Catedral of Santa Maria de León 

Yet one more beautiful church to see in Spain.  León is the 4th larger city to visit along the Camino.

It’s Catedral is smaller than the one in Burgos.  It was built in 13th century during the Renaissance using the French model of thin walls, a lot of stain glass, and very high vaulted ceilings.  It took approximately 50 years to complete.

The Catedral replaced a gothic church using the same site.  

This church features stain glass rosettes;

Large flying buttresses support the walls. The glass is light meaning lesser stone and mortar are used with the construction–the windows are colorful and represent fruit, grain, saints, the apostles and the family tree of Jesse from whence Christ came to be according to biblical texts:

The colors are vivid and clean set in the most extraordinary designs of that period:

The Catedral also features an interestingly positioned choir section that seems to divide the church in two:

Here are two of the reliefs present on the wall both are made from alabaster. The first is the archangel Gabriel telling Mary that she will be with child–Jesus:

The second is the stable scene when Jesus is born:

The choir itself is handcarved reliefs of saints, prophets etc. with multiple pipes from the organ stationed above.  Roman and Greek gods and philosophers were also present.  It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in the mid-1500’s that the notion of including non-Catholics in church art was banned:

Some of the figures carved under the choir seats–not sure what they represent:

Examples of people carved in front of the choir seats — this is Israel’s King David:

These are the prophets Moses and Zachariah:

The main altar is backed by several paintings rather than statuary–atypical for the time:

A crèche standing approximately three feet high stood on an altar in its own chapel:

The ceilings of these churches are delicate and typically need repair or restoration–this Catedral is no different.  Parts of the ceiling collapsed in the 18th and 19th centuries requiring extensive repairs–can’t tell by eyeballing the ceiling:

Part of the cloister’s (typically a courtyard adjacent to a church, convent or monastery) ceiling was intriguing — love the skull motif:

This is the original statue that once greeted incoming church attendees–a copy is now installed in its place because time and climate have damaged the original:

An architectural drawing of the Catedral:

Last but certainly not least is this life size statue of a pregnant Mary rubbing her belly–a rare site to be sure and a favorite of mine:

When one ventures to Europe its the church architecture that draws crowds–like it or not!  

Surely when attendees entered these “temples” of worship hundreds of years ago they were both awed and frightened by the immense size, the dark shadows, coldness of the stone and the religiousity of the artwork.  

I wonder if it felt like standing on the cusp of damnation or salvation — perhaps both.

Buen Camino 

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Camino Odds n’ Ends

Not many folks walk the Camino de Santiago.  Conversations with those on “The Way” come from the entire planet.  Each has a unique story to tell.

The more interesting aspects of this walk are cultural differences with Spain in general:

Don’t see vending machines in the middle of nowhere in America:

Do you think a commissar would appreciate the humor in this name:

The open road takes on a whole new meaning:

Don’t see shepherds in my neck of the woods: 

I promise no more sunrise photos–no really–but aren’t these nice:

After a long rocky climb I can only liken to Gogotha:

Clean water (aqua) available in these fountains in many villages and  towns:

Funny to find this bar in a village in Spain–must be fans:

A free museum created out of a ruin in Burgos:

Caves randomly cut into rock:

A foggy morning:

Street sculpture–so humanizing in Burgos:

Gotta love the Mary Poppins motif:

And don’t forget a big favorite for smiting the moors–El CID: 

Can’t resist the large-scale fountains–wish we had more:

And these trees are everywhere–love them in the city plazas:

This was by a roadside perhaps a Spanish cattail:

After the past few days of walking I know how this feels:

Buen Camino

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Rest Stop in Burgos

I decided to take some time in Burgos–Franco’s one-time capital.  Today I visited the world heritage site of the Catedral de Santa Maria XIII.  This cathedral was first built in the 13th Century.   Over the next 700 years it’s been modified using gothic, Romanesque and modern techniques–it’s a bit over the top –enjoy these photos which don’t really capture the immensity of this church–21chapels:

A model of the Catedral:

Outside the Catedral:

El CID’s (fought the Moors) grave–Charlotte Heston played him in the movie:

Dual stairways to heaven:

Stations of the Cross–larger than life-size:

A dome:

Lots of bishops, cardinals and wealthy patrons (plus family members) of the Catedral are buried in the different chapels:

One of many altars–made of wood, marble and alabaster:

Chorale area–carved from oak and walnut:

Entrance through a side door:

Brass doors with saints:

Renaissance paintings:

As a pilgrim I was charged half-price.  It was well worth it! Hope you did too.

Buen Camino

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A Day Like No Other

Up and at ’em by 7:00 today.  Wasted some time because I got turned around.  Finally got on the way and passed by this entertaining fellow soon after:

He was the first of many surprises.  

Didn’t know food trucks would be parked along the pathway:

Or that bee hive structures similar to some in my hometown would appear — seen in a few spots today–these even have adjacent picnic areas. 

You can also find these bee hive structures on the west coast of Ireland:

Upon entering Najera this typically American sight was just ahead–could swear a K-mart was around the corner:

Not too much further lay “thickets” of poppies whose color mirrors those in my yard — these can be seen everywhere along the pathway:

Once in the city I began a quest for food–stopped at a supermarket–not a surprise that it looked like an American store.

Shortly thereafter I found a cafe facing the river Rio Najerilla and chowed down– you’d think I hadn’t eaten in days– trust me I had:

The folks at the adjacent table are French and have traveled around the world on a sailboat.

