I rolled into Santiago in the early evening and on the walk into town hit the greengrocer’s hard. I was desperate for fresh produce and stocked up on fruit and veg. My haul including some wonderful cherry tomatoes which I sat eating with exclamations of delight in the hostel kitchen later in the evening, while chatting to a young American man who’d just walked the last section of the pilgrim way from Ponferrada. What I’d done in a few hours by bus, he and a friend had completed in six days, which is quicker than average – they’d walked over 40km on each of their last two days. No wonder the hostel was full of boot racks and people putting dressings on their blisters.
The old town is small and picturesque, full of stone buildings from the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods – the town had to be completely rebuilt after being destroyed by the Moors in the 10th century.
At the centre of it all of course is the cathedral, housing the tomb of the saint all those pilgrims have tortured their feet for. The cathedral itself is mainly plain Romanesque inside with later additions and facades. At the centre though, over Saint James’ tomb, is magnificent gold edifice, held up by huge pink angels and festooned with twiddly bits.
The cathedral includes an inner carved doorway called the Portico de la Gloria which is apparently a triumph of Romanesque carving. Most of it is covered in scaffolding at the moment unfortunately, but there are some terrific beasts at the bottom, holding it up:
I could hardly visit a place of pilgrimage without buying a tacky religious knick-knack or two for my collection, so I spent a very happy time browsing all the souvenir shops. Most of my bits of Christian tat are variations on the Virgin Mary (yes I do have one that glows in the dark) or Jesus, so it was nice to get a saint for a change. There are a lot of pilgrim souvenirs including T-shirts to prove that your favourite cartoon character has walked it too:
A band was marching around town accompanying a group of costumed people carrying tinsel decorated symbols. They stopped now and then and did a kind of walking dance and chanted a song as they marched. I’m not too sure what was going on; they had people with them handing out leaflets advertising a fiesta but celebrating what I couldn’t work out.
There were easier buildings I could have built from Lego, including the 16th century pilgrim hostel (now an expensive hotel) but it really had to be the main front of the cathedral:
My small number of parts meant I had to make some major compromises, but here is the result: