Monday, May 30, 2011

Rabanal del Camino

After a good night´s sleep in Astorga, we had one important task that morning to complete in order start our day off on the right foot. Specifically, a few of our brave pilgrims needed to tend to the impossibly huge blisters on their well-traveled feet. Luckily, a medical professional was staying at our albergue, and he dutifully tended to Gabrielle, Ada, Ellen, and Nadege. We later learned his name was Juan, and he had been walking the camino from Paris, France. We also learned that not only was he a medic, but specifically a coroner! Nadege quipped that it was a perfect situation because we all look half-dead by then anyway.

Once healed and revived by the coroner, we began the 22km walk from Astorga to Rabanal del Camino. The walk itself was pleasant with the wild flowers growing and the mountain range in the distance, where you could even spot some snow on various mountain tops. The incline was gradual, but Allison, Melanie, and I noticed that the uphill walk actually helped limber up our sore leg muscles. We reached Rabanal in good time and arrived at our albergue, which I have to mention now bears the same name as my host mother from Granada - Pilar! This was fitting as I was scheduled to present on Rabanal later that afternoon. But first, we showered ourselves, washed our clothes, and switched our hiking boots for flip flops. Ah, the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon in the courtyard of the albergue.

Before I get into the history of the Rabanal (brief, but oh so fascinating!) I would like to document that we are now at the point of our camino that we are beginning to recoginize other pilgrims along the way. Juan, our coroner and savior, was also staying at the Albergue el Pilar, and Dr. Gyug and I saw two of the Italians we met at in San Martin eating on a bench in Rabanal. Our Fordham community is growing into the community of the road that we had only read about before in our textbooks.

Another welcome member to the group was the ADORABLE puppy living in the Albergue, named Dani. That dog, let me tell you, is living quite the idyllic life in Rabanal. She travels from table to table, where pilgrims pet her and feed her, having succombed to her puppy-eyed charm.

The time had come for my presentation, and I decided to test out the traditional Rose Hill Society technique of tour guides. Namely, I walked backwards while giving my tour, which is not as nearly as easy as it sounds! The history of Rabal dates back to the Roman era, when the Romans had gold mines in Fucarona that connected to canals leading all the way to Rabanal, some of which are still visible to this day. In the 12th century, the Knights Templar held a military base there meant to protect the pilgrims passing through Monte Irago to Ponferrada. Now, the town the contues to be a safe haven for pilgrims stopping along the way to Santiago.

The monuments in Rabanal include the Hostal de San Gregorio and the church Santa Maria de la Asunción. The first is a resting place for peregrinos and is known for housing the priest, poet, and pilgrim, Aymery Picaud, in the 12 c. The second is a church built in the late 12th century in the Romanesque style characterized by the rounded arches along the entrance and the ceiling. It has undergone a few changes during the 18th and 19th century, but only for remodeling/restoration purposes.

Later that evening a few from our group went to the vespers at the Santa Maria de la Asunción, where we recited prayers in Latin and received a pilgrim´s blessing.

Thankful for a safe arrival in Rabanal, we fearless pilgrims will rest up tonight for our walk tomorrow to Molinaseca. Hopefully, Vinny won´t be the first to die in our nightly game of mafia - it would be a shame if he didn´t make it to Cruz de Ferro.

Buen Camino!

- MK

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Digression #1 Same or different?

Digression #1
Things that are the same and things that are different
Which is which?

San Martin, Hospital de Orbigo & Astorga

¡Hola Everybody!

Presently we are all safe and sound in our hostel at Astorga in close proximity to their lovely cathedral (which we couldn´t get into) and Gaudi´s Episcopal Palace (which we also couldn´t get into) (darn Sundays).

Two days ago we began our journey to Compostela bright and early at 7:00, expect for a few folks who decided to sleep in...Nick. The walk proved to be a long and tiring, but filled with the pleasure of enjoying an unique adventure. We passed through feilds and farms filled with a large palette of wild flowers and shrubbery that proved to be great backdrop for the walk. The towns we passed through were quanit and friendly and could have easily been on a postcard.

Our first stop was at San Martin where we stopped at our hostel in the afternoon. The hostel proved to be an incredibly comfortable oasis in the Spanish countryside with plenty of amenities to spare. After a long and much much desired day of absolute relaxation, we shared a large family style dinner with an animated group of Italian peregrinos. The night was filled with shared laughter and stories as we shared out communal camino bond over our meal.

Unfortunately we had to leave this oasis, for the road was calling. After about an hour or so of walking we came to our first stop at Hospital de Orbigo. The town was originally settled by Romans along the path from Astorga to the French country side. The major aspect of the town is the central bridge which leads you into the center of town. Orginially built by the Romans, it has since been reconstructed in the 13th Century from which the bridge gained its present gothic form, and a massive renovation in the 1950s.

This bridge is also the location of the last medieval jousting tournament to have occured, a story central to the town´s identity. In 1434, Suero de Quniones, a noble knight, decided to arrange this very tournament. The tournament was spurred on by the vow of love to an unnamed lady who had been not showing any signs of affection towards him. He had been very committed to this love, even to go as far as wearing a metal necklet every Thursday. He had made an arrangement with the King to have this tournament relieve him of his unrequited duties of love. The stipulations of the tournament was that either within 30 days or 300 spears Suero de Quninoes would be concidered the victor. By the 30 day cut off he had only broken 166 spears and fought only 68 knights, but was concidered the victor because he had survived for 30 days. An example of the benefits of a "plan B." As a good and victorious knight is want to do, he had a companion record these "noble" deeds into an account that was very popular in its day and the sourse for the story in the present day. This story truely has taken the imagination of the town of Hospital de Orbigo today, many of the bars and shops are named after this story in one way or another and a massive medieval fair/jousting tournament is held on June 5th in commemeration of the deeds of Suero de Quninones.

