Another very big day. Today I covered 158 kilometres. Yes, that’s right! It is not a misprint. There is no decimal point missing. One hundred and fifty-eight kilometres. “Impossible!”, you say, as did the two pilgrims when I arrived in the albergue in Santa Marta?!
Not so! I did the distance in two bus trips, the first from Salamanca to Zamora, 68.4 kms. as planned yesterday (which saved me 3 days’ walking – though some of the hardy veterans do it in two!!). But when I arrived in Zamora I found, not to my surprise, that there were no buses to Santa Marta de Tera, where I had hoped to get to the next day, on the weekend. I could not afford to wait till Monday, so I had only a couple of hours in Zamora and then caught the 5.30pm bus to Santa Marta, another 89.6kms (which saved me a further four and a half days’ walking), for a total of 158kms. But I am getting ahead of myself, so back to the beginning of the day.
I enjoyed the luxury of a hostal room to myself, woke at the usual time around 6.00am, but promptly turned over and went back to sleep again. I got up late, had a morning shower for the first time in weeks (usually I shower in the afternoon after walking) and then went to the Cathedral. I had seen that there was a Mass scheduled for 9.30am. The door was open so I went in, made my way to the sacristy, made myself known and was invited to concelebrate. The Mass was held in one of the side chapels. There were very few in the congregation, only about 8 people, including the Canadian pilgrims who had seen the open door and come in to investigate. I was very pleased to have offered the Eucharist in the Cathedral of Salamanca.
Afterwards I did the tourist “tour” of the Cathedral. It is amazing. It soars. The pillars rise up to enormous height, drawing the mind and the spirit upwards. Photos do not do it justice.
Adjacent to the “new” Cathedral is the “old” Cathedral. Amazingly, the people did not destroy the old to build the new, but preserved the old and built the new right next to it, almost as if the new were sheltering the old.
One of the side chapels of the new Cathedral is dedicated to St James and St Teresa of Avila, the patron saints of Spain. There is a statue of St James as a pilgrim.
Salamanca is famous as a University town. The Cathedral had a part to play in that historically, as the church was heavily involved in education and some classes were even conducted in the cathedral cloisters. There are many university buildings in the centre of the city, housing different faculties, libraries and administration. Here is a photo of the main entrance to the University.
The Church is still heavily involved in education in Salamanca. There is a very large seminary there. Different congregations have houses there, Jesuits, Dominicans, Augustinians and so on. In fact, there is a Pontifical University, offering degrees in Catholic theology.
Around midday I collected my backpack from the hostal. I had not been carrying it since I checked in the day before, so to put it on, it suddenly felt very heavy! I made my way to the bus station, met my Canadian co-pilgrims, and we set off for Zamora. It was only 60kms and was done in an hour, but it saved us a three-day walk. As we went along, I could catch occasional glimpses of the camino pilgrim path close besides the motorway. The terrain was mostly flat, past cereal fields, nothing much to see, on a hot, windless day, so I was quite glad to be in the bus! I was happy not to be walking. However, I did snap a photo out of the window of a pilgrim as he made his way along.
As I mentioned above, when I arrived in Zamora I discovered that there would not be a bus to Santa Marta de Tera until Monday afternoon (My thanks to the Canadian couple, the husband was born in Mexico, so was fluent in Spanish, and readily agreed to assist me find the information). I could not afford to wait three days! So I made an on-the-spot decision to avail of the opportunity of a 5.30 bus later that afternoon. That meant that I only had three hours in total in Zamora. However, I consoled myself that I had had a good afternoon, evening and morning in Salamanca, that there were only so many things that one could see, and that after a while, the churches and buildings all became a bit of a blur!! I would take what opportunity I had and make the most of it.
Zamora is famous for the Easter processions. Here is a statue outside the Church of St John the Baptist in the plaza mayor (the main square). There was also a museum of the Easter processions, but unfortunately I did not have time to see it.
I also visited the Cathedral in Zamora. It is not on quite the grand scale of its neighbour in Salamanca, but is impressive in its own right. They style of decoration was surprisingly different, using a lot more colour and oil painting on the walls.
Like most Spanish churches, there are side chapels along both sides. Here is an astonishing silver altarpiece, containing tabernacle and rich decoration.
There were a few statues around the streets. Here is a battering ram, literally!!
Regretfully, I had to leave my exploration of Zamora and get to the bus station. I caught the bus. It was a strange sensation. I had a map in my hand, but could not recognise any of the place names through which we went! I had to trust the bus to get me to my intended destination. It was a “rural” bus, rather than an intercity one, and was going on byroads that the intercity buses would not take. That is why there for this route there are only services on weekdays, not on weekends.
As before Zamora, the terrain afterwards was also quite flat. Again, I occasionally caught a glimpse of the pilgrim camino path. Along the ridges there were banks of wind-towers for generating electricity. I noticed one bank of 30 or more towers among which only one turbine was moving. It was a very still, hot day. Again, I was glad to be on the bus and not walking!!
Later the terrain became more interesting, some undulations, quite a lot of forest growth, poplar or ash, which looked very attractive. I was sorry then to be whizzing past it, but anticipate that I will get to see more of the same in the coming couple of weeks.
I arrived at Santa Marta de Tera after about an hour and half. The bus dropped me off in front of the church, which advertised the albergue for pilgrims. I was welcomed and settled in quickly. The albergue is new, clean, with all facilities (washing machine, washing troughs, heaters etc). It is in a house donated for that purpose by a local pilgrim and devotee of the Camino. There were only two other pilgrims in residence, a Spanish woman (Basque) and a French woman, both my vintage, so I had a room to myself (with 6 other double-storey bunks).
Having settled in, I visited the local 11th century church and museum. The church was really lovely. Simple, but elegant. The evening light streaming through the West facing front windows made photography in that direction difficult, but here is a photo from the front, over the altar, towards the pews.
I thought that despite all the grand churches I had seen during the day, which inspired awe and “wow” factor, this, the oldest, was probably the loveliest. It was simple, well-proportioned and a place of peace.
A feature of the church is that on the outside South wall over the doorway there is a very early statue of St James the Pilgrim, said to be the first showing him in pilgrim gear (conch shell and staff).
There was no cafe or restaurant in the town, but at the bar (I didn’t want to stay there as they were watching bull-fighting on TV) I was directed to a shop, bought bread, cheese and tomato, and had a hearty meal, the first in the day! Then I wrote the blog, too late to go to the bar and post, so went to bed.
Tomorrow I walk again!!