The cathedral rooftop

The cathedral rooftop

We’re going on a tour today. In Santiago. A tour of the cathedral rooftop.

I’d been wanting to take this tour for a while. I was finally able to do it a couple of months ago and I was not disappointed. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it.

 

About the rooftop tour

Let’s start with the practical stuff.

You can book your entradas (tickets) online in advance (up to 60 days), from the cathedral’s website. There are several visits available here. The rooftop tour is the one called ‘Cathedral museum, decks and Carraca’s tower’ in the English version of the website.

 

The visit includes access to the museo (museum), Pazo de Xelmírez, Torre da Carraca and a guided tour of the cathedral rooftops. You need to choose a date and a time slot. This is for the guided tour. You can visit the museum in your time, either before or after the guided tour.

 

When I took this tour, it was available in Spanish only. I heard there used to be English tours in the past, but I don’t know if they’re coming back.

 

Pazo de Xelmírez

The visit starts in the Pazo de Xelmírez (or Palacio de Gelmírez, in Spanish). You enter through the door that is located between the cathedral’s main staircase (in Obradoiro) and the arch to the left. 

 

This building is named after the archbishop who ordered its construction and it’s one of the main civil constructions of the Romanesque period in Spain.

 

One of the highlights of this visit is the big  ceremonial hall, on the first floor, built in the 13th century.

The stone carvings on the arches depict a banquet. 

part of the cathedral rooftop tour

From this room you keep going up to the rooftop. There’s a total of 105 steps. La escalera (the staircase) is not super narrow, but the steps are higher than usual.

You finally come out on the tejado from one of the towers, the one on the left as you face the cathedral from the square. 

I was lucky to do this on a clear, sunny day. The views of Santiago are amazing! And you can also see all the plazas that surround the cathedral.

 

A couple of interesting stories

Did you know that the cathedral’s bell ringer used to live on the cathedral rooftop?

Yes! Up until 1962, bell ringers and their families had a house in the area next to one of the towers, the one with the bells.

 

The last bell ringer lived there with his wife and 3 children. They had a vegetable garden, 3 goats and some chickens too. That’s right, a family of cinco (5) with their goats and chickens living on top of the cathedral and growing their own vegetables up there too. Can you imagine?

The house is no longer there but I would have loved to see it…

 

The rooftop is made of stone slabs. There used to be ocho (8) torres (towers) and battlements. Out of those 8 original towers, only 2 are left, although you can still see where they used to be. A balustrade replaced the battlements. 

 

What else is up there, apart from the amazing views?

 

A big stone basin with a ram a a metal cross where apparently pilgrims used to burn their clothes.

Some scholars think this may have originated during a plague, as a measure to prevent transmission of the disease. There are no records of how common cloth burning was or when it stopped.

 

Berenguela

The clock tower is known as Berenguela after Archbishop Berenguel de Landoira, who ordered its construction in the 14th century to defend the cathedral. That’s the reason why the lower part of the tower is quite sturdy. The upper part, where the clock is, is finer. It was added 3 centuries later.

 

This top part has 3 main elements:

  • the main campana (bell).
  • the reloj (clock).
  • the lantern.

The bell in this tower is also known as Berenguela and it’s the biggest in the cathedral. It weighs 7 tonnes. The bell we see nowadays is not the original. That one had to be taken down in 1990 because it was cracked. It’s kept in the cloister. 

The clock was added in the 19th century and has one peculiarity: it has one hand only.

The top part had a light that was kept on at all times to guide pilgrims to the cathedral. Nowadays, the light is on during Holy Years only.

You can see the light at the top of the Berenguela tower on this picture. 

Berenguela guiding pilgrims

Torre da Carraca

After the guided tour of the cathedral rooftop, you go up to the Carraca tower. If you stand on Obradoiro square, facing the cathedral, this is tower on the left.

The one on the right has bells. This one has a carraca (rattle) instead. This huge rattle is used on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, instead of bells.

From up here, you truly have a 360 degree view of Santiago. 

 

You know what they say… am image is worth 1000 words. So, I’ll let the pictures speak. Enjoy the views!

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

*entrada means entrance too, as well as ticket.

