challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Castles in the Air: Ponferrada, Spain – 170-178/200 Camino Photos

Much like a pilgrim stumping up a long, steep hill, I’ve slowed on my posting of 100 Spanish Photos series (now 200 Spanish Photos!), but I have vowed to travel onward! Next stop? Ponferrada. The name means iron (ferrada) bridge (pon). Alas, the bridge was unremarkable. But the castle? Quite the opposite.

long view

It is called the Templar Castle, built in the 13th century atop the remains of a Visogothic fort. Underneath this Visogothic fort lay the Roman one, which overlay a pre-Roman castro.

It was such a perfect day for exploring.

perfect day

sunny blue skies

Looking out from the walls, you see the city below, and the thick bricks.

tower

looking down

keyhole

The road paralleling the wall leads to the church, standing proud and distinguished at the city center.

city view

What treasures do the towers and thick walls hold? The most valuable things of all.

book

Lavishly illustrated, this book is the Cosmography of Claudio Ptolomeo from the 15th century. It is on loan from Paris. What is next? What is always next, on the Camino de Santiago …

yellow shell

Searching for the yellow shell at every intersection, and walking onward.

~

If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.

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challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Topping the Misty Spanish Mountains – 159-169/200 Camino Photos

It’s been a little while since my last post in my 100 Spanish Photos series (now 200 Spanish Photos!), but I have much more to share. This section of photos has me traveling from Astorga to Rabanal, then beyond to Molinseca, which was the most challenging part of my Camino.

What do you do when you are walking the Camino de Santiago and it is a rainy day? Well, you walk right on through it, trudging up, up, up the hills. At the crest, you find these makeshift crosses. They are a celebration of sorts, declaring for all: “We made it. Our devotion has brought us thus far, and will take us further still.”

Camino 1213 (Copy)

The hillside is beautiful with purple heather, and quiet mountains.

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In the folds of the mountains lie little Spanish towns.

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And as you walk in the footsteps of pilgrims throughout the ages, a saxophone player fills the land with beauty.

The strains of his song carry for hill after hill, accompanied by birdsong. Messages of love and generosity occur all along the Way.

At the top of a challenging hill, soaked by rain and chilled by cold, I reached the famed Cruz de Ferro, an iron monument sacred for many since Celtic times. The tradition is that you carry a stone with you during the whole Camino, symbolizing something you wish to give up. Then, prayerfully, you place it at the foot of the cross. Thus unburdened, you carry on with your Camino.

Camino 1253 (Copy)

If you are lucky you may see a pilgrim that carries a staff and wears a heavy wool cloak.

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Speaking of the past, atop a lonely hill near Manjarin I visited a handmade outpost occupied by Tomas, who claims to be the last of the Knights Templar. He gives pilgrims a dry bench to rest on, and offers a rather precarious outhouse with a stunning view of the valley below.

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Heading onward to Molinseca I encountered the most difficult challenge of the way – wet slippery slate and large rocks underfoot, both of these made worse by sore feet and general exhaustion. Still, the beauty was undeniable, and I appreciated the vivid colors and grand views.

Camino 1281 (Copy)

Camino 1282 (Copy)

The peace and solitude may be glimpsed by this short video, which features a the call of a cuckoo bird.

 

If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.

hiking, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Transformation Through Fire – Simi Valley, California

My little break from my photo series 100 Spanish Photos (now almost to 200) continues for a few more days, it seems. Southern California afforded some great photos when my hiking friend and I visited a spot near Simi Valley that was scorched by wildfire within the last two months. Despite the charcoal smell and barren earth, beauty was present.

The golden hour faded to blue night while spindly branches reached toward the sky.

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The moon shone tiny but silver overhead.

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And an alien lifeform glowed atop a hill.

