiled, character-filled, charming streets of Burgos, which held memories of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Castile.

Copyright © 2016 by Valeria Idakieva


  1. Браво Валерия!Прекрасно е написано!Нямам търпение да прочета и следващите части! Успех!

  2. Браво Валерия!Прекрасно е написано!Нямам търпение да прочета и следващите части! Успех!