For the pronunciation of plaza, check this post on Santiago de Compostela.

For the pronunciation of cinco, check this post on the Holy Year.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Holy Year 2021

Holy Year 2021

Año Santo. Holy Year. How many times have you heard these 2 words in recents weeks? Months even?

2021 is a Holy Year. People have been talking about it for months, either planning their Camino to coincide with it or postponing it for a “regular” year. Then, on December 31, we learned that the Holy Year will be extended until the end of 2022. But do you know what that means? And more importantly, how does that affect the Camino de Santiago?

Next, I’ll try to explain a few basic ideas regarding the Holy Year. And, as usual, you’ll be able to learn some Spanish vocabulary. Let’s start from the beginning. 

 

What is a Holy Year?

Un Año Santo or Jubileo (Jubilee) is a special year in the Catholic Church. During these special years, an indulgence (indulgencia) is granted to those who fulfill certain criteria.

To differentiate it from other Holy Years, the one in Santiago can be referred to as jacobeo (of St. James) or compostelano (from Compostela). You may also see the Galician word Xacobeo to refer to it.

We have an Año Santo Jacobeo or Año Santo Compostelano when July 25, feast of St. James, falls on a Sunday. So, we have a Holy Year in Santiago every 6 (seis), 5 (cinco), 6 and 11 (once) years. The last Holy Year before 2021 was in 2010.

Some sources date the first Año Santo Compostelano in the 12th century but research has shown this to be false. The first documented Holy Year took place in 1424.

 

El Jubileo

In order to obtain the Jubilee or indulgence during Holy Years you must:

  • visit the tomb of St. James and say a prayer for the Pope.
  • confess, 15 days before or after your visit to Santiago.
  • receive holy communion

 

It’s worth noting that getting a jubilee and a compostela are not connected. To get a compostela, you must walk at least the last 100km of any Camino. This will not grant your indulgence. For that, you must fulfill the requirements listed above. And you can travel to Santiago by any means.

In other words, you could drive up to Santiago, visit the tomb of the Apostle, say your prayers and receive confession and communion. You would be receiving the jubileo. But not a compostela. On the other hand, you could walk over 100km to Santiago and not do any of the others things. You could then claim your compostela, but wouldn’t be earning the indulgence.

Music, poetry, history… to celebrate the beginning of the Holy Year 2021

La Puerta Santa

To mark the beginning of a Holy Year, a special ceremony performed by the Archbishop takes place in the cathedral. This happens in the evening of December 31. During this ceremony, the Holy Door or Puerta Santa is opened.

In case you’re wondering what’s so special about a door being opened: the Puerta Santa only gets opened during Holy Years. The rest of the time, it remains closed. At the end of a Holy Year, a new ceremony takes place to close the door again. It will remain closed until the following Año Santo. So, before 2021, the last time people were able to access the cathedral through the Holy Door was in 2010.

During this year’s opening ceremony, a representative of the Pope announced the extension of this Holy Year until the end of 2022. This is due to the special circumstances brought about by the pandemic. The only time a Holy Year was extended before was in 1937-1938 due to the Spanish Civil War.

Access to the Puerta Santa is from Plaza de la Quintana.

 

What about the Camino?

It’s hard to predict what this Holy Year will be like. At the moment, travelling is not an option. Not only for international pilgrims but for those of us who live locally too. As I write this, I can’t go to Santiago. And I live less than 100km away. Both my town and Santiago have perimeter lockdowns in place. That means we can’t get in or out, unless we have a valid reason such as work or a medical appointment.There’s also a perimeter lockdown on the whole region of Galicia until the end of this month of January. The region of Castilla y León has a perimeter lockdown too… until May 9.

In summary, there are perimeter lockdowns both at regional and local level, which means you could be fined if you get caught getting in or out of one of these areas without a valid reason. And doing the Camino is not considered a valid reason.

Under normal circumstances, Holy Years are very busy on the Camino. The number of pilgrims tends to increase quite dramatically. To give you an idea, the Holy Year of 2010 saw an 85% increase in the number of pilgrims collecting their compostela, compared to the previous year. If you’re looking for a quite Camino, Holy Years are not a good idea. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind the crowds, and entering through the Holy Door holds a special significance for you, then go for it! What type are you?

