terça-feira, junho 23, 2020

postal csvc xii


A small village of less than 1000 people, Triacastela bears an important and historic part on the Camino Frances. In the Codex Calixtinus, a manuscript book dating back to early 12th century, describes Triacastela as the final stage of the Camino. An anthology describing to pilgrims the way to Santiago de Compostela, it is thought to be the first tourist's guide book. This section of the Codex is now listed on the UNESCO register. 

Triacastela gets its name from the 3 castles that used to stand there. All three castles were destroyed during the Viking invasion of 968AD.

sábado, junho 20, 2020

postal csvc xi


On the way to Ponferrada at the top of Mount Irago is the 5 metres tall oak trunk topped with a simple cross called Cruz de Fierro (Iron Cross). Tradition says that a pilgrim shall carry a stone from the beginning of the Camino to the Iron Cross and drop it on the knoll. The purpose of the stone is to atone for ones sins and by carrying it, it is considered as the sacrifice undertaken to be released from those sins. Some pilgrims choose to leave a personal object instead of carrying a stone. 

Ponferrada is completely surrounded by mountains and it is the last major city before reaching Santiago. During the Roman era, it was the largest mining center in Europe extracting gold and other minerals. The nearby Las Médulas gold-mining site has been a UNESCO site since 1997. 

During the early 20th century coal mining thrived and by the second 20th century the city was economically based on mining and electricity generation. However, by the 1980s these industries closed and the city was in an economic decline. It was revived by the late 1990s and it now survives on tourism, wine production, wind power generation and slate mining. It is also seeing a steady population growth. 

For castle afficionados, the Castillo de los Templarios (Templars Castle) would delight with its polygonal shape, double and triple defences and its giant walls. Built in 1178AD to protect the pilgrims walking the Camino, it was named after the famed Knights of Templar, a fierce group of highly skilled soldiers during the crusades. Open to visitors now and a spectacular view from the parapet walk, the castle also houses the Templars library of over 1400 books, including works from Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci.

quarta-feira, junho 17, 2020

postal csvc x

Hospital de Órbigo 

A quaint village with a mere population of 980, it derives its name from the 16th century when the Knights Hospitaller (a Catholic military order) setup a pilgrim hospital that was named Hospital de Órbigo. 

The village is famous for its long stone bridge, a construction of 20 arches and the longest bridge in Spain. It is thought to have been originally built by the Romans to transport the mined gold to Rome, however, in 19th century the townspeople destroyed the bridge to slow down Napoleon's forces in Spain. In recent times the bridge has been fully restored. 

In 1434, lovestruck Leonese knight Suero de Quiñones obtained permission from King Juan II to hold a jousting tournament to win the hand of his lady. Alongside ten of his companions, Suero challenged any knight, who wished to cross the bridge, to a joust. Being the height of summer, the bridge was busy with thousands crossing it. 

Although his target was to break 300 lances, after a month of jousting and 166 battles, Suero and his men were so injured they couldn't continue with their mission and declared it complete. To his misfortune he was killed 24 years later by one of the knights he defeated on the bridge. 

As it did historically the bridge continues to serve the pilgrims and travellers of the Camino.

terça-feira, junho 16, 2020

postal csvc ix


León is the capital city of the Province of Leon and held the first European Parliament in 1188, creating laws that protected its people. 

It was founded as a Roman military encampment in 29BC by the Roman legion Legion VI Victrix, serving under Caesar Augustus in their final stage of Roman conquest in Spain. In 74AD, Legion VII Gemina, under Emperor Hadrian, settled into the original encampment in order to protect their newly conquered territories and secure the transport of gold extracted from the nearby mines to Rome. 

León is a splendor of various architectural styles from Gothic to Romanesque, Renaissance and finally Modernist. Some of the major places of interest are: Basilica of San Isidoro with its tombs of medieval monarchs; Santa Maria de León Cathedral (aka The House of Light) a Gothic style cathedral with stunning stained glass windows measuring 1764sqm of surface and one of the best preserved collections in Europe; Convento de San Marcos, once a convent, today it is a luxurious Renaissance style hotel; Casa Botines, a local savings bank, designed by the famous Antoni Gaud who was the designer of the spectacular Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

quinta-feira, junho 11, 2020

postal csvc viii

Carrión de los Condes 

Known as Santa Maria in 11th century, it has an even earlier history as a Roman city called Lacóbriga and has been involved in the Praetorian Wars of the 1st century BC. Third and 4th centuries remains, such as Roman mansions and villas have been found in Carrión. 

Churches and monasteries are aplenty but the highlights are the Church of Santiago and Monasterio de San Zoilo. 

The Church of Santiago has seen many alterations and fires over the centuries and today is an eclectic mix of architecture beginning with the 12th century. What makes this church a worthy visit is the sculpted frieze above the doorway showing Christ Pantocrator sitting within a mandorla, typical of Romanesque sculpture and considered a masterpiece. 

Just outside of town is the Monasterio de San Zoilo. Originally built in the 11th century it went under significant renovations in the 16th century where the Plateresque cloister, Romanesque capitals (columns) and archeological vestiges sit amongst the monastery's preserved and restored buildings. Within the church you will find Romanesque tombstones of the Counts of Carrion. The monastery has been converted into a luxury hotel.

segunda-feira, junho 08, 2020

postal csvc vii


Dominating the city skyline is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos. Built in Gothic architecture over 300 odd years (13th-16th century), the Cathedral epitomises the evolution of Gothic style and as such has entered the UNESCO register in 1984. 

