Walking through Galicia

Walking through Galicia

Once you start walking through Galicia, you’ll start seeing several new architectural elements, some of them quite frequently. They’re not exclusive to Galicia. But they are more common here.

In this post I’m goign to tell you a little bit about 3 of them. Two of them are ubiquitous. The third one, not so much. But I think it’s quite interesting, and that’s why I included it.

 

Hórreos

A common question I see in Camino groups from pilgrims once they enter Galicia:

Combarro, on the Variante Espiritual

‘What are these structures?’, accompanied by a picture similar to the one here. Sometimes they add a guess or two as to what these might be.

Well, they are called hórreos. And they are granaries. Not chicken coops. Not mausoleums. Granaries.

Mostly, they store maíz (corn).

 

You’ll see them everywhere while walking through rural Galicia, where every house used to have one. They’re also common in Asturias and the north of Portugal.

 

Hórreos vary slightly depending on the location. In some areas, they’re built in a combination of wood and stone. In some other places, they’re fully made of stone. They usually have a rectangular shape, although in some places, square hórreos are the norm.

 

What they all have in common is that they’re raised from the ground by pillars. This helps keep crops dry. On top of each pillar there is a flat stone designed to keep rodents out. That’s also why access stairs are separated from the hórreo. Their walls have slits to allow ventilation. The roofs usually have some decorative element, such as a cruz (cross), a pinnacle, a weather vane, cones (you’ll see those on the Camino del Norte), etc.

 

The oldest reference to an hórreo in a document dates back to 1219 and it refers to a certain hórreo in Betanzos, on the Camino Inglés. However, different versions of hórreos have been in use in Galicia since pre-Roman times. 

 

In the 17th-18th centuries, hórreos became common and they became also a symbol of status: the bigger the hórreo, the richer the family. In fact, some of the biggest hórreos in Galicia belong to the Church.

 

There are several of those in the Fisterra area, like the one pictured below, in the town of Carnota.

Walking through Galicia hórreo

 

You can see another one on the Variante Espiritual of the Portuguese Way, next to the Poio monastery. Also on the Variante Espiritual, you should check Combarro, with the highest concentration of hórreos in Galicia.

 

Cruceiros

Another common element of the Galician landscape is the cruceiro (in Galician) or crucero (in Spanish). A cruceiro is a high cross, made of stone. Cruceiros can usually be found in churchyards, crossroads or ancient pagan worship sites.

 

There are more than 12 000 cruceiros all over Galicia. The oldest one is in Melide, next to the capilla (chapel) de San Roque, and it dates back to the 14th century. There’s another one from the same period in Neda, on the Camino Inglés.

 

There are several superstitions linked to cruceiros.

Some of them were built in places where a violent death had occurred. The purpose of the cruceiro was to try to save the soul of the deceased and stop it from wandering around the area and from harming passers-by.

 

Cruceiros also offered protection against the Santa Compaña.

The Santa Compaña is a procession of the dead (or of tormented souls) who wander through the paths after midnight, wearing hooded cloaks and holding candles. The procession is led by a living person, who is under a curse. This person is carrying a cross (sometimes a cauldron too). He or she will not remember anything in the morning, although they will feel very tired.

 

The only way to be free from the curse is to get another living person to carry the cross. If they can’t do this, they will feel weaker and weaker and become sick for no apparent reason. There are several ways to avoid being cursed if you encounter the Santa Compaña. One of them is to step onto the base of a cruceiro.

Cruceiros were also the chosen location to perform magical practices, like curing certain deseases or fertility issues.

In some places, babies who had died before receiving baptism were usually buried at the base of a cruceiro. 

 

Petos de ánimas

Peto de ánimas roughly translates as souls’ money box. This is actually the Galician name but, to be honest, I have no idea if there’s a name for them in Spanish.

They are little shrines devoted to the souls in purgatory, and they can be found at crossroads or near churches. Most of them were built in the 18th century. 

Petos de ánimas can vary a lot, but tend to have 3 common elements: 

  • A base, usually made of stone.
  • On top of the base goes the niche, with a stone carving depicting souls in the fire of purgatory.
  • Under the niche, there’s the peto or money box where people used to leave their alms for the salvation of those souls.

