Friday, September 27, 2013

Journey to Astorga

We left early this morning because we had a 19.4 mile hike today.  Got on the road at 6:20 and it stayed dark until about 8:20.  Fortunately we were on roads those first couple of hours so it was easy or see the road and the signs.  We made good time and it was pretty nice temperature wise.  We planned to stop at the cafe in Villavante....and that was a frustrating experience.  Signs for the Camino were confusing and/or non existent and there was not a cafe to be found.  Some times the guide lies!

Most of the morning we were walking through or by corn fields.  Looked pretty healthy....they have an extensive irrigation system that helps.  We ended up walking all the way to Hospital de Orbigo before we stopped for a snack.  A cute older lady who was running the place was so helpful and kind.  Before we left she handed us a guest book to sign. 

It started sprinkling about 9 or 9:30 and continued on and off all the way.  When we left the cafe and turned left! there was the amazing old Puente de Orbigo.  It is one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain, dating back to the 13th century.   It was built over an old Roman bridge which formed one of the great landmarks on the Camino.  It is a beautiful site.

When you make your way over the bridge, you are in the delightful village and the church of Saint John the Baptist, as well as several really neat little Albergues along the avenue.  At the end of town you make a choice about which way you want to travel....along the road or over the river and through the woods.  I had read that the 2md choice was one of the most peaceful, serene, and naturally pretty paths on the whole Camino so we decided to go that way, even tho it had several hills to climb.  I was not disappointed.  We walked right through farm yards, past vineyards and into the woods.  We went through a couple of quaint villages, and enjoyed a short stop at an old stone cross and a funky pilgrim sculpture of sorts.  At the end as we came off the top, all of Astorga opened up.  There was another large cross overlooking the city...a beautiful sight - maybe one you have even seen in pictures.  The name of it is Cruceiro Santo Toribio.  Very pretty, even in the rain!

We came down off the hill and into San Justo de la Vega and stopped for lunch in a happening little cafe.  They had omlettes on the menu and that sounded like a great change of pace...and they were really good.  From there we still had 3-4 km to get to the city.  About half way, the rain started really coming down hard.  Yikes, suddenly we were soaked.  The Albergue was not marked well and we had difficulty  finding it.  Not fun after such a long walk.  Fortunately when we finally got there, they had room for us.  Showers and fresh clothes felt good.  The staff was helpful and nice, and we ran into some people we have been with before.  It was good to settle in and relax.

The history and the sites to see are would be fun to explore for a couple of days.  The cathedral is boxed in by other buildings but quite large and beautiful.  There is another Gaudi neo-Gothic creation here.  It houses a Museo de Los Comino.  There were several churches and historic buildings, an unusual bell tower, several statues and a wonder park along the old city wall.  We stayed in the Albergue Saint Javier.  It stopped raining about 5:30 so I walked around around for about an hour.  Pictures don't look so good with grey skies, but the buildings were fascinating.  I have been disappointed that many churches and museums have not been open at the times we are free to investigate, but you can only do what you can...

The Albergue offered a discount coupon to eat a Pilgrims Plate at the wonder Gaudi Hotel.  It was fun to eat in an upscale place for a reasonable price.  Frank, our new German friend came in right after we did and asked to eat with us again.  It was so interesting.  He shared so much about his childhood growing up on postwar Germany and the many difficulties they faced.  We talked politics in Europe, as well as family situations he faced through the years with family who immigrated to the States, an uncle who was SS in the war, people who died I the war.  It was amazing.

On the walk through the hills in the afternoon we were on one path that brought a childhood memory to mind....a picture in a book of Joseph and Mary on just such a donkey path, coming down a hill.  I began to think of their pilgrimage.  They thot they were going to be gone for a few weeks to register to be taxed in Bethlehem.  They ended up staying and then going to Egypt....they were on that pilgrimage for a few years.  The hardships of finding places to stay, food, water, work...all with a new baby and maybe more children along the way.  The dust and the dirt, the lack of showers, the smells and sounds.  It would be overwhelming at times.

Then my mind went to Jesus and the disciples during his three years of ministry.  They also were on the road, a pilgrimage of sorts.   People hated Jesus and wanted to kill him.  There were large crowds around that loved him and made requests of him, pushing and shoving just to be neat him.

It all kind of put our pilgrimage in perspective.  We have it all...we know where there will be food, water and beds.   We have resources and guides.  And we have Him along side us to encourage and renew us.  

I am running out of time, but that is the jist of my thots today....lots more to think about.  

The well preserved medieval bridge in Orbigo

The church at ten end of the bridge
Farmers busy digging up potatoes.

Beautiful cross with Astorga in the background.  There was a long stairway down over the rise.
I'm not sure this is the right place for this picture....

The cathedral in has a very small plaza out front so it is hard to get a good picture..
The museum...created by Gaudi.

Another nice big grocery store on the main square in town.
Much of the old city wall has been preserved.
The Albergue where we stayed...very nice but not well marked. 

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