Sunday, March 25, 2012

Santiago de Compostela - 20 March 2012

We had a couple of hours to further explore this morning, so went to the garden at the peninsula end which contains the tomb of General Moore.

Our accommodation was very near the Plaza de Maria Pita and the gardens were just beyond the plaza. The plaza is famous as the departure point of the Spanish Armada. It is quite attractive as it is surrounded by buildings of similar design with the distinctive glassed in verandas on the top floor.

Finally it was time to take the train on the final leg of our journey to Santiago de Compostela. We had definitely moved up a few generations in rail transport from where we started as our train sped along at up to 150kph, a significant increase over the little Feve train we began with.

Arriving in Santiago de Compostela we wandered up to and through the historic centre to our hotel on the far side, where we discovered that they were offering an upgraded room with a fabulous view to the west. Given a balcony room with floor to ceiling windows a la A Coruna style it was hard to resist the offer. Later, as we sat and watched the sun set, we were pleased with our choice.

Free of our backpacks, we set off to explore Santiago de Compostela. Wandering around the historical centre it is not difficult to imagine the bustle and commerce of a bygone era when the pilgrimage was in its heyday.

The whole pilgrimage thing is an amazing ecclesiastical con based upon some very dubious situations, such as a 7 day sailing from Joppa to Santiago de Compostela with the body of James; some wild oxen that allowed themselves to be harnessed to pull the cart carrying his body; an angelic escape from jail; and the chance discovery by a hermit, many centuries later, of some bones that were, without the benefits of modern DNA tests, pronounced to be those of James. The political expediency of having a Christian reason to rally the faithful and throw out the Moors was completely incidental.

Nevertheless the "pilgrims" continue to arrive on foot, by bicycle, bus, train and plane; ranging from those with genuine devotion to simple tourists keen to add another sight or site to their list.
As befits any area with a high visitor concentration, there is an abundance of eateries to enjoy.

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