Friday, November 18, 2011

Santiago de Compostela

I have to do the camino de Santiago! Who’s with me?
In Galicia, Santiago is a sort of college-town. Most students from within the autonomous community come here to study, and the campus is very large and full of history. The most widely known feature of the city, though, is of course the catedral. Thought to be the place where Saint James was laid to rest, the cathedral of Santiago is the pinnacle of a 780km spiritual journey and peregrinos from all over the world have been flocking here to pay homage since medieval times. The traditional Catholic misa de los peregrinos has been conserved, but the ever-increasing number of pilgrims means they must now find their own accommodations instead of lodging in the church or neighboring abbey. Although this eliminates some of the old-world odor issues, the botafumero is still used at the mass as a show of skill (and as a bit of a tourist attraction). The metalic vessel for incense is quite heavy, and the act of manually initiating and halting its pendular motion is a task for a master. Even though I haven’t done the pilgrimage (yet!), I watched with awe as they swung the botafumero and then got in line with other visitors to abrazar, or hug, Saint James for luck.
el catedral de santiago

the botafumero hanging in the cathedral

Other novelties in the city include las dos Marías, who are famously--if not a bit notoriously--celebrated for daring to be flashy and flirty, not to mention unmarried, at a time when such actions were generally upbraided. Every day on the dot the sisters dressed up to walk the Alameda, and they continue to coquetear with passersby in effigy!
las dos en punto

There's also Ramón María del Valle-Inclán, a Galician author who was ahead of his day in spectacle fashion!
Ramón María del Valle-Inclán

In addition to its historical flavor, I fell in love with Santiago's winding streets and pleasant shops in the barrio viejo. For lunch my friends Téresa and Fran and Paula treated me to variety of Galician seafood--including the savory bocavante, a kind of blue lobster. This was perhaps the second time I have tried lobster in my life, and it proved challenging as well as satisfying! There may have been an incident of bocavante volante. That’s flying lobster—an unnatural act regardless of the language barrier.
I highly recommend Santiago for pilgrims and pedestrians alike!
cazuela de bogavante

Téresa and Fran with delicious chocolate drinks!

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