Nowdays, it’s not common to leave money, but you will still see other kinds of offerings such as flores (flowers), maíz, or velas (candles).

Walking through Galicia peto de ánimas

This peto de ánimas is in Tui, on the Camino Portugués. It shows souls in the fire of purgatory, with the dove/Holy Spirit watching over them.

You can see remains of flowers and a candle that someone offered for the salvation of the souls in purgatory.

 

 

When a soul is saved and goes to Heaven thanks to your offering or prayers, they will later intercede on your behalf, so you can go into Heaven too. Keep it in mind when you’re next walking through Galicia and you see a peto de ánimas.

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of cruz, check Tarta de Santiago.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño |

Last week I got an early birthday present: a new pair of zapatillas de senderismo (hiking shoes). So, I decided to test them the next day… by walking a stage of the Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño.

That’s one of the advantages of living on the Camino. If you wake up and feel like walking, you can do it.

I had walked from Porriño to Santiago before, at different times and in different company. I had also been to Tui several times in the past. But I had never walked the Tui-Porriño stage of the Camino. So that’s what I did.

The plan: drive to Tui and leave the car there; walk to Porriño; take a taxi back to Tui (and the car) and drive back home.

The weather has been quite hot and dry this verano (summer). The forecast for the day we walked showed yellow warnings: 50% risk of tormenta (storm) and 60% chance of light rain.

Well, it was sunny and quite hot, like the rest of the summer. Not a drop of rain and no sign of storms either.

 

Tui

Tui is the first Spanish town after you cross the puente (bridge) over the river Miño, which serves as a natural border between Portugal and Spain.

Tui has been inhabited since prehistoric time so, as you can imagine, it has a lot of history.

In mediaeval times, Tui was an important trade centre, with a very active puerto (port) and a hospital for pilgrims. It was also the capital of one of the 7 provinces of the Kingdom of Galicia.

One of Tui’s most iconic monuments is the Santa Maria cathedral. It has the appearance of a fortress and its construction began in 1120, although it has some later additions, like the main entrance or the organ.

Not far from it is the Museo y Archivo Histórico Diocesano (Diocesan historical archive and museum). The building dates from the 18th century and it used to be a pilgrim’s hospital.

If you keep following the yellow arrows through Tui, you will see the convent of the Poor Clares (or Clarisas, in Spanish). It’s also known locally as convento de las Encerradas (convent of the locked up ones), because this is an enclosed convent. You can buy delicious fish-shaped almond biscuits from the monjas (nuns).

 

Tui-Porriño

We started at the cathedral, walking through the old part of Tui, and passing by all the places I  mentioned above.

We were soon leaving Tui, walking through a mixture of forest areas and roads.

It is not a difficult stage. I was still half asleep when we left the house and I forgot to take bastions (hiking poles), but I didn’t miss them.

What I missed was more places to stop for a break. And I mean bars and cafés. We saw one not long after Tui, too soon for us to stop. And then nothing until we were almost in Porriño, slightly off the Camino. We had plenty of water and some snacks too, so this wasn’t a problem. But it would have been nice to be able to stop sooner.

At Orbenlle, you can follow the official route (through an industrial estate) or the Camino complementary, through the woods. You can’t miss Orbenlle because it has become a Camino landmark, thanks to 3 large paintings: the Pórtico de la Gloria, St. James and an elderly pilgrim.

There are two milestones and a map indicating the 2 routes from Orbenlle. The riverside walk through the woods is the one on the left. Going right will take you through the industrial estate. As you can guess from the pictures below, we took the alternative route.

The last section goes through residential areas, but it’s still nicer than an industrial estate, I think.

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

We saw many chestnuts during our walk between Tui and Porriño.

Porriño

I read in a guidebook that there’s also an alternative route into Porriño, along the river, but we didn’t see that. So, we took the classic route, which was not particularly pretty. In fact, if there’s something for which Porriño is known locally, it’s for not being particularly pretty.