Rich in ancient churches, convents and landmarks, Burgos is an architectural paradise of the medieval age. Besides the Cathedral other interesting sights are the Monasterio de Las Huelgas, Miraflores Charterhouse and the gateway of Santa Maria erected for Emperor Charles V's first entrance. It is also the seat of the Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese. 

There are 10 museums in Burgos of which most notable is the Museum of Human Evolution. It displays the remains of the first hominins of Europe found in the Atapuerca archeological site. If you are a bookworm and want to know the history of books from its first written form to the current electronic variety make your way down to the Museo del Libro Fadrique de Basilea. 

If so inclined on a balmy evening promenade along the riverside till you reach Puente de San Pablo, one of 12 bridges along the Arlanzón River and take a moment to absorb the surrounding history and atmosphere.

postal csvc vi


Prehistoric history will lead you to the second UNESCO listed site where human remains, dating back nearly one million years, were discovered in the caves of the Sierra de Atapuerca. Remains found were of our Neanderthal predecessor called Homo Heidelbergensis. Paintings and engravings on walls indicate that inhabitants from Neolithic and Bronze Age also resided here.

If you're feeling fit enough, join the Cross de Atapuerca for its annual cross country running race. With categories ranging from elites to amateurs to children, the race course passes through the archaeological site of Atapuerca.

quarta-feira, junho 03, 2020

postal csvc v


Logroño is the capital city of the world-famous wine making La Rioja Region and the second largest city on the Camino Frances. Once part of a Roman settlement and then the Celts, by 11th century it was annexed to the Kingdom of Castile. 

Fast forward 600 years and the Spanish Inquisition was desperately trying to stamp out witchcraft with the trial of the Basque Witches in 1610. It was the single biggest investigative event of its kind in history with a total of 7,000 cases being examined. 

Now if you like tapas, Logroño is THE best place to go. There are some 50 tapas restaurants within a 4 block radius. You are guaranteed to not go hungry. 

However, if you want a touch of Michelangelo be sure to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Redonda that features one of his paintings.

terça-feira, junho 02, 2020

postal csvc iv


Founded nearly 1,000 years ago, Estella is a mix of medieval history, Romanesque architecture, modern day football club and international cycling race.

Built on the wealth of the original inhabitants and a landmark town on the Camino route, Estella displays a fine example of Romanesque architecture as seen in the churches San Miguel and San Pedro de la Rúa. Characterized by semi-circular arches, Estella was at the tail-end of this style of architecture with the Gothic Style making its appearance in the 12th century.

In 1924, Club Deportivo Izarra football team was founded. In 1943 it ascended from Regionals to Division 3 and further ascended to Division 2 by 1990. A series of bad seasons saw it seesaw between divisions until 2015 when it managed to scale the ladder and hold its Division 2 position.

Initially limited to local competition, Estella now plays host to the international GP Miguel Induráin cycling race. The race was inaugurated in 1951 as GP Navarre, named after the region until 1998 when it was rebranded after the Spanish cyclist. In 2020 it joined the UCI ProSeries, a second tier men's elite road cycling tour.

sábado, maio 30, 2020

postal csvc iii


Hemingway, running with the bulls, historic architecture and a military citadel are just some of the places to explore whilst you're in Pamplona. 

Pamplona is the capital of the Navarra region in the north of Spain. The town is famous for its Running with the Bulls Festival, known as San Fermin. It is a week-long festival, held in July of each year, on a course that measures 875m and runs through the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Six fighting bulls and six tame oxen, wearing bells, are released into the streets to chase the runners who are dressed in traditional costume of white clothes and red bandanna. The whole run lasts only a few minutes but the festival continues with dancing, drinking, eating, parades and nightly fireworks.

Inside the city walls stands a 16th century military citadel. A pentagon-shaped fortress, it was ordered to be built by King Felipe II in 1571 and designed by the military engineer Giacomo Palearo. The star shaped points were able to control any possible angles of attack. Although the citadel has never encountered any severe defensive attacks, it has been taken once during Napoleon's reign. The Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s was the last time the citadel was used and Pamplona was demilitarised by the mid-1960s. Today the citadel sits inside a public park with cultural activities taking place in the remaining buildings. In 1973 it was declared a Natural Historic-Artistic Monument. 

For the fans of Ernest Hemingway, a visit to Café Iruña is a must if for no other reason than to take a photo with his eternal statue standing at the bar. Built in 1888 and the first establishment to have electricity, Hemingway immortalised the cafe in his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway loved Pamplona so much that in a span of four years from 1923-27 he visited it no less than nine times. 

If you have any time left, take a meander throughout the Old Town and admire its old city walls and architecture before you push on to Estella and its Romanesque architecture. 

Across the statue of Virgen d'Orisson (Virgin of Orisson) reportedly carried from Lourdes by shepherds and if you listen carefully you might hear the sheep bells ringing in the countryside. 

Take a break and rest your legs before you push on to Roncesvalles and we'll see you in Pamplona and the Running with the Bulls Festival.