Fromista! Here´s where this bit of my 3-part adventure is going to end. Fromista has train connections and from here I´ll be taking a train to Oviedo in the north of Spain. There is an old Camino from the Camino de Santiago FRANCES (which I´m on at the moment), which goes from Leon up to Oviedo. People in the middle ages would travel that way in order to see the important reliques that are kept in Oviedo, which was until 914 the capital of the kingdom of Asturia (yes! You´re learning stuff here!). From there they would travel along which is now called the "Camino Primitivo" to Lurgos, join the Camino Frances again and on until Santiago. Now, I´m doing this part of the Camino (and quite unknown) in REVERSE. I wanted to do some the "alternative routes" and initially meant to walk through the Picos de Europa, a mountain range between the Camino Frances and the Camino del Norte, which runs along the coast (to Oviedo, Lurgos, Santiago). I had hoped to walk to the cloister of Santo Toribio de Liebana, which holds the largest relique of THEE cross and which became so important in the Middle Ages that Santo Toribio could also call a "Holy Year", just like Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago - and nowhere else. There was even a saying at that time with respect to pilgrims who would "only" do the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela:" Why do you go to the servant if you can go to the Master?" Well, I thought it would be so great to do the pilgrimage to the "Master" and the "servant" but in Burgos, when I eventually got my head around looking up mileage and making a little plan so as to arrive on time in Santiago, I discovered that the path through the Picos de Europa from Santo Toribio to Oviedo isn´t just long but also difficult and maybe a bit dangerous. It seems to be totally amazing but I think it shouldn´t be attempted alone. So, sadly, I had to say good-bye to this idea. I´ll hope though that maybe at some other time I can come back and do this unknown pilgrim´s path with someone (another wink at Gary, hehehe...). So I decided to do the Leon - Oviedo Camino in reverse, which my little book of "alternative routes" highly recommends. It´ll be very lonely and a welcome break to all the madness here. And this is where my tent will come into play for the very first time! The distances between the albergues are so far (30km and more) that I won´t be able to cover them in one day. Since it´s also a serious mountain range I´ll have to cross I´ll be camping about three times according to my schedule. So exciting!! Internet will be far and few in between, so don´t worry if you won´t hear from me in a while - I´ll be crazy typing as soon as I´ll get a chance.
Now back to the Meseta: after my first, successful walk to Hontanas I walked another 21km the next day, hoping I could reach a place called St. Nicholas. Thankfully there was some cloud there and a cool wind blowing, so I found it pretty easy to walk. And it IS true: the pain in the muscles isn´t half as bad any more now that I´m in the 3rd week, hooray! I had to cross this table mountain, but otherwise it was all flat. The place, St. Nicholas is a very special albergue: run by the Maltese Order, they practise their help towards the pilgrims as they would´ve done 1000 years ago. the albergue is in a tiny church with only about 12 places to sleep. There´s a little altar on one side, the beds on the other and a large wooden table in the middle. NO eletricity exists - in the evening they light candles and if you want to charge your phone or you´re camera, you´re definitely in the wrong place! Everyone cooks together and then, before the meal, the maltese monks(???, honestly don´t know) practise an old ritual which was normal in the Middle Ages: they wash each pilgrim one foot. Now, how special is that??! But of course I´m not the only one thinking that way, and when I arrived it was already ´completo´. They let me have a glimpse inside and then I had to mosey on to .....ehm..... Ibera de la Vega (or similar....) - not a name one needs to remember anyway as it was a total low-point. So I won´t linger on it, just tell you that a met a really nice girl from Limerick there, Katie´s her name. Katie with the red hair. We joined forces against the sadness of that place and marched together the next day to Fromista. Along an architectural wonder of the 18th century, a canal which watered this hot and dry region, and still does.
Fromista is...., what to say about Fromista? It isn´t big. It´s spread out. It´s as hot and dusty as the Meseta (well, obviously). It has the most perfect example of romanesque church building in Europe! (see very first picture) I´m taking so many pictures of the in- and outside of churches that I´ll be able to publish a book about churches soon......... But they´re all SO fascinating! This one (St. Martin) has also incredibly beautiful carvings at the top of the columns, otherwise is the church quite bare inside, but bright because of the light sandstone. There´s also a church called St. Pedro in Fromista, from the 15th century. Which looks..... weird, to put it mildly. A mixture of styles, half falling down, half strangely repaired, not fitting together, but you just can´t take your eyes from it. Inside it´s definitely 15th century and quite beautiful, with a little museum to boast. And did I ever mention the storchs?!!! Northern Spain is a paradise for birds, and on every churchtower are at least TWO nest of storchs!! So lovely! And I hear cookoos all the time while walking!
Now quickly back to Fromista: it also has a good few bars, and one of them got the better of me last night. Not wanting to have a full meal I opted for 3 tapas and a glass of wine - 16 Euros!!!! (to compare: in Burgos I ate tapas all night long, plus loads of wine and internet:15 Euros. I was so dumbfounded that I didn´t even complain. But from know on I will - "¡No soy loca!" Until whenever!! XX