It is an important logistic centre in Galicia and, as such, it’s quite industrial (remember the big industrial estate right beside the Camino?).

But there are also some interesting buildings. The most important one is, by far, the ayuntamiento (town hall), built between 1919-1921 and designed by local architect Antonio Palacios. His most famous works can be found in Madrid, like the Palacio de comunicaciones (current town hall), and even the logo of Madrid’s metro.

And that was the end of my adventures on the Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño. Lunch in Porriño, a taxi back to Tui and drive back home… and no problems with the new shoes.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of Tui and Porriño, check El Camino Portugués.

For the pronunciation of puente, check El juego de la oca.

For the pronunciation of tormenta, check Weather on the Camino.

Por the pronunciation of Pórtico de la Gloria, check Santiago de Compostela.

 

Go to the next stage of the Camino Portugués: Porriño-Redondela.

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¡Buen Camino!

Flan

Flan

nWho hasn’t come across flan as one of the dessert options on a menú del peregrino or a menú del día on the Camino de Santiago?

Flan is a very popular postre (dessert), and it is in fact an ancient dessert. Its origins go back to the times of the Roman Empire, although the old recipe was little different: there was no sugar back then, so miel (honey) was used instead.

Another difference was that the old version was sprinkled with pimienta (pepper). Today, flan is covered in liquid caramel.

The name flan first appeared in the Middle Ages and it could both a sweet and a savoury dish. In those days, people ate flan during Cuaresma (Lent), when carne (meat) was not allowed.

So, as you can see, flan has been around for a very long time and it’s always been popular, either as a dessert or as part of the main meal.

You can buy ready-made flan in any Spanish supermarket but a homemade one always tastes better.

It’s actually quite easy to make and it only needs basic ingredients that you can find anywhere. In fact, you only need 3 ingredients for the basic recipe: huevos (eggs), leche (milk) and azúcar (sugar). However, it is common to infuse the milk with vainilla (vanilla), canela (cinnamon) or limón (lemon).

 

Let’s make flan!

You will need:
  • 4 huevos (eggs)
  • 1/2 litre leche (milk)
  • 4 tablespoons azúcar (sugar)
  • vanilla, a cinnamon stick, lemon peel
  • caramelo líquido (liquid caramel). In Spain, you can buy this, ready-made, in any supermarket, but you can also make your own. You just need sugar, water and a pan. Two parts sugar, 1 part water.
So, put 6 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a heavy-based pan and place over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. When it starts bubbling up and taking a golden colour, reduce the heat and stir. Keep stirring until it becomes the colour of honey. If you like it more runny, you can add at this point 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot water. But be careful! The caramel is extremely hot and it can spit when you add the water.
 
 
 
Let it cool down for a couple of minutes and then pour on your flan mould(s), making sure you cover the base and the sides.
 
 
Now you can prepare the rest:

– Preheat the oven at 180ºC

– Infuse the milk with the flavour of your choice: bring the milk to the boil with a cinnamon stick and some lemon peel. When it starts boiling, remove it from the heat and let it cool down.

If you’re using vanilla extract, you can simply add a teaspoon to your mixture.

For a classic flan de huevo, skip this step.

– Combine the eggs and the sugar together until the sugar dissolves. The final result should have a jelly-like texture, wobbly and smooth. That’s why you should simply stir the eggs and the sugar together, not beat them. Beating them would add air to the mix, which would result in your flan being full of little ‘holes’ or air bubbles. Not what we’re looking for.

– Add the milk to the egg and sugar mixture and pour everything into your mould. You can use 6 individual moulds or 1 bigger one.

– Place your mould(s) on a baking tray with hot water (bain-marie). The water should not cover more than half of your moulds. Cover with foil and put into the oven.

Cooking time will depend on the size of your mould. If you’re using a bigger one, your flan will need around 45 minutes. If you’re using individual moulds, 30 minutes might be enough. Just check that the mixture is set.

– Take them out of the oven, remove them from the hot water and let them cool down at room temperature. Once they’re cold, you can put them in the fridge.

