Tesoros del Camino

My husband, the pilgrim, returned from a long walk of 863 kilometers across northern Spain. He walked westward from the Spanish-French border to the Atlantic Ocean. He followed the Camino De Santiago (the Way of St. James), a pilgrimage that has been walked by thousands before him since medieval times.

This was his trip, not mine, so I cannot write about its spiritual significance or the physical endurance required to make the trip. That is his story to tell, or not, in his own time. What I can relay are snippets of experiences and sights that he shared with me along the way.

The first day was the hardest. It was an uphill climb through ankle-deep mud in the pouring rain and winds that blew horizontally along the path. He told me that there were crosses and makeshift memorials covered in stones marking the places where pilgrims had started and ended their walks.

On his way from Roncesvalles to Burguete, he walked through the Sorginaritzaga Forest. Before entering, he came across a sign written in four languages. The caption read “Brujería” or “Witchcraft.”

The Sorginaritzaga forest, whose meaning is “oakwood of witches,” was where some of the most well-known witches’ covens of the XVI century were held, …

As he walked through the forest, he came across the White Cross placed there to protect the pilgrims from witches.

Sorginaritzaga Forest

Despite this ominous beginning, he found time to send me photos of the countryside and of sheep grazing in the fields. He spotted this flock of sheep near the Basque town of Zubiri.

Near Zubiri

He told me these were Manech sheep. They are black-faced free roaming sheep known for their milk and from which “ossau-iraty” cheese is made.

Manech Sheep

He even snapped photos of some of the yarn stores he happened to spot in the towns he came across. Mercería Nhilos is in Nájera; Lanas Lany in León.

Along the way, pilgrims stay in albergues. The albergues provide a bed and usually a meal, sometimes a community dinner or a light breakfast. Curfews are strict so as not to disturb the weary pilgrims. The bunk beds shown below are in a pilgrim’s shelter attached to a local church in Belorado. The albergue was run by German nuns. The bed was free although a contribution of 5€ to the nun’s fund was recommended.

Another albergue was at St. Mary’s Nunnery in the city of Carrión de los Condes. According to my husband, one nun will tend to your feet with an extensive first aid kit and all the patience in the world. That evening, they held a pilgrim’s mass with a blessing of the feet followed by a community dinner and some singing and entertainment for the weary travelers. The following day would consist of a brutal 20-mile walk in desert-like conditions.

Within 58 kilometers of Santiago de Compostela, my pilgrim made it up the side of a mountain in the province of Galicia where this stone marker is located.

El Camino Collage Summer 2014

This albergue was situated near Itero de la Vega in a medieval structure run by an Italian religious fraternity. The simple refuge had no electricity, only candles to light the way.

Albergue San Nicolás

In Burgos, he had a clear view of the magnificent cathedral.

Burgos Cathedral

Halfway between León and Santiago de Compostela, he stayed in the town of Vega de Valcarce, population 800. It was there he spotted this statue of an old woman knitting.

Statue @ Vega De Valcarce

From Ezcaray, arriving precisely on my birthday, he shipped this exquisite blanket woven with 73% mohair and 27% wool from Mantas Ezcaray.

Mantas Ezcaray

When he returned – a little sunburned, a bit achy – he came bearing gifts. For the boys, beautiful picture books about the Camino de Santiago and a myriad of stories, both funny and painful. For me, this book, Tejeduría Tradicional Galicia, or roughly translated, Traditional Weaving of Galicia. To complement this gift came a bookmarker knit by a local artisan made from a linen yarn spun from locally cultivated flax.

Tejedería Tradicional Galicia

We hope our boys make this journey some day. Perhaps my pilgrim and I will travel it together.

Te Dejo Madrid

Te dejo Madrid
con tus avenidas amplias
tus edificios y palacios resplandecientes

Te dejo Madrid
con tus mil sabores
patatas bravas y albóndigas
queso manchego y aceite de oliva arbequina
escaparates luciendo la pata negra
cenando a media noche
las calles repletas de gente

Te dejo Madrid
con tus tesoros nacionales
el Prado con "Las Meninas" de Velázquez
las imágenes de la guerra en el "Guernica" de Picasso
"Muchacha en la Ventana" de Dalí
la poesía de Lorca

Te dejo Madrid
por las calles sinuosas del Rastro
las antigüedades del mercado de sellas y monedas
la pasión del flamenco
y con un brindis a Don Ernesto bajo la sombra
de los árboles que rodean la Plaza Santa Ana

Te dejo Madrid
pero tu no me dejas a mi

(Título prestado de la canción “Te Dejo Madrid” de Shakira).

Click on any image to view on a larger screen.

I leave you Madrid
with your wide boulevards
and your resplendent buildings and palaces

I leave you Madrid
with your thousand flavors
spicy fried potates and meatballs
manchego cheese and olive oil
black hoofs on display in shop windows
dining at midnite
the streets bursting with people

I leave you Madrid
with your national treasures
“Las Meninas” by Velázquez at the Prado
the images of war in Picasso’s “Guernica”
Dalí's “Woman at the Window”
Lorca’s poetry

I leave you Madrid
through the circuitous streets of the Rastro
the antiquities at the stamp and coin market
the passion of flamenco
and a toast to Hemingway beneath the shade
of the trees that surround Plaza Santa Ana

I leave you Madrid
but you do not leave me

(Title borrowed from the song “Te Dejo Madrid” by Shakira).

Mantón Bordado

When I travel, I always try to bring back something that will remind me of the place I visited. Something a little more meaningful than a key chain but not too excessive (and that will fit in my luggage).

I brought back this mantón bordado (embroidered shawl) from Madrid. They told me it was hand embroidered (although I have some doubts). Nonetheless, the vibrant flowers and flirtatious tassels remind me of Spain.

I also picked up this set of toallas bordadas (embroidered towels) with a crocheted border. I like their simplicity and elegance.

Here are a few other images captured on the streets of Madrid.

This 20 ton bronze statue of a bear under a strawberry tree (el oso y el madroño) is located at the Puerta del Sol. The symbol of the bear (which apparently used to roam in the forests outside the city) and the strawberry tree are emblematic of Madrid.

A shop window with traditional flamenco dresses.

I couldn’t help but snap a photo of this storefront. Why can’t we all just get along?!

Los Petrificados (the petrified ones), one of many street performers in Madrid. At first glance, I thought it was a statue until someone dropped a coin in a box in front of them. The woman’s eyes moved and the man looked up while he poured the water.

I have other pictures to share. Hasta la próxima. (Until next time).