In any case, we’ll have to wait for the current circumstances to change before we can go back to the Camino.

A summary of this year’s opening ceremony

5 things you need to know about Spain

5 things you need to know about Spain

When you travel to a foreign country it’s easy to make mistakes because we don’t know how things work over there. It’s easy to assume that everybody does things the same way we do and this can lead to difficult or embarrassing situations.

So, what are the things you need to know about Spain? There are more, but let’s start with these 5:

1. It’s not siesta time!

I read a lot of comments about siesta in Camino forums: 

“Everything was closed because it was siesta time” 

“There were no people on the streets because it was siesta time” 

It’s almost like anything unfamiliar you experience gets blamed on the siesta. Sorry to burst your stereotypes but… siesta is not really a thing in Spain. At least not the way you think it is. If you go to a shop at 3:00 or 4:00pm and it’s closed it is not because it’s siesta time. It’s because it’s lunch time. 

Yes. Lunch time. But that’s way more than the usual one hour lunch break, you may say. Well, lunch in Spain is the main meal of the day, quite often a 3-course meal. So, one hour is not enough. Also, traditionally, people would go home for lunch. Not everybody can do that these days, especially in the bigger cities, but many people still do. For more details about eating times, go to nº2.

And if you go for a walk around town at 6:00 or 7:00pm in the summertime and the place is deserted, it’s not siesta time. People could be either at the beach or pool or simply at home, staying away from el calor (the heat).

We don’t put our pyjamas on, get into bed and sleep for 2 or 3 hours in the middle of the day, as many foreigners seem to think. Most of us don’t even take siestas at all. Those who do, it’s mostly a 10-15 minute nap on the sofa. So, por favor, if you find shops closed or streets empty, don’t blame it on the siesta. 

2. Don’t criticise our meal times. Try to adapt to them instead.

As I already mentioned, lunch is the main meal of the day, quite often a 3-course meal. It is usually served between 1:30 and 3:30 or 4:00pm.

You’ll have trouble finding dinner  before 8:30pm. 

The picture shows average kitchen hours, although they may very from place to place.

Instead of complaining because dinner is too late, why don’t you try the Spanish way? Have lunch when you get to your destination for the day; shower, rest and and then you can have something light for dinner, like a drink and a tapa or two.

3. Avoid criticising Spanish customs, even those that we, Spaniards, criticise. 

This is like family: you may complain about them but when an outsider criticises them, you feel compelled to defend them. Same thing here: I may disagree with that particular custom but if you, an outsider, criticise it, I may feel forced to defend it. How would you feel if we went to your country and started criticising what you do?

“Why do you not have a proper 3-course meal for lunch?”

“Oh, so you don’t eat tortilla de patatas? That’s weird!”

“Shops close at 6:00pm? Ridiculous!”

Not nice, right? For me, one of the beauties of travelling is to get to see and experience different things, eat different foods… Embrace the difference and enjoy it!

 

4. Manners, please!

Don’t go over the top with your gracias and por favor. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t use those words, but we don’t use them half as much as in other cultures. Once or twice per conversation is fine. More than that is too much and you’re going to make the other person uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean we’re rude or don’t have manners. We just express it in different ways.

5. Yes, I’m greeting you.

We might not say please and thank you as much as you do, but we probably greet each other more, even total strangers: you go into a shop, you greet the shop assistant; go into a doctor’s waiting room, you greet the people who are already there; get into a lift with strangers, you greet them.

A simple hola is fine or, depending on the time of the day, you can also add buenos días (in the morning, until lunch time -Spanish lunch time), buenas tardes (in the evening) or buenas noches (later in the evening, from 9:00pm roughly).

 

These are just 5 basic things you need to know before you travel to Spain. There are more, especially around food, but they would make this post too long and we’ll leave them for another occasion. If, on the other hand, you would like to know whether it’s OK or not to tip and how much is appropriate, you can check this post.

