I’ve hesitated writing about Galicia until now because of my hazy memory and my desire to return to do the SetMeravelles justice. I have only been there once, for three days, six years ago. I keep hoping for a return visit to spend more time and visit the two provinces I didn’t make it too, but things keep coming up. It’s not that I don’t love Galicia, as I do. However, Galicia is in the northwest corner of Spain, chock full of winding roads. Even in Bilbao on the Cantabrian Coast, I’m a full 5-6 hours away, and the world is big. I know I’m on a personal pilgrimage to Santiago, but that’s going to take a while in itself.
On my first Semana Santa in Spain, I went to Portugal and took a train north to Galicia (and caught Ryan Air back to Madrid to catch the bus back to Linares in Jaén, where I was living at the time.) After a too brief stop in Vigo, I went ahead to Santiago de Compostela where I was staying. It was raining, of course. I checked into a non-pilgrim hostel and saw tourist shops full of Camino de Santiago stuff. I was in awe of the pilgrims arriving to town and made the decision to do the Camino one day myself. (Six days later, I’ve done…40 kilometres! Go me. I’m picking it back up in March or April whenever the monsoon stops). I walked around the Cathedral of St. James in awe. And while the city is small for its fame (only 95,000 people), it didn’t feel small. I kept walking through the small streets, loving the gallego I saw everywhere. Due to my aversion to all things related to seafood, I did not try pulpo (octopus), the speciality of Galicia. (In fact, I’m going to have a nightmare about an octopus attacking me now due to having typed this up).
I did try a piece of tarta de Santiago, though. And two more on my next two days there.
I digress. The next morning, when I was getting ready to go to A Coruña (the province capital. Santiago is the capital of the autonomous community), I discovered that my debit card was missing. I remember getting money out from the BBVA next door to the hostel, but I don’t remember what I did with it after that. And to make matters worse, it was Semana Santa, which meant all the banks were closed. I frantically emailed my mom and took off to A Coruña. It was raining. A lot. And I remember beautiful scenery and listening to Wynonna’s Revelation, but I was so freaked about not having much money that I didn’t really enjoy the city. The rain stopped for the return to Santiago, and I ended up going out for drinks with a guy from the hostel.
The third day was spent in plan tranquilo, seeing one of the coolest staircases in the Museo de Pobo Galego (Musuem of the Galician people) and heading out to the airport to catch a much-delayed flight to Madrid.
I am dying to return to Galicia, and even more dying to be out on the most famous road to get there later this year.
Torre de Hércules
No, this is not the Hércules Tower! However, in my fuzzy memory, when I later read about the Hércules Tower, I assumed this was it and that I had visited it. I still haven’t actually been there. Kicking myself. I blame the stress from the missing debit card that trip. You live and you learn, like Alanis Morissette sings. The actual Roman Torre de Hércules is a lighthouse dating back to the second century AD. It is UNESCO World Heritage site.
Catedral de Santiago y su camino
The Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) of Santiago is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Cathedral is one of the most important in Spain, and it’s on good authority that the remains of the apostle James are buried here. In 813, legend has it that a bright light lead a shepherd here, and the shepherd told the bishop who told King Alfonso II of Oviedo, who had the Cathedral built in that spot. For that reason, over the centuries, many people made a pilgrimage across Spain to the cathedral. The original cathedral was destroyed by a Moorish leader, Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamar. Alfonso VI of Castilla had the current one constructed in the 11th century.
Praza do Obradoiro
The main plaza of Santiago is amazing in its own right. Located next to the Catedral de Santiago, the Praza houses a hotel that was originally an albergue for pilgrims founded by Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabel, the ayuntamiento (City Hall) and a school.
Museo de Pobo Galego
In the convent of San Domingo lies the Museum of the Galician People (Museo de Pobo Galego). It has artifacts through Galicia history and tells the story of the Galicians. It also has some of the coolest staircases ever, just as twisty and windy as the Galician roads.
Muxía (to be discovered)
A Galician village of 6000 people, Muxía is part of the Costa de Muerte, where many shipwrecks happened over the years. It is also the end of the Camino de Santiago for those pilgrims wanting to make it to the coast. (It is close to Muxía where the ending scene of The Way was filmed.) The 2002 oil spill from The Prestige unfortunately took place near here, but it quickly recovered, thankfully.
Finisterre (to be discovered)
Finisterre means “The End of the World”, and until certain people “discovered” lands that were already discovered, it was believed to be the very end of the world. The cape boasts a lighthouse and several beaches, and along with Muxía, is the true end of the Camino de Santiago.
Betanzos (to be discovered)
Betanzos is a small city of 14,000 habitants located near the Atlantic Ocean. It has one of the most famous Casco Viejos of Galicia. The walls still have 3 of their 4 original gates, and there are many palaces and a clock tower to visit.
Galicia, I want to go back soon!
Also, a bit of “galego” for anyone interested. “Como estás hoxe?”
Also, a bit of a note to say that I am travelling today (unfortuantely not to Galicia) but will reply to any comments and likes and typo corrections as soon as possible, just be patient! The destination will be revealed soon…