Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Ponferrada. The last major city before we reach Santiago. Home of the Templar Castle. It all began with a short and easy walk from Molinaseca. We woke up around 7 in the morning and gathered in front of the albergue to start our short journey to the city at 8. Team Pain (Nadege, Xavier, and I) led the pack and Mary Kate filled the air with singing. We arrived in Ponferrada around 10 and headed towards the Hostal San Miguel to drop off our things and get ready to visit the Templar Castle at 12.

So, a little history on the city. Ponferrada is located on the intersection of the Sil and Boeza rivers, in the heart of the Bierzo wine region. It was an important Roman city because of the mining fields located about 20km from the town. Ponferrada started as a small city but once the Crown gifted the city to the Templars for protection in 1178, it grew into a major city.

The Templar Castle was built between 1210 and 1282 over a pre-Roman castro, a Roman fort, and a Visigoth fort that was destroyed during Almanzor´s raids in the 990s. It is around 16,000 square meters. Unfortunately, the Templars were unable to enjoy the fruits of their work for very long because in 1311, the Templars were expelled from Spain and their belongings were taken away, including the Castle. After the expulsion of the Templars, several noble families fought amongst themselves over the ownership of the Castle until the Crown, like an angry parent punishing his or her child, took possession of the Castle. Crown possession lasted until 1340 when the king gave the Castle to the Count of Lemos, Pedro Alvarez de Osorio. The Count constructed new additions to the Castle over the years. These new constructions are evident in the different stone layers in the walls.

While we were touring the Castle, Dr. Gyug mentioned that the Castle had not yet seen its final tournament and led us into a courtyard and divided us into two teams. We were a bit confused about what was going on but we dutifully positioned ourselves into two lines opposite each other. Dr. Gyug climbed up to the wall looking into the courtyard and shouted that the tournament had begun and we rushed each other, brandishing swords made out of whatever we happened to be holding. I, personally, forgot who was supposed to be on my team so I attacked whoever was closest to me. This lasted for a couple of minutes until Dr. Gyug told us that we needed to lift someone on our shoulders to declare a team´s victory. We choose Allison as our victor and Peter and Vinny lifted her onto their shoulders and carried her around.

After our tour of the Castle we headed to the Church of Santa Maria de la Encina. We looked around for a bit and then headed to lunch. By that point, we were all really tired so once that was over we headed back to the hostal and had a short nap. Overall, it was a pretty great day.

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