Monday, 4 June 2007

first day out, and feeling fine

It´s odd writing about the Tiny Pueblo when I´m not there, but I blog by popular demand.

Today I finally officially started my mini-pilgrimage. I woke up in Zaragoza, and took the early bus to Jaca, one of the old classic places to commence walking the Camino Aragones.

I got off the bus and hiked over to the cathedral, touted worldwide as one of the great gems of Romanesque architecture. Granted, it was the first of its kind in Spain and influenced lots of other really old Camino churches, like St. Martin in Fromista and the really amazing St. Isidore in Leon. But sadly, the grandfather doesn´t look as good as his offspring. The outside is still really severe and spiked with cartoony faces and creatures. But the inside has been Gothicked-over to a tragic extent. You can SEE it´s there, under all the gilt and pointed arches, and for a cathedral it´s darned dark and small... a couple of the things that say ¨Romanesque¨to we the ¨randy for the antique.¨

I thought the Diocesan museum would put me back to happy, but alas, it is Monday and the doors were closed! In there is one of the biggest collections of Romanesque fresco in the close, yet so far! Oh well. I saw another ¨biggest-best¨collection of those in Girona last week, and I´m still reeling. This gives me a reason to go back, I guess!

The town itself is totally charming in a French-Spanish way. There´s a dearth of yellow arrows, though, so the pilgrim wandering around looking for a stamp on his pilgrim credential, or a bed at the albergue, has to shlep all over the place asking the natives ¨donde esta?¨ Still, a very worthwhile place. I finally got my (very lovely) stamp and stamped on outta town.

It´s 16.7 kilometers to the next place, but they are VERTICAL kilometers, and this old pilgrim hasn´t been on the trail offically since 2001! The trail follows along the banks of a noisy, fast river, and climbs up and down the sides of the mountain valley. The rocks are bad. The mud would be a real problem if it got wet, and I seemed to be racing a monster storm up the valley all day, with rumbling and flashes of light over my left shoulder, and the distant mountains occasionally disappearing in the clouds and mist.

The fields are full of every kind of flower, sheep, lamb, goat, and grain. The trees of the fields clap their hands in the breeze. And I saw not a single other pilgrim on the trail. Not one. Amazing, considering the crowds that pass our village every hour on the Camino Frances. It was kinda lonely, but really really excellent, too. And tiring. I arrived in Sta. Celia about 3 p.m. and found the albergue next to the old abbot´s house... the place is a knockout, downright 3-star hotel quality, with towels and pillows and a washing machine! And I was the only person there ´til an Italian lady showed up. She´d walked the whole 30K from the French frontier, and shé´s volunteered to make our dinner. There are sheep grazing outside the window.

Amazing people, pilgrims. And hospitaleras. The one here is a town employee, and takes care of the hostel as well as four other public buildings. And the town is small and neatly kept and full of young folks, and even has an outpost of the Red.españa free internet service. Tomorrow I can leave my backpack here at the hostal when I hike up the mountain to see San Juan de la Peña, another national heritage site...this one a Romanesque monastery built into a mountainside.
After I get back down I´ll pick up my things and hi myself off to Arres, a mere 10K away and a big favorite of the Spanish hospitaleros voluntarios.

Dinnertime pends, so I am off! God bless us every one!

1 comment:

Graham Ward said...

Dear Rebecca,
I am considering walking the Camino de Invierno and understand that you have undertaken it. I have walked the Camino Francais on three occcasions, and wold like to think that this journey might be possible in the early new year. What was the infrastructure like when you were there? do you consider that there might be places open in January-February? Do you know on anyone who has attempted this route in the months of winter?

Best wishes to you; I hope to hear from you. My email is

Graham Ward