This morning’s stage was easy enough, clear blue sky, sunny, a steady climb uphill, then a descent downhill to the city of Caceres. With the distance I had completed the day before, there were only 12 kms remaining to my intended destination of Caceres, so setting off around 8.00am, I was there by 11.00am.
We were able to leave our backpacks at the office of the Tourist Information and were thus unencumbered to visit the Old City. It has Roman antiquity, Arab history and Christian re-conquest. Unlike Merida, it does not have many particular “monuments” from antiquity (like the aqueducts, temples, bridges, amphitheatre and so on). Rather, it is more the style of the ancient city that has been preserved, the narrow, paved/cobbled streets, parts of the old walls with their various towers and gates, the grand palaces that were built after the reconquest.
Most of my co-pilgrims, reckoning that Caceres did not merit the same attention as Merida, simply did a walking visit of the old city and continued on the next 11kms to Casar de Caceres. Others considered spending much of the day visiting Caceres and staying the night (which was my plan). Some considered visiting Caceres and then getting an assist (bus or taxi) for some or all of the distance to Casar de Caceres.
Having visited the old city I felt I had seen and done what I wanted to see.
1. When I visited the Cathedral Mass was just starting, so I was able to attend Mass (a bonus – I had missed out the previous night as there was no resident priest in Valdesalor).
2. I was able to visit the Church of Santiago (St James). A “manager” there was rather surly, ordering me not to take photos (I waited till he had gone outside and then took them!), but was obliging when I asked for a sello (stamp) for my pilgrim credencial. He then declared that it was 12.00 o’clock and the church was closed, so I was hussled out. However, during my visit, I was able to photo the following items of particular interest:
Small statue of pilgrim over the door of the Church of Santiago (St James)
Image of “Santiago Matamoros” (St James, Slayer of Moors) in the centre panel of the artwork above the main altar.
During the early afternoon I wandered around other parts of the Old City. It really is quite contained, so after a while, I found I was crossing my tracks. I agreed with the opinion that Merida had more to offer, but I was glad I had seen Caceres and its particular style. It is, after all, declared Patrimony of Humankind.
Here are some images:
Mindful of time passing, mindful of the distance yet to be covered, feeling the urgency to be moving on, I decided not to stay in Caceres after all. (Intentionally)iIt was nearly 3.00 by the time I had finished the sightseeing, and I had no intention of setting out at that hour to do a 11km walk. Even when I retrieved the pack, having been without it for the past few hours, it seemed to weigh much more!!
The next full stage was 33kms, a big ask. But Casar de Caceras at 11kms was too little for one day. So I decided to catch the bus from Caceres to Casar de Caceres, reducing the next day’s stage to an easier 23.4kms. The 80-year old Frenchman joined me on the bus.
We arrived in Casar de Caceres and settled into the albergue. I contacted a retired Spanish priest who had been recommended to me by a pilgrim from previous years. The priest speaks English, having lived in England for some years, and lives in the town with his widowed sister. He came to the albergue to meet me and was delighted to have a visitor speak English. After a short, pleasant visit, he left to allow me to make my preparations for the next day.
I bought some supplies – food – as tomorrow is 1st May, a public holiday, and it is doubtful that shops will be open.
I attended evening Mass in the local parish, had a meal, and am now about to go to bed!