Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Galicia's magnificence


It was spring in Galicia and people were out with their hoes, spades, pitchforks and carts tilling the deep dark rich soil that has supported them for millennia. Horreos, ancient stone structures used for storing the harvest – corn, potatoes, and more- dot every village. Galicia is truly spectacular – somewhat of a well-kept secret which is probably its saving grace. It is easy to gasp at every turn in the road, as the coast is stunning, and the hillsides pastoral.Fortunately, the laws around development are strict in this region of Spain, particularly in Carnotta which boasts a 7 km long white sand beach, the longest in Galicia.

The land is full of ancient history and Celtic myths. The northwest has some lesser traveled routes to and from Santiago de Compostela. One of these is to Finisterre (Fisterra in Galician) which means lands end, and it sits on a peninsula at the end of that part of Spain, with the Atlantic Ocean crashing around the rocks at the bottom of the mountain. This was my pilgrimage, not Santiago. The beach as you approach Fisterra seems like heaven, and must have certainly seemed so to any pilgrims making their way through the spiny gorse and forest paths. Turquoise green water and white sand stretching for two kilometers, it is littered with shells, many of which are like the shell symbol that marks the way to Santiago.

Another leg of the camino is between Fisterra and Muxia, also breathtaking. And for me quite literally as Muxia is not immune to a common ill I have found in Spain – one or two signs for an invisible tourist information office. So I headed off in the direction of the hill with the rocks and churches, but the route I ended up on was a real cliffhanger – truly – the path, marked with little painted white arrows, pointed up along a string of cement-glued stones to the rock face to be used as hand and foot holders. The day I was there the wind was blowing a gale and as I was trying to scale the cliff I kept having different newspaper headlines flashing in my mind, “middle aged woman blows off rocks.” “Middle aged woman tumbles to death at sanctuary.” Between the wind and the vertical pitch I was working hard and I kept thinking, “Can this really be the only way up here?” Of course it is NOT. I was on the thrill seeking, youthful pilgrim route. Once at the top with the boulders and a single stone cross, I found the new stone-lined gentle descent down toward the Sanctuario de Barca and the crashing sea. From there a lovely promenade follows the bay line back to the parking and village.

Between the spectacular ocean and the windmills lining every ridge, Galicia seems like a green traveler's delight.

1 comment:

colleen said...

this place sounds awesome! glad you weren't blown off the cliff's!!!!!