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Travelling in Spain. Camino Tui—Santiago de Compostela. Part three

Ancient Bridge in Pontevedra

Ancient Bridge in Pontevedra

Early in the morning, Andrei came to us by car to take our luggage and bring us to the place where he had picked us up the day before. The morning turned out to be cool and, as always, misty. On the third day, we planned to reach the town of Padron and stay there overnight.

Bidding farewell to the hospitable Pontevedra, we took to the road. The route went through some rural area, and our path from time to time took us to small villages, next to which there were the cornfields, gardens, and vineyards. The owners of the livestock were driving their cattle out to graze, and the morning quiet was occasionally interrupted by the crowing of roosters, cackling of hens, and oinking of happy lively pigs. The mist was slowly dissipating, leaving the dew on the ground that sparkled in the morning rays of the sun.

Worship Cross on Pilgrims' Path

Worship Cross on Pilgrims’ Path

Since we had a light breakfast at the hotel, we decided to have a snack somewhere on the way. When we walked approximately ten kilometres, we found a little café by the road, which was situated near the pilgrims’ path. Just before we arrived, the freshest chicken eggs from a farm had been delivered; and we decided to order omelettes, supplementing them with the traditional jamon, fresh home-made bread, and a jug of white cool wine. What looked like an unremarkable café in its appearance, in reality by the level of their service, attitude to the clients, and quality of food, could well compete with the restaurants of home-made food that became so fashionable in Europe recently. Here I would like to note that in Spain in such roadside cafeterias they make the most delicious home-made food, and the jamon, which we tasted at this establishment, proved to be the tastiest on our whole journey. Having enjoyed a tasteful meal, and thanked the hosts, we rolled on.

Flowers on Camino (1)

Flowers on Camino (1)

Peculiar features of the Galician landscape determined the character of its agriculture. Because of the highly rugged terrain, the mechanization of the agriculture is hindered in the province; and in many places in Galicia the local people work in the fields in the old fashioned way – with their own hands. This explains the striking contrast between the western and central regions of Galicia. Western Galicia is more industrialized: large cities, ports, factories, and businesses are concentrated here. The inner regions of Galicia are characterized by agricultural farming in small remote mountain villages, on small farms that are called minifundios. In such places, the traditional round houses with straw roofs that are called pallozas still survive. This architectural tradition has its roots in the ancient Celtic times; and now most of these houses are carefully preserved, being the symbol of Galicia.

Galicia received its name from the name of an ethnic group Gallaeci (Callaeci, Kallaïkoí) – the name of one of the Celtic tribes, who came to the Iberian peninsula in the first half of the last millennium BC. Celts lived here up until the II-I centuries BCE, when Galicia was conquered by the Roman legions and was formed into a group of provinces called Callaecia, and together with Asturias some time later – a group of provinces of Asturias and Gallaecia.

Flowers on Camino (2)

Flowers on Camino (2)

Under emperor Diocletian (284-305), a separate Roman Province of Gallaecia was formed here.

In the beginning of the Vth century the territory of Galicia was conquered by the German Suebi tribe, who made it the centre of their own kingdom.

In 585, the king of the Visigoths Liuvigild conquered the Suebi kingdom, and it ceased to exist.

After that, the Moors settled in this region for a short time, but they were pushed out in the beginning of the VIIIth century by the armies of the Kings of Asturias, and since that time Galicia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Asturias and Leon.

In the following centuries, Galicia more than once would become independent, or would be incorporated into one or another Spanish kingdom in union with other neighbouring Spanish provinces.

In the XIIth century, in Galicia there were major peasant disturbances, especially in the bishopric of Santiago de Compostela, which continued even into the XVth century.

In the unified Spain, Galicia kept a number of autonomous rights (fueros), but the creation of a full-fledged autonomy was interrupted by Franco’s coup of 1936.

Only in 1961 did Galicia finally receive the status of an autonomous region within Spain.

Rural Morning

Rural Morning

As we walked and conversed along the way, we did not notice how the same ubiquitous Spanish siesta had crept upon us. The morning cool gave way to the heat of the day, and it was difficult to walk. On this day, we also decided to go on walking, as far as we had strength left. After a few kilometers, a forest suddenly appeared before us, and our efforts were rewarded by the forest cooling shade. Upon entering the forest, we decided to have a little rest, and the place we chose for rest was a shady lawn near a forest spring.

When we had rested and restored our strength, we continued our way. It was as easy to find directions in the forest as it was in an open field. Markings and signs were everywhere. And judging by the improvised arrows attached to the trees, one could conclude that this section of the path was liked by all pilgrims. It is always more pleasant to walk in the forest than to walk under the scorching sun. At first, the forest was wholly hardwood, and for the most part it consisted of oak trees, maples, and eucalyptuses; then there were some pine trees, and at the end we were walking virtually through the pine forest. As we walked through the softwood forest, breathing in its aromas, we thought about the essence of our existence.

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

When just a few kilometres were left to Padron, we had to call our driver Andrei, because one of the members of our team did not feel well. In about thirty minutes Andrei came and picked us all up. We stayed at a private hotel «A Casa Da Meixida». The hotel was a reconstructed stone house, built at the end of the XIXth century, with wooden ceilings, stone walls, and a cozy atmosphere.

Padron received its name from the word «pedrón», which means a stone, when translated. At first, this settlement bore the name of Iria Flavia. According to a legend, in the Ist century C.E., it was here that the boat with the incorruptible remains of Saint Apostle James, son of Zebedee, was washed ashore – to a rock boulder which lay in an oblong bay. The stone, to which the boat was moored, at the present moment is kept at the altar of the Church of Santiago, or the Church of the Apostle, being the main attraction in Padron.