– When you’re ready to eat them, run a knife around the edge of the mould and flip it onto a plate. Your flan is ready!

 

Flan variations

You can also make the classic recipe with condensed milk. In that case, you won’t need sugar. For a 4-egg flan, you will need a small tin of condensed milk. You can use the tin to measure the milk: you will need 2.5 tins of milk.

 

Apart from being delicious, this is also a very versatile recipe. You may come across many different variations: chocolate, coffee, cheese, coconut, berries…

 

I like to make flan de manzana (with apple). You peel and cut 4 apples in pieces and place them in a pan with a very small amount of water, a cinnamon stick and lemon peel. You let them cook until the apples are soft (I like to find apple chunks but if you don’t, you can let the apples cook longer). You then add this apple compote to the egg, sugar and milk mixture and follow the rest of the instructions for the classic flan.

If you prefer a chocolate one, you warm up the milk and melt some dark chocolate into it. For a coffee one, add a couple of espressos. You get the idea…

 

So, which one are you going to make?

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of huevos, azúcar, canela and limón, check Tarta de Santiago.

For the pronunciation of menú del día and menú del peregrino, check Eating on the Camino.

 

 

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Camino Portugués: Milladoiro-Santiago

Camino Portugués: Milladoiro-Santiago

We finally make it to Santiago! After several Sundays of walking the Camino Portugués, we finish our pilgrimage with a very short stage: O Milladoiro-Santiago de Compostela.

 

If you’ve been following the previous posts you’ll already know this, but in case you don’t:

I walked part of the Camino Portugués (central route) between October and November 2021, with a group organised by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués. Every Sunday, a bus would pick us up in Pontevedra and take us to our starting point for the day. From there, we would walk a stage of this route; and then the autobús (bus) would take us back home.

 

This particular Sunday we walked the final 7-8km into Santiago, from O Milladoiro. A few more people than usual joined us for this last stage, so we had 2 buses instead of one.

We were again very lucky with the weather: another bright, sunny day. In fact, the weather was unusually good for most of noviembre (November). Since we didn’t have to walk that much, we left Pontevedra a bit later than usual.

 

We gathered outside Capilla de la Magdalena for the prayer and group pictures.

 

Milladoiro-Santiago group

Group picture before we started walking, as usual. Outside A Magdalena chapel.

 

O Milladoiro

There is not much to see in O Milladoiro, apart from this chapel. A few years ago, O Milladoiro was just a small aldea (village). But high housing prices in Santiago pushed many (young people, mainly) out, looking for more affordable options. O Milladoiro is quite close and well connected through  the N-550 road, so it has experienced tremendous growth.

 

There are 2 theories about the origins of the name of this town.

  • According to one theory, it comes from Latin humilliatorium, which makes reference to the fact that pilgrims used to kneel down here, when they could finally see Santiago, and the cathedral, in the distance.
  • The second theory says it comes from the Galician word miradoiro (mirador in Spanish, view point in English) because from this high point you can see Santiago and the cathedral for the first time.

Either way, the name of the town is linked to Santiago de Compostela and its cathedral. 

 

O Milladoiro-Santiago de Compostela

I was familiar with the routine by now. But there was something new this time: they brought the association’s banner that had been created for the 1993 Holy Year.

This banner was carried by different people throughout the stage.

The short stage and the banner meant that the group didn’t spread out so much this time. We also walked at a slower pace than usual, because the idea was for the whole group to stay behind the banner. And the constant change of standard bearer meant lots of stopping and picture taking.

 

Apart from that, the stage was quite uneventful: walking through small villages and some forest areas, with no important climbs or descents and Santiago getting closer and closer. We soon reached the Alameda, where we stopped to regroup and take some pictures before we marched, together, to the cathedral.

It was my first time back in Santiago in a very long time. First time inside the cathedral since they finished renovating it. I would have loved to see the Pórtico de la Gloria or do the rooftop tour, but they’re not open on Sunday evenings. What a great excuse to go back to Santiago!

