Friday, 22 June 2012

Meseta part 2

The next 4 days continued the meditative monotony of the meseta with big skies and gently undulating fields. That is not to say there is nothing there. There is a constantly changing palette of wildflowers and birds. One long (12km) dead straight stretch following an old roman road is almost hallucinogenic as it stretches out in front of us seemingly without end.

This region has historically been rich farming country but now many of the towns have suffered the urban shift of the last century and make a living from people coming to stay on the Camino.
The region had a strong religious history and was a stronghold of the reconquista/ bloody resurgence of catholicism against Islam in the 10th to 13th centuries. On the day after Boadilla we had breakfast in the next small town, Fromista, with its much lauded Romanesque church which has hundreds of carved human and animals figures under its eaves.

After this we had tea in front of a huge Templar cathedral before arriving in Carrion de Los Condes.

In Carrion we stayed in the alburgue run by 5 young Augustine nuns behind the Santa Maria church. They and the monks over at espiritu santu continue a tradition of welcoming pilgrims and growing the faith that has been the focus of the city although many of the other orders have shrunk. They were a lively bunch who are keen musicians singing in the alburgue and also at mass and the blessing of pilgrims that followed. I have little experience of the full bells and smells Catholic mass in Australia so it was a new cultural experience!

The next night we enjoyed great luck with our own room in the Jaques de Moray alburgue in Teranillos de templarios. We had an interesting multilingual chat with three French women and a man from Barcelona about the changes in Europe at the moment, over a tasty dinner. I finally got to understand better the true culture shock that will ensue if the threats to privatize the medical system I've seen posted on small local clinic doors go through. This is one of the great joys for me of the evenings on the Camino in alburgues as you get to meet people from all walks of life and countries.

In Bercianos del camino we stayed in the paroquial hostel that is run by volunteers who try to bring back the collectivist atmosphere of the camino and charge only a donation. It was in a cool old adobe and brick building. Everyone helps make dinner and eats together. They asked me to translate the prayers and reflection session after dinner which was interesting but I felt a bit silly translating as I don't speak French and half of the pilgrims were French.

They are building a new church in town as the last one subsided with the subterranean bodegas (cellars) tunneled underneath it did in the 70s!

Our last stop before Leon was a cute and slightly larger town called Mansilla de las Mulas. We enjoyed lunch in the garden of our alburgue which is run by people who make an excellent range of salamis and cured meats. The town itself still has a young population inside the remains of its fortified walls.

The final day's walk into Leon was pretty ugly along highway and through the semi-industrial areas that surround any big city but were worth it for a great city- see next post.

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