In the beginning of the Christian era, Saint Apostle James, whose name in Spanish sounds like Santiago, was sent to bring the good tidings to the people of the Iberian Peninsula.

A Casa da Meixida Hotel in Padron

A Casa da Meixida Hotel in Padron

James, son of Zebedee, is the only Apostle, whose death is described on the pages of the New Testament. Along with Apostle Peter, Apostle James was one of the Lord’s closest disciples. Together with Peter and John, he witnessed the resurrecting of Jairus’ daughter (the Gospel of Mark 5:21-42). Only these three were chosen by the Lord to witness His Transfiguration (the Gospel of Matthew 17:1-5; the Gospel of Mark 9:2-7; and the Gospel of Luke 9:28-35), and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (the Gospel of Mark 14:32-34).

Apostle James not only had an obstinate character, but was also fearless; when after the crucifixion of Jesus all His disciples, fearing persecution, left Judea, he went against all odds – he stayed in Judea and began to preach in places, where great multitudes of people were gathered. Crowds of those who wanted to listen to his speeches followed him everywhere. Three times this disciple of Jesus was taken to court. The first time he was sentenced for four years, and when he was released, right there on the spot he shared his first sermon. In a year’s time, he was put to jail for three years. He had been not out for too long – for only half a year. And in half a year the apostle was imprisoned again for two years.

When Apostle James, son of Zebedee, was returning from Spain to Judaea in 42 CE, at the order of the king of Judaea Herod Agrippa he was captured again, and this time after the tortures, by which they tried to make James deny his faith, they realized that it was all useless, and decided to execute him. Beheading was chosen as the form of his execution. It happened on September 17 of 42. Apostle James was forty five years old when he was executed. The disciples took the body of the saint, put it in a boat and sent it out to sea. The boat with the body of Saint James was carried about in the sea until it was washed ashore at the Spanish city of Iria Flavia. While it was floating in the sea, the boat was overgrown with scallops, and the scallop shell became the symbol of the pilgrimage.

Church of the Apostle in Padron

Church of the Apostle in Padron

Padron lies on the way to Santiago de Compostela and it is the first stop for the pilgrims, who arrive in Galicia by sea.

Santiago is the patron saint of Padron and of the entire Spain, and his veneration day is celebrated every year on July 25. Not far from Padron, on the Santiaguino Hill (Santiaguino del Monte) there is a chapel, where, according to the legend, Apostle James withdrew to pray.

In 1119, Pope Callixtus II decreed that the year when the 25th of July falls on a Sunday is the Year of Jubilee, or the Compostelan Year, when the pilgrims receive the indulgence of all their sins. It is on these years, that the most massive pilgrimages to Saint Apostle James take place. The last jubilee years were 2004 and 2010. By the edict of Pope Francis, the next year of 2016 is proclaimed the year of the jubilee. The story of the arrival of Saint James’ body is captured on Padron’s coat of arms: a mythical stone vessel with the incorruptible remains of the saint in the company of the angels showing the way.

Convent del Carmen in Padron

Convent del Carmen in Padron

Among the tourists and pilgrims, Padron is also admired for its green peppers. Padron peppers are famous because of their delightful taste and one peculiar fact: out of ten sweet peppers one will certainly be particularly hot. The peppers are served fried as an appetizer, or as garnish with fish or meat dishes. Every year, on the first Saturday in August, the Feast of Peppers is held in Padron, which in 2001 received the status of a National tourist attraction.

Padron is also known because it contributed to the Spanish and world literatures such geniuses as poet and writer Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885), and writer Camilo José Cela (1916-2002), a Noble Prize Laureate. In Padron Eduardo Gasset y Artime was born, a prominent journalist and politician, whose grandson – José Ortega y Gasset, became one of the greatest philosophers of Spain. For a town with just under ten thousand residents, such a list of distinguished authors commands respect.

Stone, to which the Boat with the Incorruptible Remains of Apostle James, Son of Zebedee, had Drifted in Padron

Stone, to which the Boat with the Incorruptible Remains of Apostle James, Son of Zebedee, had Drifted in Padron

Having checked into our hotel, we decided to look around the town, and visit its places of interest. With the assistance of our secretary and chronicler Helena, we had no trouble in finding the Church of the Apostle, which was still open fortunately for us. In the church’s altar we saw the stone, to which the boat with the relics of Saint Apostle James, son of Zebedee, drifted ashore. We not only saw the stone, but we were even allowed to take a photo of it. After we got the marks in our credencials (credencial – is a pilgrim’s passport), we continued our acquaintance with Padron.

Across the river from the Church of the Apostle, on an elevation, there stands the Convent del Carmen. At the foot of the Convent there is a Fountain del Carmen with bass reliefs, depicting the scenes devoted to Saint Apostle James. The architectural complex is completed by a bridge, built in the middle of the XIXth century in place of the old one, which had been destroyed by a strong flood.

Padron Green Peppers

Padron Green Peppers

In the Convent there was an evening mass devoted to Saint Apostle James, son of Zebedee. After looking around the convent and participating in the mass, we decided that it was time for us to have our supper at some place. The night was descending upon Padron, and the downing sun thrilled us with its fascinating sunset.

For the venue of our supper we chose the restaurant «O’Pazo Steakhouse», located in the main hotel of the town. Not all of us participated in the evening table, our cupbearer Andrei stayed at the hotel. The restaurant is famous for its dishes cooked on grill; therefore, the whole male part of our group ordered steaks made of the local la Coruna beef, while the female part ordered seafood dishes. For Andrei the cupbearer we ordered chicken breasts cooked on grill, and rice. The supper was served with a white wine. After eating our supper, we went back to the hotel to share our impressions and make plans for the next day – the last day of our Camino.

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