We visited the south of Spain and the main cities several years ago. This trip into northern Spain is to visit the town of Santiago De Compostela and the Cathedral that proclaims to be the burial place of St. James, the disciple of Jesus. St. James had preached in this area before he returned to Rome at the request of Mary, mother of Jesus. Unfortunately he was executed there. His loyal followers returned his bones to Compostela, a Galicia region of Spain, for burial. His bones were lost over the centuries until a local priest was drawn to a wilderness spot by lights and stars. The priest reported to the Bishop who reported to the provincial Prince, who decided or confirmed that here lay the bones of St. James. For this reason a grand Cathedral stands today . The city center is also the end point of all the Christian pilgrims that travel the Camino de Santiago ( the way taken by St. James). If you walk at least 100 KM to the site, with passage stamps along the way, you may receive your own “Compostela”, I.e. written confirmation in Latin of your pilgrimage. Thousands of pilgrims make this trek every year.
We took a Uber car to the Airport to catch a bus. Don't laugh! After searching on line for a variety of transit plans, including train and bus or bus only, we found this bus line “InterNorte” that had pick up at the airport. We assumed the an actual big bus station would be by the airport. But no, the pickup was merely a stop at the arrival level of the airport. After we questioned the Information center and any one else that was standing near, we were satisfied that this spot and this sign meant we stand here for the bus. It all worked out and 6 hours later we arrived in Santiago de Compostela. Our cute little hotel room has windows that overlook the giant back lite Cathedral of St. James that has all this fame. We will see it tomorrow. For now we are looking to find this Tapas restaurant named Black Cat, aka D’Gato Negro in the traditional streets of the city. Interestingly, these streets have pedestrian walkways under medieval arches which support additional living area, and keep the rain off.
Another back alley, traditional food based restaurant with limited seating and cheap prices, to D’Gato Negro, i.e. Black Cat, we go. The place is small with a long plywood bar where patrons drink wine or beer and eat Tapas.There are a few tables by the bar and other tables in the rear. The Proprietor spots us, picks up the reserved sign and seats us at a table by the Bar. He is a ball of energy and runs a tight ship as did prior host Moreno in Caimbra. This place is known for its mussels so this is what we we order along with a jar of house wine. The mussels are tasty, even if not served in broth as we are accustomed and like very much. We order fried sausages and empanadas as well. The food, wine, and bread basket are very good. We are filled and decide to simply go back home.Good Night—see you tomorrow.
See you tomorrow is right. We slept later than ever before, 930, jumped up, got ready and went to breakfast before it closed at 10. We discussed are game plan and headed off to the Cathedral and the scheduled walking tour. Surprise, off season, no english speaking tours without reservation. To reclaim the day we reserved for 4 PM. Then we went to the Cathedral for its tour with the attraction of climbing the towers. Surprise, off season, no english speaking tours today and maybe none tomorrow. But, to reclaim the day we took the Spanish tour and got to visit the towers and walk on one of the roofs in order to get to the other towers, The view of the cloister and courtyards, and towers and spires, and the surrounding city was fantastic. We conversed a little with the guide , who was an ok person who did speak english. We joked with her that her tour seemed good , if only it was in Portuguese since we just got back from Brazil and Portugal. Surprise, the guide was from Brazil and spoke all three languages. We did continue to talk to her about Brazil, the new museums, etc., which she had not seen nor returned too in a while.
We next went into the Cathedral museum for the history of the construction and the extensive art work that had been donated by Kings and Queens and Royals to ensure their everlasting souls. The pieces really were exquisite and represented the long time period over which the first foundation, initial church, then Cathedral were constructed. The Cathedral is the 4th structure.
We next entered the Cathedral with its gold and silver alter, displaying a life sized replica of St. James sitting among carved Angels. In this alter, you can walk behind the replica of St. James and hug him, as so many thousands of pilgrims have done. Under the alter, are kept the consecrated bones of St. James in a silver crypt, which of course was the historic impetus and draw to create this holy place.
The Cathedral sports a giant incense burner, called Botafumeiro”, that with the force of 8 men using rope and pulley causes this 100 pound apparatus to swing back and forth 70 degrees to anoint the church with holy smoke.
Apparently some say, the smoke would mask the smell of hundreds of weary, fatigued and smelly pilgrims sleeping on the church floor after their spiritual trek.
We met our guide at 4:00. She was an energetic little gal and made history fun. We certainly talked about religious and church things, but also spent time on government, education, and economics of the relevant time periods as well as the city. The Cathedral is actually the 4th church on the site. The bulk of the structure was built between 1075 and 1211 AD. It was built in stages and the guide pointed out the the mix of Romanesque, baroque, and gothic flourishes. As darkness fell on the town, we felt we had a wonderful day.
Our last day in the city was spent on shopping and working out details for our next month in Nothern Africa and eating and eating and eating. We love tapas and with only 3 days in Spain we had tapas for lunch and dinner. What a treat.
Next stop, Morocco