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Won’t you join me on future adventures? I welcome companionship. Click follow or enter your email in the box on the right to subscribe.

photography, travel, Uncategorized

The Surprising Majesty of San Pedro, California

I am once again taking a little break from my photo series 100 Spanish Photos (now almost to 200) that documents my walk down the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. A good friend took me on an adventure in my back yard – Southern California. In particular, San Pedro. I’d been there a couple of times, once to visit the Battleship Iowa and a few times to take boats around the bay or to Catalina Island, but somehow I had missed these wonderful spots.

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challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Amazing Astorga, Spain – 148-158/200 Camino Photos

On April 23rd, 2015, I set out from Villaverde, Spain, on my way to Astorga. The hills, valleys, and red earth, were peaceful.

red earth

So peaceful that I decided to preserve the surroundings with shaky, dizzying video

Up I went to a squatter’s residence at the top of the hill, overlooking Astorga far below. David lives there in joy, peace, and simplicity. Here he is with my Camino friend Sarah.

Sarah and David

He maintains a little snack stand that is run off donations.

stand

On his free time, or during the slow seasons on the Camino, he makes esoteric art like this. He has made a humble home in the lean-to behind the tree on the left for six years.

swirl

Also atop a hill is one of the many crosses with mementos cluttering the base.

Camino 1123

In Astorga, a few Euros buys you admission to the cathedral, the museum, and the Gaudi house below.

gaudi

Inside, it is sacred, colorful, and playful. Signature Gaudi.

stained glass

inside

blue vines

The museum contained intricate, gorgeous illuminated manuscripts.

illuminated

beautiful

I could have stared at these manuscripts for hours. I had, instead, to get back to the albergue to wash my clothes and take a shower. A good night’s sleep and I continued on the Camino de Santiago.

If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Exploring the Splendor of the Past in Leon, Spain – 131-147/200 Camino Photos

Lest you think that León, Spain, a major stop along the Camino de Santiago, has only gorgeous Gothic stained glass windows to recommend it, let me assure you there is much more. Exquisitely fashioned bronze cathedral doors …

Cathedral doors Leon, Spain

Vaults upon vaults in the claustro (cloisters)

Claustro Leon, Spain

Claustro Leon, Spain

With incredible detail everywhere you look

Claustro Leon, Spain detail

And shrines in the most unlikely places. This one sat high above a city street, in the wall of an ancient building.

Shrine in Leon, Spain

Water features like this mesmerizing sculpture adorn the plazas

Then there was a visit to the incomparable Real Colegiato de San Isidoro. I could not take photos inside the Panteon de Reyes (pantheon of kings) that were painted in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Panteon de Reyes

Panteon de Reyes

frescoes detail2

The colors are as vibrant today as they were centuries past. This same building held a gorgeous illustrated bible from the Mozarabic period (Christian/Muslim period) from the Christian Dark Ages – 960 AD.

mozabaric

More walking, afterwards, took me past the ever-vigilant storks

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to the Museo de Leon and the gorgeous Paradore (state-run luxury hotel housed in castles)

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With beautiful details

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And the image of a pilgrim looking on … or up, as it were. Notice the yellow arrow in front of it. Such arrows guided me on my journey, kilometer after kilometer.

leon

The splendor soon petered away, into city parks

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And bodegas (wine cellars built into the sides of hills, right off the streets)

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I will leave Leon here, but my journey was not over yet. Stay tuned for more soon. If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Cathedral of Light in Leon, Spain – 108-130/200 Camino Photos

 

Little needs to be said about my visit to León, Spain as I walked the Camino de Santiago. As one of the largest cities along the French Way, it is a highlight of the trip. The cathedral in the old part of town is rather plain on the outside. But the inside! It is a marvel. I believe you will agree …

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~

If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.

 

challenge, hiking, history, inspiration, photography, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Discovering the Spirit of Burgos, Spain – 108-121/200 Camino Photos

The historic heart of Burgos, Spain, is chocked full of shops, tourists, clergy, and workers. Buildings are joined in a continuous wall, and the daytime is alive with motion and sound. One place is different, though. You can see part of it on the right hand side of the photo.

crowded

Here is a better view. It is Divina Pastora, a chapel and albergue just steps away from the great Gothic cathedral in Burgos. Look closely at its design. You can see the oldest part, with light stone, and the more recent brick floor added atop.

