Wednesday, August 14th

Got tail-ended, Sleepwise, last night. Tag teamed.
First, by the Spanish way of letting their kids basically roam the streets 'til whenever, at least 'til 12, kids with motorscooters endlessly revving, while their parents are either in bars or in beds, but there's yelling and laughter and squabbling. As the refugio closes at 10, you have to be in bed by then, but I remember the church bells ringing for twelve-thirty.

Second. The Spanish. The plastic bag rustlers from Hell. Every single item in their backpacks must have their own specific plastic bag. So, to find what you want, after you're up at five, you need to rustle every bag you have. This morning, too, it was combined with the loud whisperers. A couple, a Spanish couple:
"Where-oh where-oh hoy ?"
"Oyo como va"
"Hoyu hoy ?"
"Oyo oyo !"

Which, loosely translated, means:
"Where's my underpants ?"
"In a plastic bag"
"Which one ?"
"Plastic, plastic !"

Followed by more rustling. In fact, the six other people in the room, all woken by this din, have utterly given the idea of ever getting back to sleep away. They're up, showered, dressed, breakfasted, packed and gone, while Juan is still rustling plastic bags looking for his undies.

This town actually defines what is meant by "flea bitten Spanish town".
But the walk into it was brilliant, utterly brilliant. Flat, long, impossible to lose your way, and there's nothing I'd rather be doing than walking the Camino. Good roads, unmade mostly, passing fields, with distant mountains that looked as though their bases were wrapped in fog, so just their peaks floated. My shadow huge, aware of walking west, shortening gradually as the sun rose behind me.
Discovering the possible reasoning behind the Morris tune "Shepherd's Hey", as shepherds, the Spanish ones at least, call out "Hey!", to the sheep, or maybe to the dog herding them, or maybe me, I don't know. It's the only word they use, "Hey!". I think that maybe Spanish shepherds should use something more Spanish, "Arriba!" maybe.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Found the refugio easily enough, and the white-haired hospitalero lets me dump the backpack in the foyer, until it opens later. He looks remarkable like David Attenborough. Apparently I'm first in the queue, and, with fluent English tells me that "the later you are, the better your bed is." I'm not sure if this is something cryptic, or just a straight out statement of fact. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

a little later
The Hidalgo

Thinking of the medieval German couple, the one who's son was framed, and hung here, but who survived the hanging despite a month in the noose. And wondering what they would have made of the road into the town now. The potato factory, with spuds falling off a conveyor belt into a huge pile. The car wash. The footpaths, with signs pointing to the Cathedral museum. Then , in town, the dummies, in medieval garb, positioned on balconies above the stores, the modern traffic, the souvenir shops with their endless varieties of chicken-related paraphernalia, this bar (the Hildago) with the most enormous chocolat du pain I've ever seen (or eaten), the rock video on the TV over there that no-one's actually watching. I think they would have moved on to the next town, not stayed here at all. But then, if they didn't stay, then one of the most popular legends of the Camino wouldn't have happened. Or maybe it would have anyway, in the town they moved on to, perhaps.

In the Cathedral, and yep, there's the chickens. In a coop, above a door. Here's the story:

A family of German pilgrims (father, mother, and son) making their way toward Compostela spent the night in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. When the innkeepers daughter propositioned the son, he spurned her (he was, after all, on a pilgrimage). She took revenge by convincing a friend to hide some of the church silver in the young man's pack. The next day she notified the authorities. They arrested the pilgrims and found the silver. As a result, they hung the young man for theft. In medieval times executed criminals were left on the gibbet to rot as a vivid warning of the wages of sin. The parents continued to Compostela and on their way home came again to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Sick at heart, they approached the gibbet, where to their astonishment their son cheerfully greeted them, explaining that St. James -or in some versions Santo Domingo- kept him alive by supporting his weight the whole time. Miracle! The parents ran to inform the official that their son was still alive. The official, who was roasting chickens for dinner, scoffed at their news, retorting that their son was as alive as his roasting chickens. Whereupon the chickens reincorporated themselves, feathers and all, and flew cackling away.

from The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, by David M Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson.

And was in there for quite some time. Was glad to have lugged 'The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago' all the way as it explained stuff. Who was who, the stories behind the artefacts. But the best bit, by far, was touching the sickle that Santo Domingo and the angels used to cut the trees for the Road. Totally awesome moment.

Down in the crypt is the tomb of the Saint himself, and a woman standing there, mumbling prayers, then walking anti-clockwise around the tomb. Stopping when she'd finally gotten back to where she'd started, mumbled again, walked again, again and again. While a man, I presume her husband, looked on, his eyes glazed over in boredom. Maybe she performs this ritual every day.

Statues, paintings, the Renaissance retablo, and a truly brilliant Annunciation triptych, by Joos Van Cleve.

Then back to the refugio, and Anthony's here. Apparently my tantrum at Logrono has achieved legendary status among his group of pilgrims. Wondering how this piece of information got passed down the line. Good, I want every pilgrim who's thinking of the Camino to know that the hospitalero at Logrono is not only a bastard, but an abhorrence to the very idea of pilgrimage itself. Sorry, I wasn't going to mention him again.

A coffee flavoured ice-cream, then a coke from a machine. It's hot out here.
The refugio is truly like I imagine a medieval hospital would be. A large room, with about twenty beds on each side. many pilgrims are sleeping, one guy is snoring like each was his last, and the pilgrim on my left has every toe bandaged up. On my right is plasticbagman himself. He looks so much like Eric Clapton, that I'm convinced that if you gave the man a guitar he could bang out Sunshine Of Your Love. Out the back, a rooster is crowing. I guess it's this chicken thing, in fact the chooks here look very similar to the ones in the cathedral. I wonder if they crow during sermons. I wonder if the congregation interpret a sermon-crow as some kind of divine sign, like a fowl-hallelujah. The one out the back is hallelujah-ing for all it's worth.

There's storks on the Santo Domingo belltower. A pair of them (always a pair, they mate for life apparently), and they make a curious clacking sound.
Wanders, just around the streets. Saint Jacques souvenir shops, some are spectacularly crappy, t-shirts, walking sticks in any shape you want, some with a curved top like a shepherds (hey!) crook, buttons, shells, books in all major languages, medallions, t-spoons, whatever.

It's the hospitalero's last day, after working for two weeks here, and he's been writing in the visitor's book. He showed me what he wrote, along the lines of "I won't mention any names, but I will remember everyone." It was wonderful. He is a good man.

A brief chat with two of the biker pilgrims, older French guys. They do abut 40-50kms per day, via an almost different route. Dodging trucks on the highways doesn't sound like to much fun. But they're bikers, not real pilgrims.

Back in the Cathedral, didn't have to pay this time. It's a service.

Call and response, this time led by a man in white.
Power Failure! but the emergency lighting makes it even more atmospheric, and the chanting continues. Over there is the tomb of the Saint, while he's actually in the crypt underneath, but on this level is his stone-carved sarcophagus. It's beautiful, surrounded by a black cage of decorated bars. The angelic sickle hangs, in it's box, from the bars. Behind me is the choir stalls, also caged, but this time locked. The carved chairs, Renaissance, each different, carvings everywhere. And just behind me, to the right, is the chicken coop.
The local faithful file in, the women in their best. A few pilgrims I recognize.
Stood up, sat down, Lords Prayer standing, naturally.
Three priests, all in white, one of them gets to sing all the songs. Readings, from community members, three so far, and I think we're finally into the sermon, the name 'Maria' occurs a lot, not surprisingly, tomorrow being her day and all. The word 'Camino' just got used twice. There's thunder outside, there's probably pilgrims running for the washing line back at the refugio. Now, the handshaking ritual, then the wafer and wine thing, but I can't participate in that. In the last short song, Santo Domingo and the Camino got themselves mentioned twice. But now the organist is really letting go. Huge. Maybe he's heard a rumour that Eric is in town.




Enjoyed the Mass. Don't think I'm about to convert or anything, but it was great, although the chickens didn't cackle at all.

Back in my favourite bar, La Taberna. Coke, 1:35, whatever. There's a quiz show on TV, and the Spanish alphabet has two 'n's', the 'n' itself, and the 'ñ'.

Another coke. Hang the expense. The news is still on, and I'm waiting for the weather. There's something about traffic; and about sunbathing, then the floods happening somewhere in Europe, a missing girl report, a terrorist on trial who's yelling while handcuffed in court, a hostage has been released somewhere. But no, couldn't be bothered anymore waiting for the weather. Whatever happens, happens.