 

 

Today’s words

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Randall

A conversation with Randall

He was diagnosed with Stage IV Prostate Cancer in 2015. He fought it. Five years on, he walked the Camino with a mission: raise awareness about the disease and encourage men to get screened. Read my conversation with Randall to find out more.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hola amigos, mi nombre es Randy. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and went to Damien HS, an Irish Christian Brothers school –  namesake Saint Damien, the savior of the Lepers on Molokai. Moved to California in 1979 and attended Loyola Marymount University, run by the Jesuits. Stayed in California and attended USC School of Dentistry – not the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela  🙂

In 2014, at a too young age of 57, I had done the Long Beach, CA marathon. I had a PSA test at 555.2 (under 4 is normal) and my journey began.

 

When did you first hear about the Camino? You had been running marathons for years. So, why did you decide to walk the Camino?

I had seen the movie “The Way” in the early 2000s and was, as many have been, inspired by that poignant story of a Dad walking the Camino in memory of his son.

A dental patient told me that she was going to Madrid to teach English this year and that sparked an idea about doing The Camino. I did some online research, contacted my son, who lives in London, and suggested that we do it together.

I found out that September tends to be cooler and less traveled. I knew that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month, and my almost five year survival with Stage IV Prostate Cancer was upcoming. 

 

This would be a perfect time for me to walk/bond with my son, spread PCa awareness, and maybe get a man screened. Since the diagnosis in 01/2015, I’ve had signs on my back at marathons (31 so far) telling my saga, urging men to get screened, and more recently – honoring those taken.

 

Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

I ordered hiking shoes online and walked four days per week either with my wife or up at my other dental office for over two months. My wife and I even did a walk, eat, walk to prep for 9 miles to simulate life on The Camino. I knew that marathon fitness (151 so far) would confer a base but I didn’t know how a backpack would affect me. Doing a marathon entails mental and physical discipline and I knew that would really help in the hike. 

 

A conversation with Randall

Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

My son’s new wife and a friend decided to walk with us. The Camino was a wonderful contemplative, spiritual, bonding, and life affirming experience. We disconnected from the real world and connected with nature and each other.

 

I had a sign en español on my back and that sparked a conversation with numerous Peregrinos. I also placed Blue Ribbons on The Camino and a group of Spaniards in Portomarín asked why. I told them in my so-so Spanish “Tengo cáncer de próstata estadio 4 desde 2015” (I have Stage 4 prostate cancer since 2015).  They asked how I was doing and I communicated that estoy bien (I’m OK) and the reason for being out there.

 

At one point, my son and I had eaten possibly mejillones malos (bad mussels). One of that quartet below had not seen me one day on The Camino and left me an Instagram message Oye, ¿dónde estás? (Hey, where are you?). We caught up with them at another rest/sello/cerveza/tortilla stop and I told them I was fine, toasted them with a beer and took a group pic.

This was such a great experience; strangers on The Camino became friends/supporters all because of The Camino. She messaged me Me alegro que hayas disfrutado tanto aquí. Ha sido un placer conocerte . Mucha suerte y buen viaje” (I’m glad you have enjoyed it so much here. It has been a pleasure to meet you. Good luck and safe trip). 

conversation with Randall

 Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think this had any impact on your Camino?

I had four years of Spanish in High School and one year in College, but still had to review quite a bit. Spanish for the Camino was so very helpful in refreshing my long unused Spanish skills. Knowing some Spanish is very beneficial on The Camino; you can engage/communicate, and bond better knowing key words or phrases.

Randall’s words

  • First, some general vocabulary such as greetings and other words you can use in many conversations.

Hola: hello

¿Dónde esta?: where is it?

Buenos días: good morning

Buenas tardes: good afternoon/evening

Muchas gracias: thank you very much

Por favor: please

De nada: you’re welcome (after someone says thank you).

Vale: OK.

Está bien: it is OK/fine.

Claro: of course

  • Some food and drink related words too:

Cerveza: beer 

Caña: a glass of beer

Vino blanco: white wine

Vino tinto: red wine

Tinto de verano: it literally means summer red and it’s a drink made with red wine and soda; very common in the summer (verano), hence the name.

Pulpo: octopus (and if you want to learn how to prepare it, check this post). 

Mejillones: mussels 

Pimientos de Padrón: Padrón peppers

Jamón: ham

Bocadillo: sandwich made with baguette-type of bread, not with sliced bread.