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It is a humble, quiet place. Simple. The complete opposite of the cathedral I will detail below. The albergue occupies the upper floor. It is small, but clean and warm. Alicia (Al-ee-see-yah) staffs it. In the evenings she sings in the chapel. In the morning she serenaded us awake with gentle guitar music and her sweet voice singing “Good morning, good morning, good morning.” The sound of her voice, the beauty of it and the sweetness, makes it my favorite memory from the Camino.

There, I encountered the Italian man I met in Santo Domingo de Calzada.

“Are you going to the cathedral?” I asked.

“No, I don’t like that you have to pay admission. A church should not profit from admission.”

I had heard this sentiment before. The admission price didn’t bother me, though, because the churches and historic sites that charge it must care for their collections, and this can be costly.

“You can tell me how it is,” he said.

I had never been to a Gothic cathedral before. The outside is nothing less than spectacular.

cathedral2

The interior can be just as overwhelming

interior

Vaults, arches, marble, sculptures and more. All of it designed to draw the eye upward, to heaven, to the Light of the World

up

Works of art meet the eye in all directions

pediment

 

closeup

detail

Even stairways are fantastic

stairway

But pathos lurks amidst the beauty. Note the upper right hand corner of the below shot, just above the chandelier.

stainedglass

It is known as the Flycatcher. A figure made in Germany, it rings a bell on the hour, and its mouth opens as if to catch flies. Forgive the blurry picture below.

clockguy

It is, dare I say it? Creepy. But it is not the only creepy thing in the cathedral. There are crypts, because medieval people wanted to be as close as possible to the sacred in cathedrals, hoping it would wear off on them, even after death.

crypt

That is why the bones of saints were kept and revered, like this piece of an arm

creepy

 

Still, the opulence all around can leave one flat. How many mouths would have been fed from the cost of this incredible place? It is clear that while it was created ostensibly for spiritual reasons, it was also meant to communicate worldly magnificence. Burgos was the capital of Castile and Leon.

Back at the Divina Pastora, the Italian man said, “Well, how was it?”

“Just fantastic!” I gushed. I handed him my camera so that he could look at the photos.

“What do you think?” I asked when he was done.

“I should have gone,” he said, frowning a bit.

I could not argue with him there.

~

If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.

 

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

The Unexpected Beauties of Burgos, Spain – 100-107/200 Camino Photos

With a restless need for travel, I have been to a number of countries in Europe. That, combined with a master’s in history, has given me the conceit that I am fairly well-educated and well-read. Why, then, had I never heard of beautiful Burgos before walking the Camino de Santiago? True, it is not a huge city – the entire metropolitan area numbers about 200,000 people. And the approach through industrial areas and barren airfields can be dismal. I was coming from the east, and pre-warned about the dull walk, I opted to take the river route. Placid streams, strolling couples, and floating waterfowl were better companions than choking smoke and the whir of machinery.

The outskirts of the city were crowded and dense, and for a while I despaired of enjoying myself in this city. But as I made my way into the old quarter, I was pleasantly surprised.

First, the view of the spectacular Gothic cathedral from the river

cathedral

Then, drawing closer, statues of El Cid, the ever-popular Spanish hero:

El Cid1

A noble medieval knight

knight

And a weary pilgrim, nearly naked. I was better clothed than he, but I could identify with his fatigue.

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Monuments stand tall

monument

Though if you look closely you can see that storks have taken them over as well.

nest

Until at last you come to this castle-like gateway, which leads to the cathedral and the old squares and gathering places.

castle

Further wonders awaited me, as did the bittersweet parting of my traveling companion. I will save these for the next post, though.

~

If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.