The Italians sharing the albergue this morning were stirring before 6.00am. When the lights came on, there was no more point pretending to sleep, so I got up to and made my final preparations to get under way – pack the sleeping bag away, pull on trousers, bathroom, pack items in backpack and close, powder feet and socks, pull on socks and boots, ready to walk. One German pilgrim remained asleep. The Italians had already left before 6.30am. But I had yet to pay my bill for the albergue and for the evening meal the night before (and for breakfast). So I had to wait until 7.00am when the bar opened. There were a couple of other pilgrims there who had stayed in the facilities there. I had my usual breakfast, tostada (toasted bread roll) and cafe con leche (milk coffee) and was on my way just before 8.00am. This day I was again walking on my own all day, covering a distance of 24.8kms in about five and a half hours.
I passed through the village of Morille (4.5kms) in regulation time about 9.00am. There was an interesting iron sculpture in the local plaza.
I have no idea of the significance. To me, she looked like a school teacher. I thought she was elegant.
I continued on. There were dark clouds to the West, and I wondered whether they portended rain or simply cloud cover.
In the end, it was neither. There was certainly no rain and not much cloud cover. The day turned out sunny and quite hot, though there were occasional breezes which provided some relief. Whatever about my poor forecasting of the weather, I liked the picturesque look of the tree on the horizon.
After leaving Morille there was a bit of a climb. When I came to the top, I could see in the distance a very large town, very different from the small villages I had been passing through and staying in over the past days. I guessed it was my day’s destination, Salamanca.
If you zoom in on the trees in the very centre of the photo you can just see buildings in the haze of he distant horizon. It is a terrible taunt to see the day’s destination so early in the day (i.e. around 10am), because when you keep walking towards it, it doesn’t seem to get any nearer!! It is still there on the horizon.
At one point I began to think I must be mistaken, that it couldn’t be Salamanca, but had to be another town through which I had to pass, and Salamanca would be beyond that over the horizon out of sight. But after another hour I passed that other town I had been expecting, which turned out to be only a hamlet with a few houses, so I then knew the urban spread on the horizon was in fact Salamanca.
Fortunately the way led down into a valley and the destination disappeared from view. I walked through open cereal fields. It was steady walking, with not a lot to see, quite warm, so demanding perseverance, rhythm of walking and poles and mantra carrying me ever forwards.
Finally, I climbed out of the valley, topped the rise, and there was Salamanca in front of me. It was quite deceiving, for it was still another hour or so walk to the outskirts of the city and then into the city itself. It was not a particularly attractive walk into the city, under the highway, past some rubbish, along a fairly dirty drain, until finally arriving in the city centre. In contrast to the entry, the first view of the city centre proper was quite stunning:
The Cathedral towers over the city. The Roman bridge in the foreground is the pedestrian access to the city.
When I arrived in the centre, some of the Italian fellow pilgrims who had arrived earlier told me the albergue didn’t open till four, but one could leave one’s backpack there up to 1.00pm. Since it was already past that time, and I didn’t want to leave my backpack anyway – I use my i-pad and other things from it – so I booked into the nearest hostal which was listed in my guide book, the Hostal Catedral. So tonight I am having the luxury of a room to myself, an ensuite to myself, towels, a proper bed with sheets, and no-one stirring before 6.00am!!
After a shower and some internet access, I started to explore the city. Salamanca is fascinating. It is a university town (the oldest university in Europe?), so there are a lot of young people around. But many of the civic, ecclesiastical and educational buildings of the city are classic. There are also a lot of tourists around taking in the sights.
One of the highlights of the city is Plaza Mayor, a huge plaza, with the town hall, shops, restaurants, completely walled in on four sides with multi-storey buildings, lavishly decorated.
Unfortunately (for me), there is a week-long book fair in the plaza next week, so stalls were being set up in the middle of the square for displaying literature, which really spoiled the fantastic view. Nevertheless, I was able to fulfil a request:
Cheers, Jim! A beer for you in the Plaza Mayor!!
After the refreshment, I bumped into a couple of fellow pilgrims (from Alberta, Canada). We have decided to take the bus tomorrow afternoon to Zamora. This gives us tomorrow morning to see more of Salamanca. And secondly, reports are that 40kms of the 60km journey to Zamora are along the shoulder of the highway, so it is not good for walking.
Besides, for myself, time is running short. In the past 12 days, I have walked just over 300km, but Santiago is still about 460kms away. This afternoon I booked to fly out of Santiago on the 28th of May, to Barcelona, and then to Rome, in readiness to travel to Jerusalem for the month of June. So I have to finish the Camino in Santiago on or around the 24th May at the latest. I hope to visit Finisterre also. But I cannot walk all that way in the time I have left. The 60km to Zamora tomorrow will be an assist, and after that, I will take a further bus ride to a point where the distances and time will allow me to complete the 1,000km walk on which I had embarked and also complete the full length of the Camino. We walked to the bus station and bought our tickets for tomorrow afternoon. I have since met another pilgrim who is doing the same.
With tomorrow’s travel arranged, I continued to walk the city. I marvelled at the buildings, the churches, the decor. Here is a view of a side door of the Cathedral.
I had forgotten, but Carlos had told me there was an astronaut carved into the wall of the Cathedral. When I saw people looking closely and pointing, sure enough, there was an astronaut, who had been carved in by a sculptor doing restoration work in the 90’s. The figure is in the lower section on the left-hand side. Here is a close-up.
I attended Mass in the church of San Pablo (St. Paul), had a meal, wrote the blog, so am now off to enjoy the luxury of a hostal room to myself.