You can see some pictures of this O Milladoiro-Santiago stage in the following video:

The Pilgrim’s office

I didn’t get a credencial or collect stamps for this Camino. I started walking in Porriño, which is right at the 100km mark and qualifies for a Compostela. But I knew I was going to skip a couple of stages that I had already walked before. So, I didn’t bother.

 

When I walked the Camino Inglés in 2019, the waiting time at the Oficina del Peregrino (Pilgrim’s office) was at least 2 hours… and I didn’t feel like waiting in line for so long. So, I didn’t collect my Compostela back then. But it occurred to me that being November, the waiting time would be short. And so I took my old credencial with me, to see if I could get a Compostela for my 2019 Camino.

 

After a few pictures at the Praza do Obradoiro*, some of us headed to the Pilgrim’s office. The old ‘join the queue when you get there’ system is gone, partly due to covid, partly to avoid long queuing times.

So now there is a QR code outside. You scan it and it opens up a page where you can register your details. After you complete this step, you receive a message with a code. You show this to the person at the entrance and they give you a piece of paper with your number.

There were not many people around that day, so I was able to enter the building straight away.

 

Most of the people in my group were older (in their 70’s, on average) and not very tech-savvy. They were struggling with this new system and the security guard standing outside wasn’t very helpful, to be honest. There was a man, for instance, who didn’t have a smartphone. There was someone trying to help him, I hope he was able to get his Compostela. I managed to help a lady who did have a smartphone, but couldn’t scan the QR code to start the registration process.

 

In short, lots of frustration for these people who were looking forward to receiving their Compostela, and probably some were not able to. Not having to wait in line for hours during busy times is good. But making it almost impossible for those who are not so tech-savvy is not so good.

 

Anyway, I managed to get my Compostela. It has 2 fechas (dates) on it: I day I collected it and the day I finished my Camino Inglés (they added this by hand, under the other date).

 

Hostal dos Reis Católicos

There were a couple more activities organised for the day: a guided tour of the Parador, lunch (at the Parador too) and misa del peregrino (pilgrim’s mass) at 7.30pm. I couldn’t stay that late, due to family obligations. But I did join the visit to the Parador before I returned home.

Paradores are part of a chain of luxury hotels, managed by a state-run company. They are usually located in historic buildings such as castles or convents.

In Santiago, we have the Hostal dos Reis Católicos**, right beside the cathedral. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century by Isabel de Castilla and Fernando de Aragón, los Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) as a hospital that cared for the pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela. It’s built around 4 patios, all of them different. Construction began in 1501 and lasted 10 years. The Hostal dos Reis Católicos is considered the oldest hotel in Spain.

You can enjoy a few pictures from my visit:

 

Today’s Spanish words

* Praza is the Galician word for plaza (square). You can listen to the pronunciation of plaza in Santiago de Compostela. You will also find misa del peregrino there.

** Reis is the Galician word for reyes (kings or monarchs). 

For the pronunciation of autobús, check En autobús.

For the pronunciation of Alameda, check Pontevedra.

For the pronunciation of credencial, check ¿Cómo vas a hacer el Camino?

For the pronunciation of noviembre, check Samaín.

 

 

Have you read about the previous stages?

Padrón-Milladoiro

Caldas de Reis-Padrón

Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis

Redondela-Pontevedra

Porriño-Redondela

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Padrón-Milladoiro

Camino Portugués: Padrón-Milladoiro

A new domingo (Sunday), a new stage of the Camino Portugués: Padrón-Milladoiro.

 

Again, I walked with a large group organised by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués. We could have walked to Santiago. In fact, most people do that.

 

But the Asociación had some things organised for the arrival in Santiago and a shorter walk suited those plans much better. That’s for the next post. Today we focus on Padrón-Milladoiro.

 

After several stages, I’m familiar with the routine now: we get on the bus early in the morning; we’re dropped at our starting point; we gather in front of an iglesia or capilla, where one of the organisers says a prayer; we take group photos and start walking. It was a chilly morning but there was not a cloud in sight and 0% chance of rain.

 

We covered a distance of around 19 km, mostly flat with some ascent in the final part.

