Monday, February 17, 2014

Camino 2013 - Days 45 And 46: Santiago De Compostela

Day 45

I slept in really late this morning.  It was over.  Really over.  I still had almost three days in Santiago de Compostela but it really felt like the end for me.
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View from my hotel room balcony - the Cathedral towers can be seen.
When we left the hotel it was drizzling.  It was too late to go to Pilgrim's mass ... yes, I slept that late ... but we went to the Cathedral anyway.  We'd heard from KSam about a Cathedral roof tour that sounded very interesting so we went to the visitor's center and asked about it.  There was a tour that afternoon at 5:00 pm.  We thought about it a bit.  Would the rain stop by then?  Would the weather be better the next day?  We decided to heck with it and we signed up for the one that afternoon.

We wandered around the city the rest of the afternoon doing some sight seeing, souvenir shopping, ice cream and chocolate truffle eating, and dodging in and out of the rain.  Sometime along the way we ran into Rh and Nc.  They were on their way to catch a bus to the airport.  They were tired of the rain and were heading for Portugal in search of some sun and sand.  They were such nice people.  We hugged our goodbyes.
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The inside of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
That afternoon we stopped and bought a pair of umbrellas and headed to the Cathedral.   Our hopes for a dry tour were dashed as the drizzle turned to rain.  We sat in the lobby of the visitor's center waiting for the tour to start when I looked up and saw Nr.  We hadn't expected to see each other until the next day - that had been the agreement that we'd made way back in Torres del Rio.  We were all excited to see each other.  Nr joined us on the tour.
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The carraca.
The guide showed up and, after a brief movie we were taken up into an area overlooking the inside of the Cathedral.  She explained the long history of the Cathedral.  We then went up one of the Cathedral towers.  There are three tall towers and two smaller towers.  The tall towers are the clock tower, the bell tower, and the carraca (rattle) tower.  The carraca is similar to the new years noise makers.  There are four boards arranged in an X.  In the center of the X where the board meet is a toothed wheel.  As you turn the wheel the boards flex over the teeth like a ratchet and make a loud rattle noise.  The carraca is used to call people to prayer on days that are considered too somber for the peel of bells.
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The Cathedral clock tower - one of three tall towers.
After visiting the carraca we went out on the roof ... in the wind .. in the pouring rain.  The umbrellas helped but not much.  We walked around the perimeter of the roof.  Normally we would have gone over the top of the roof to the other side and enter by the other tower but, because of the rain, our guide took us back in the same tower we's exited and took us to the other tower on the inside before going back outside.  It was kind of amazing that nothing was slippery up there despite being wet.  The guide explained that the roof had been made to be safe in all weather so that soldiers could defend the Cathedral from attacks.
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The south entrance to the Cathedral.
The pilgrim's office is just around the corner by the blue umbrella.
We went back in and, since it had been so rainy, the guide took us to a famous Cathedral entrance normally not on the tour.   The Pórtico da Gloria, currently being restored, contains a central pillar with a carving of Saint James.  The tradition is for pilgrims to hug and kiss the statue as they enter the Cathedral.  It is currently off limits because of the damage caused by the acids and oils in pilgrim's perspiration.  This unexpected addition to the tour was a nice surprise.
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Sculpture of Saint James at the west entrance of the Cathedral.
We exited the Cathedral through the museum with it's collection of Saint James statues, figurines, and holy texts.  The tour was definitely worth it even with all the rain ... though my picture taking outside was a bit limited.

After the tour we followed Nr to a bar where we met members of her Camino del Norte family.  We exchanged stories, reminiscences, and laughter.  We moved from the bar to a tapas restaurant.  The table ordered a variety of tapas and we all shared.  The food was delicious and I had some of the best cooked beef I'd ever had in Spain - I just wished I'd ordered more of those.  I had my first taste of calamari here - seemed a little bland to me but not bad.  The stories, reminiscences, and laughter continued as we ate.  Outside the rain continued to come down but I found that good company trumps all ... including demoralizing rain.

That night I didn't sleep well.  I laid in bed thinking about what I'd heard about the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo.  I thought about options taken and not taken.  I thought about the feelings that arise when you see your Camino friends go.  The thoughts swirled around until I finally, slowly, drifted off to sleep.

Day 46

On day 46 I managed to get up in time to go to Pilgrim's mass at the Cathedral.  We got there early and I wandered around like I did last time.  In the gift shop I ran into Kt, the Omaha pilgrim, who I hadn't seen since Ciraqui.  She was happy to be done and had done well.

I went back to my pew and waited for the mass to start. Mc, who we'd met a while back, was sitting in front of us.  The mass was similar to what I'd experienced last time.  I was lucky again as the Botafumeiro was going to swing during mass.  A member of a pilgrim's group sponsored by Banco Santander got up and gave a strange speech that was a mix of how great the Camino had been and how great their bank was to sponsor them.  It sounded like a commercial.  In my head I heard "The swinging of the Botafumeiro is sponsored by Banco Santander, your friendly neighborhood bank."
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The Botafumeiro.
Click on the picture to see a video of the Botafumeiro swinging.
As the mass was coming to an end they started to swing the Botafumeiro.  Last time everyone had stood up with their cameras.  This time people who tried were chastised almost immediately. I was sitting on the end of the pew so I could hold my camera out to the side and video the botafumeiro without suffering the wrath or blocking anyone's view.  Unfortunately I stopped videoing about thirty seconds too soon and missed the attendant grabbing the botafumeiro and doing a graceful pirouette to slow it to a stop.

After Mass we met with Nand and went out to lunch.  We still had a lot to talk about.  Eventually  we parted ways.  Nr wanted to meet with some of her Camino del Norte family.  She would be starting the walk to Fisterra the next day.

I don't really remember much of that last afternoon.  I think I bought some more chocolate and I know I ate more ice cream - that's a given.  I don't remember where we ate or what we ate.  It probably was good but I have little recollection of the meal.  I think I was starting to shut down.  I would start my journey home the next day and I was ready to go.

I packed my backpack for one last time that night.  I managed to get most of my hiking poles into my pack, secured the straps around the back of the pack and put on the rain cover on.  Made a nice, compact package suitable for checked luggage.  All packed up I went to bed for the last time on the Camino.

Pictures can be found in my Camino de Santiago 2013 Flickr set.

Total Distance Walked: 991 km (615.78 Miles)

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