After Hospital de Orbigo, we set off for Astorga. While yesterday we walked as a bigger group, today we spread out and slowed the pace a little. The towns were further apart and the road curved away from the highway, and we had an extremely pleasant hike through the rolling hills of Northern Spain (despite our tiring legs and blistering feet). About 6 miles from Astorga, we came across a building in the middle of the countryside, which was home to a very interesting Spanish man named David. He stayed by the side of his barn (or what appeared to be a barn) all day offering juice and snacks to passing peregrinos. He was genuinely thrilled to talk to anyone who passed by (in his limited English) and the side of the barn was graffitied with hearts sayings such as ¨nuestra vida es la obra de nuestros pensamientos¨ (our life is the work of our thoughts). The group consesus was that this tiny stand was the Pugsley´s of the Camino, David being a Spanish Sal. It was definitely a welcome break in our day.

We arrived in Astorga by lunchtime and enjoyed a menu del dia at a local restaurant. We toured the small city, which was originally founded as a Roman city in 14 BC. The focal point of the city is the cathedral, which was constructed over several centuries, mixing aspects of many types of architecture and art. Immediately beside the cathedral is Gaudi´s Palacio Episcopal, built around the turn of the 20th Century. Finally we looked at the Roman ruins, including remains of very impressive 4th Century walls. We wrapped up the tour with a rousing game of mafia, and are now taking a much needed rest in the hostel to prepare for our early start to Rabanal in the morning. Check in tomorrow for more!

Vin & Mel

Friday, May 27, 2011

León, España

¡Bienvenidos a León!

We have arrived at our starting point along the Camino de Santiago. After traveling various paths to get here, we have finally all arrived (except for Nick) at the beginning. We met up at our hotel, Hotel Reina, on the afternoon and evening of May 26, and spent the night getting accustomed to the city. Dr. Gyug took us on a mini tour of the old city, where we enjoyed tapas, a Spanish tradition in which several small plates (appetizers, or 'tapas') are ordered and shared among the group. One of the dishes we tried was 'morcilla,' or Spanish blood sausage, which we both enjoyed (even Allison, the ex-vegetarian).

The next day, May 27, we officially began our tour of the city at the Catedral de Santa María de la Regla, the largest church in León. Because the cathedral is dedicated to her, Mary is depicted in the middle of the main entrance as the statue of 'Virgina Blanca' (White Virgen). It contains some of the most well-preserved stained glass windows from the Middle Ages, not surprising, given that it is also known as 'Pulchra Leonina,' which means 'the Leonese Light.' Together, we walked through the cathedral, admiring the hallmarks of Gothic architecture, such as the detailed tympana and ribbed vaulting. An interesting fact about Gothic churches: the stained glass on the northern transept is often blue colored, while the stained glass on the southern transept is yellow to capture the colors of the sunrise and sunset.

Following Andrew's exquisite tour of the cathedral, Allison heroically led the way (with help from Dr. Gyug) to the Collegiate Church of San Isidoro. The remains of San Isidoro, who was bishop of Sevilla in the seventh century, were moved to the monastery church of St. John the Baptist, now the Collegiate Church, in 1063. At this time, León was just becoming an important stop along the Camino de Santiago, and visiting his reliquary became a part of the pilgrim's experience in the city. The church on this site has been rebuilt and added on to so many times that it today exhibits Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles. Because of this, there are both rounded and pointed arches, as well as a Baroque railing and sculpture of San Isidoro above 'la Puerta del Cordero' (Gate of the Lamb, which depicts the Resurrection of Christ and the hand of God intervening to stop the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham). The Collegiate Church also houses a museum, which includes the treasury of elaborate chalices, reliquaries, and other religious items donated to the church throughout the Middle Ages and some volumes from the collegiate library. The earliest manuscripts date back as far as the Carolingian era. Finally, the tour of San Isidoro finished with the Panteon de los Reyes, considered by many to be the Sistine Chapel of the Spanish Romanesque style because of its elaborate eleventh-century frescos.

After, the group walked to San Marcos, which used to be an accomodation for pilgrims sponsored by the royal family but has since been converted into a parador, or luxury hotel (just a tad out of our budget this time around). Later in the day, we reconvened outside the hotel in
order to go to collect our credenciales. The credencial is basically the pilgrim's passport and must be issued by a designated site along the Camino. At each stop, we will receive a stamp with a date to show that we reached that destination. With one stamp down, we're finally ready to set out on the trail tomorrow morning at 7:00 (SHARP!!). The weather has been beautiful so far, with only a little bit of rain and a slight chill in the air--not a bad thing, though, when you're trekking across Spain at this time of year! Here's to a blister-free journey to San Martin!

Hasta el próximo,
Andrew and Allison

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Once again, Fordham is on the Camino. This year, fourteen students will be meeting in Leon on the evening of May 26. We will start walking on the morning of the 28, and plan to arrive in Santiago on June 10. We have met several times this semester to discuss readings, give presentations, or walk on Saturday mornings from Rose Hill to City Island, a pleasant 20 km walk along Pelham Parkway here in the Bronx and a great way to end the week.

As we go, each member of the team is responsible for one town and that days' blog post. Whether we get to the post the same day will depend on Internet availability, but we will be updating the blog regularly.

Everyone is ready, looking forward to it, and set to begin!