I was primarily excited about visiting Najera because of the Monasterio Santa Maria de la Real. Declared a national monument in 1889 its built into sandstone cliffs. Within its walls Castilian royalty from the 11th –13th centuries are entombed:

Built in the 12th Century it was filled with beauty as only a European church could be–see photos–entering the knights cloister:


Entrance to the cloister called “Gateway of Charles the 1st of Spain:

The church’s golden interior dedicated to Saints Benedict and Scholastica and king Don Garcia and  Dona Estefania.  It’s considered to be priceless:

Fixtures along the sidewalks of the church–St Michael the Archangel smiting Satan, St James (see the shell symbolic  of “The Way”) and Christ:

The Monastery’s choir loft and mausoleum represent the best of 12th century craftsmanship:

The gate of the “Tree of the Garden of Good and Evil” must be crossed to enter the courtyard garden:

The interior courtyard garden and it’s well–reminiscent of Mont St Michele in France:

Legend has it that in 1044 King Don Garcia found this in a cave where the Monastery stands today:

This is certainly a national treasure.
Buen Camino

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Chugging Along

Covered a lot of ground since Friday.  After a warm and rainy day it was freezing last night.  Staying in albergues (hostels) has drawbacks–for one no heat.  Sparse blankets.  Noisy roomates (snoring, squeaky bunk beds–hitting heads on the top bunk and phones lit up after lights out at 9:30pm.  This can result in long nights.
Needless to say, today I left before 7:00 am finishing at approximately 4:30 pm — a very long day covered 21+ miles or 35 kilometers.

No told me today was a holiday for Spain. I now know May 1 is a national holiday in Spain akin to our Labor Day.  So virtually everyone had three-day weekend. This meant nothing was open!

So what happened today:  first, I found out that this photo is flowers from which canola oil is extracted–so mystery (mine) solved):

This grass I discussed a few days ago is barley and used to make beer–who knew:

I spent today walking through wine fields–some old and some knew — Zoly (from Budapest) who I’d met a day ago said the thicker stocks regenerate and create more wine than the younger thinner stocks–see an example of each below:

The soil looks is similar to what is found in Italian and Californian grape groves–almost like clay and filled with rocks — rocks are everywhere:

Passing through Viana this morning I’d wanted to visit the town’s church, but a funeral was in progress — 

So instead I stopped for a croissant this time with chocolate on the outside, yummy but just not the same as those filled with chocolate:

I liked bakery’s bag it came in don’t you?

As I approached the large city of Logrono–the snow capped mountains appeared in the distance:

My introduction to the city was this lady watering her garden:

This was soon followed by the sight of an impressive community garden filled with veggies and flowers–going locovore appears to be universal:

Shortly thereafter more interesting signage then appeared:

In town as well — see the mini-St James (aka Santiago):

Being a national holiday businesses were closed and recreation with friends and family ruled the day:

Rowing in kayaks on the Rio Ebro River:

Enjoying the extensive park system was the rule of the day.  It took a lot of time to get through the throngs of people biking, fishing, rollerblading or walking.  Some were barbecuing -it smelled really good- it reminded me of Memorial Day or the Fourth of July in the USA:

The streets were nearly vacant:

Looks rather tropical–right?

Logrono had public sculpture:

And lovely fountains:

Who could forget the beautiful churches–this is an impressive facade:

Naturally, as in all cities there is unendorsed art as well–not certain of its meaning–are you?

What’s this doing in the middle of a northern Spanish city? Gotta love the moniker:

Loved the official bike lanes off the street–European idea that I highly favor:

I made it through this rather elongated city when this sign appeared — yup Santiago is definitely getting a bit closer:

So the the journey continues anew tomorrow.

Buen Camino 

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Today was an easier walk–the road was compacted and rocks were much smaller.

I spent the evening in Estella–man Spaniards love to party–all night.  As I left my lodging a large group were drinking and singing.  Upon seeing me they began to cheer me on.

As I began to exit the town I went to a shop for water and got more than I expected:

Chocolate croissants have become a daily treat–glad they can be found almost everywhere–this particular croissant was still warm — yum!

Soon I passed a key regional attraction–the Bodegas wine fountain, but it was way too early for me:

Peregrine refers to pilgrims:

One turns the spigots for free wine or water:

Then there was a wine museum–reminded me of the date museum in Palm Springs, CA. Won’t see this in California:

A blacksmith was also along this pathway.   He made and sold a variety of items:

Soon rain set in lightly sprinkling for several miles or kilometers if you like:

The rain didn’t hamper the beauty of the terrain:

With no towns between Cruce and Los Arcos an industrious group situated themselves at the halfway point.  Calling itself Cafe Movil offered a variety of refreshments in an outdoor setting– not unlike food trucks:

As I began the final climb to Sansol I began to see snails:

For some the snail signifies the cycle of life–I’ll take that as a positive sign for today.   

It’s better than the alternative–simply death as seen in Los Arcos:

Buen Camino

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Up and Over 

Longest day on the road as the route went up and down hills all day.  The apex was near wind turbines:

Once on the hilltop one was confronted with lifesize wrought iron sculpture of medieval pilgrims:

From this point the pathways were quite rocky:

And there were a number of cyclists on the same trails too — in-fact one wiped out at this point:

Part of the day was spent with a gastronomy specialist (his term) from Budapest.  He said these grasses are actually an ingredient of beer:

These grasses have continually been along the Camino since day one.

The day was filled with unusual sights both large and small:

Poppies scattered along along the paths:

A burro in someone sideyard:

Following the path through a building–a first:

graffiti–supportive as well:

Bueno Camino

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