 

Padrón-Milladoiro

Group photo outside iglesia de Santiago borrowed from the Asociación’s blog.

 

A strange stage

This was kind of a strange stage for me. My dad is from this area and I grew up going to some of the places we passed through. In fact, we walked in front of 2 of my tío (uncle) and tía‘s (aunt) houses; we also passed the cementerio (cemetery) were my paternal grandmother is buried and the church were I attended several family occasions like bautizos (christenings), bodas (weddings) and funerales (funerals).

But that was a long time ago.

My uncle and aunt have long been muertos (dead); there’s a big age gap between my primos (cousins) and I, so we were never very close; I lived abroad for 15 years… in other words: I’ve lost contact and haven’t been in the area in years.

And then, there’s also the fact that I always went to those places by car. Walking there gave me a totally different perspective.

But let’s talk about the stage.

 

Padrón

Our starting point was Padrón. When we got there, people were setting up the Sunday market. Lots of activity there, but obviously not crowded like the previous Sunday, when the market was in full swing.

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, about the Caldas de Reis-Padrón stage, Padrón is a very relevant place in the history of the Camino. According to legend, the remains of St. James first arrived by boat here, when they were brought back to Spain by his disciples. The stone they used to moor their boat, called Pedrón, can be found today inside the iglesia de Santiago.

 

At the tourist office or municipal albergue you can obtain the Pedronía, a certificate issued by Padrón’s town council stating that you have visited the place where St. James’ remains were brought ashore. More info on how to get the Pedronía here.

 

If you have time, cross the Santiago bridge to the Convento del Carmen and, from there, the 132 steps up to Santiaguiño do Monte, another significant location in the history of the Camino. According to tradition, St. James was preaching there in the year 40 a.C. There is a cross and statue of St. James there now.

 

There are also other things worth checking, not related to St. James or the Camino.

 

You will see many references to Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885), one of the most important writers in the Galician language. She was from Padrón and one of the first to write in Galician after centuries of the language being banned from public life. Her house has been turned into a museum. You will see signs for it as you walk out of Padrón.

 

Padrón also has a beautiful botanic park with more than 300 species and a nice walk along the river.

 

And last, but not least, I must mention the famous pimientos de Padrón (Padrón peppers). As the name suggests, they come from here. And, as the saying goes, uns pican e outros non (some are hot and some are not).

 

 

Padrón-Milladoiro

Right after we left Padrón we passed the church of Iria Flavia. Iria Flavia is the birthplace of Nobel Literature Prize Camilo José Cela (1916-2002).

 

Lots of walking through villages in this stage, some of them familiar to me, as I mentioned earlier.I walked mostly with the same people I met on my first day walking with the group (Porriño-Redondela).

 

But many other faces were becoming familiar and I also got to chat for a while to a couple of ladies who volunteer at the albergue in Pontevedra. They were sharing stories about different pilgrims who stayed there and caught their attention for one reason or another. This led to a very interesting conversation about cultural differences between different countries.

Miracles

Five or 6km into the stage we came to a very familiar place for me: Santuario da Escravitude. Despite the unusual name, this church has nothing to do with slavery. In 1732, a man was on his way to the hospital in Santiago, looking for a cure for his health problems. He stopped at the spot where the church now stands, drank from the fountain here and asked the Virgin Mary for help.

 

According to legend, he was cured 3 days later and expressed his gratitude for being freed from ‘the slavery’ of his disease. This started to attract other people looking for miraculous cures and, eventually, the church was built.

 

Getting to Milladoiro

After this, we kept walking mostly through villages, some forest areas too, chatting about all sorts of things. We were so engrossed in our conversation that at some point we missed one of the yellow arrows and went the wrong way! Luckily, there were people behind us who saw us and alerted us.

The hardest part of the stage came in the final part, before Milladoiro. Nothing difficult, really. But not what you’re looking for at the end of your walk, when you’re tired! But we made it, with time to spare before the bus brought us back home.

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of domingo, check Está cerrado.

For the pronunciation of iglesia, check Finisterre.

For the pronunciation of capilla, check Redondela-Pontevedra.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!