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Buen Camino

I want to first start by saying that the music video FINALLY CAME OUT. You can’t see much of me in it. Not only are the extras not exactly in focus, but literally the full extent of my appearance is approximately 1/10 of a second. For your convenience, I have uploaded a fancy-pants screenshot of my presence. It is a pretty good song, too.

Our final official trip for Duke in Madrid was to the north of Spain to the region known as Galicia. Galicia, like Cataluña and País Vasco, has its own language that rather closely resembles Portuguese–in fact, the two were originally the same language. It also is similar enough to Spanish that most speakers can read and understand it without difficulty. However, in contrast to the nationalistic attitudes of Cataluña and País Vasco, Galicia is more than happy to be part of Spain–and for this reason I admire them.

I think the culture merits mentioning as well. Galicia, due to its location, shares a significant amount of its culture with the Celts. This ranges from everything from dances to bagpipes to landscape (sharp rocky coastline and high cliffs). In contrast to the South, Galicia has very little Arab influence. While the Muslims held Al Andalus (now Andalucía) for 700 years, their presence was only made known in Galicia for a mere 36. For this reason, their cultural and architectural impact is largely nonexistent in this community.

The first city we went to was La Coruña, a coastal town that, like much of Galicia, thrives off the seafood industry. Our tour, led by the glorious Paula from the University of Santiago de Compostela, directed us through the city–an examination of the architecture and their way of life.

The Tower of Hercules - Click to Enlarge

The first real monument we saw on the trip was the illustrious Tower of Hercules. Originally built by the Ancient Romans, the tower is used as a lighthouse and has remained in constant use since the 2nd century A.D. The Tower couldn’t be in a more picturesque location–it’s simply stunning, overlooking the sharp rocks along the coast while also giving you a glimpse of La Coruña’s “skyline”. It’s a 180 foot climb to the top, but totally vale la pena.

Panorama of La Coruña - Click to Enlarge

After visiting the tower, we were given free time, and Thea, Mónica and I chose to go to the beautiful pebble beach and relax with a bottle of wine. It was warm, but not hot, and there were surfers were practicing. It was a peaceful afternoon. I also somehow managed to get sunburn, but what can you do?

The pebble beach... Not to be confused with Pebble Beach - Click to Enlarge

Later on in the trip, we headed toward Santiago de Compostela. The city turned out to possibly be my favorite of my entire time here (perhaps tied with Toledo)–it’s everything I could want: old architecture, tons of history, lots of cultural significance, and plenty to do. It is also the final destination along the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage running from France to Galicia. The history of the Camino is quite extensive and beautiful, beginning before Christianity as pilgrims began trekking in the direction of the Milky Way. Over time, with the burial of the apostle Saint James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the journey obtained religious significance. While today, the “official” pilgrimage is a one-way trip from France, originally of course it was a two-way trip from wherever you lived to the Cathedral. The symbol of the pilgrim, a shell, was obtained and displayed as the sign of the completion of the pilgrimage. The Camino has really been revived lately; in 1983 there were only 13 pilgrims who completed the journey versus a projected 270,000+ who will make the trip in 2010.

In addition to just learning about the camino, we actually had the opportunity to walk about 8 km of it or so. And it truly was amazing. The path ranged from concrete to gravel to dirt, from flat to hilly. The cool thing about it is that, once on the trail, all you have to do is follow the yellow arrows painted along the trail all the way to the church. Not to say the trip itself is easy–it’s not–but it’s at least difficult to get lost. Just follow the yellow brick road.. err, arrows.

Panorama of Santiago de Compostela - Click to Enlarge

In Santiago de Compostela, we toured the University (beautiful), as well as parts of the city in general. We also had the opportunity to walk around on top of the cathedral, which gives a breathtaking view. Again, check out the photos, but I’ll put the panorama here:

Panorama from the top of the Cathedral - Click to Enlarge

After prancing around the tops of buildings, we took a plane flight back to Madrid, where I stayed in the airport. My next flight to Berlin departed only two and a half hours after I got back to Madrid. The next blog post will outline my time in Berlin with Señor Felipe Gaitan. Until then, thanks for reading!

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Categories: Language
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