Tortilla: Spanish omelette, with eggs and potatoes (you can find the recipe here).

La cuenta: the bill (at a restaurant, mainly). 

More of Randall’s adventure on : #chinononcamino  / @Dockam57 on Instagram

 

I hope that my Camino adventure “makes a ripple” and maybe a man’s life saved. 

 

The Camino is a metaphor for your own life. The Fleetwood Mac song says “Go your own way”. We all have our own “Camino” that we are on; how do we do it, who do we meet and what impact can you make?

 

Buen Camino, Buen Viaje, y vive una gran vida


PS. I’m signed up for the Long Beach, CA marathon again next month. I’ll celebrate my unofficial five year survival then! (old data said only 28%). Also, doing the New York City Marathon in November (my 4th in a row, raising over $14,000 for ZERO).

To learn more about Randall’s story, you can check these:

 

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Richard (II)

A conversation with Richard (II)

This is the second part of my conversation with Richard.

Conversation with Richard

 

In the first part of our conversation, Richard told us about his motivations to do the Camino and described his experience on the Vía de la Plata.

In this second part, we discuss the Camino Inglés we recently walked together with a group of people.

The Camino Inglés is very different from the Vía de la Plata. And you also decided to do it differently, with a group of strangers. Why?

Richard in Fisterra

 

When I first visited, I immediately fell in love with Spain, its people and culture. One of my ambitions is to be able to speak Spanish with a reasonable standard of fluency.

 

I am also addicted to the Camino. When the opportunity came to walk the Camino Inglés AND learn some Spanish at the same time, I couldn’t resist. I have to confess that I wondered whether walking with a group would affect my enjoyment but I was mistaken and am so glad that I decided to spend the week with the group.

However,  I had arranged to walk from Santiago to Finisterre immediately after the Camino Inglés in case I needed solitude. It’s a beautiful solitary walk. The coast is breathtaking.

 

How was your experience on the Inglés? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

The Camino Inglés was not just a physical challenge but a mental one too. Developing and maintaining the discipline to continue talking Spanish to other native English speakers is difficult, especially when you become tongue tied and frustrated. However, everyone’s commitment to the principle of immersion made sure they made every effort to stick with it.

 

There was plenty of laughter too, like the evening we spent learning palabrotas (Spanish swear words). My vocabulary has improved!

Also the discovery by one of our group of a new breakfast alternative to chocolate con churros – chocolate con plátano!

Chocolate con plátano

You already knew Spanish before your Caminos. Would you recommend learning at least some Spanish before doing the Camino? What are the benefits you enjoyed?

A little Spanish is very useful for anyone doing the Camino. You may pass through small villages where no English is spoken. If nothing else you should know how to say ‘Hello’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ – and don’t forget how to smile. This always works!

My Spanish was sufficient for me to survive and on occasion I was able to hold brief conversations with local people to learn about their town and the life there. Generally Spanish people are really pleased if you have a go at Spanish and I found them very approachable and helpful.

The one thing I appreciated is the principle of learning a language by living it. I hope to be able to spend more time living in Spain for at least part of the year to ‘live’ the language, which I think is the best way to learn.

Also, by the way,  I was treated to a lot of free beer by fellow pilgrims who occasionally  needed an interpreter. Another benefit of knowing the language!

 

Richard’s words

After the Camino basics he shared in the first part of our conversation, Richard has more Spanish words and phrases for you. You can listen to Richard explaining and pronouncing them all in the audio below, after the list.

Hay: there is, there are, is there, are there

¿Hay un supermercado cerca de aquí?: Is there a supermarket near here?

¿Dónde está… (el supermercado  … (el camino)?: Where is … (the supermarket)  … (the Camino)?

¿Se puede…? Can one… ?

los pies: feet             los dedos: fingers or toes (for toes, you could also say dedos del pie)

la rodilla: knee          la cadera: hip           la espalda: back

el hombro: shoulder          la cabeza: head           los ojos: eyes

las orejas: ears           la cara: face

Tengo problemas con… (mis ojos): I have problems with… (my eyes)

Me duelen (los ojos): (my eyes) hurt

Tengo un resfriado: I have a cold

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¡Buen Camino!