Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Monday, April 23, 2012

From Astorga to Manjarin

The Cowboy Bar in El Ganso is one of the most provocative stops along the Camino. 
Every guidebook mentions it. 
So we were disappointed on the morning we arrived and found it closed. 

Luckily there is a small restaurant/bar next door, 
so we were able to have our morning coffee. 
By the time we finished, the Cowboy Bar was open and we were able to peek inside.
 Eclectically furnished in spaghetti-western style,  
there was a familiar twangy music playing in the background. 

Coming from Bakersfield, California, 
the home of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, 
this felt surreal, as though I'd stepped through a time and space warp.  

I can't vouch for the food here; we had breakfast next door.
But you may want to give it a try. 
It's a conversational piece, at the least!

The walk from Astorga to Rabanal was lovely. 
Here are some photos of the trail. 
Actually, we passed through Santa Catalina de Somoza 
before we got to El Ganso.
Beer stop in Santa Catalina
The little Church in Santa Catalina has a pretty St. Roque
We slept in Santa Catalina, a tiny little village with a sweet Inn. 
We had a good dinner and were in the company of several bicigrinos. 
I had a headache from the heat, 
and the hospitalera kindly supplied me with aspirin.
We had no problems with bedbugs, 
but a few days later met a German boy who had many bites. 
He said he'd gotten them in the same place we stayed,
but in a different room. 
You just never know who is carrying chinches bed to bed. 
If you do get infested, people, PLEASE STOP
 and spray and wash all of your clothes and bag 
so you do not carry them along the Camino!

View from our room
Cool blue door in Santa Catalina
In the shade of the Roble Peregrino (Pilgrim Oak)
Nine hot kilometers later,
we stopped to rest under the Roble Peregrino,
a giant old oak which provided blessed shade.
This is a place of natural beauty
where many pilgrims stop to meditate and rest.

Albergue Gaucelmo in Rabanal del Camino was our next stop. 

We were really looking forward to hearing the Benedictine Monks sing vespers that night.
 Unfortunately it was not to be. 

The monks, we were told, were "on holiday."  
On holiday? Monks go on holiday? 
ALL of them at the same time?  

Well... there was a bit more to the story, one that will require it's own blog someday. 
But the bottom line was that a new group of young monks had come there 
and decided to make some big changes. 
Changes in the way things had been done for generations. 
Changes that the locals did not like and literally demonstrated against. 
And the demonstrators were not young ne'er-do-wells,
they were mostly little old grandmothers
who had enjoyed not-particularly-Catholic rituals
from a time long gone. 
The new priests were insistent on doing things "correctly."
The demonstrations got physical with the result 
that the monks took their "holiday" 
mainly to escape being bonked on the head by a rock.
 At least that's the story I heard. 
It was a protest that was apparently effective.
Could be just sensational gossip, 
but nevertheless, it was an entertaining substitute 
for the vespers we missed.

There was, however, a priest walking the Camino who offered to say Mass 
for those of us who wished to hear it. 
An table-top altar was set up in the back yard 
and this friendly young Polish priest said Mass, 
much to our delight.
The man in the white tee shirt was our Priest
We loved Gaucelmo! 
The hospitaleros there were friendly and helpful.
They offered a "tea-time" in the afternoon
where we could sit with other pilgrims
and get to know each other.

The beds were clean, the showers were hot,
the kitchen and library were well-stocked, 
and a pilgrim couldn't ask for a nicer place to stay.
Nice big kitchen at Gaucelmo
You will find a tiny tienda just up the street where you can buy food to cook.
There are also a couple of restaurants in the village,
but be sure to make reservations as soon as you get into town
as they also provide lodging, and getting a table could be problematic.

Next morning, we walked to Manjarin,
a short, but pretty walk.

Cruz de Ferro just before Manjarin

Approaching Manjarin

We had not planned on sleeping here
but fell in love with the personality of the place and the hospitaleros,
and decided it would be an experience worth having.

Looking at souvenirs
This is a nice place to stop. 
They have a little tourist shop where you can buy mementos. 
What you buy here will support the donativo albergue.
You can get a cold drink or a hot coffee.  
At certain times of day, Tomas, a modern day Templar, 
does a ritual to the four quarters, 
invoking heartfelt blessings upon all the pilgrims.
It is a ceremony that you will not see anywhere else on the Camino.

Manjarin is a throwback to the way things used to be
and if you are squeamish or prissy, 
you may need encouragement to stay here. 

First, there is no running water, which means no shower. 
We went to bed refreshed, but unwashed.
There was no modern toilet. 
The toilet is a pit toilet across the road where you (literally) 
squat over a hole which has been dug.  
No running water also means no laundry
so the sheets and pillowcases were... 
well.. second or maybe third-hand.
We slept on mattresses in the attic. It was basic but warm and cozy.
In the photo of the beds, you will see a Tau Cross on the wall. 
The Tau Cross is the emblem of the 
Order of St. Anthony Abad, the hermit. 

This Order had many hospitals where people were healed from ergot poisoning. 
The symptoms of St. Anthony's Fire or ergot poisoning were hallucinations, 
a burning sensation in the skin, bluish color from loss of circulation, 
and eventually gangrene.  
It was sometimes mistaken for leprosy.
The disease could often be cured by eliminating barley (or rye) bread,
 increasing the intake of wine which diluted the veins, 
and vigorous exercise, as in pilgrimage.  
The hospices of San Anton sprang up along Europe's major pilgrimage routes.  

Without a doubt,
Tomas is authentically reviving the spirit of the Templars 
as well as San Anton.

We were happy to cast caution to the wind and stay!
In the late afternoon, Tomas closed the shop, 
and his helpers began preparing our meal.
We sat down to a generous dinner prepared for us in the basic kitchen.
We enjoyed the company of a diverse group of wonderful pilgrims 
and shared stories about our Camino experiences.   

Kitchen an Manjarin
Just as we began eating, a young man showed up,
barefoot, dirty and in raggedy clothes. 
At first we thought he was a vagabond. 
He refused to speak
and for a moment, the air was tense.
I wondered if he was deaf and mute.  
Tomas had said he was not taking more pilgrims that night, 
but he brought the boy right in, 
welcomed him, and sat him to dinner. 
He apparently understood the situation.
Come to find out, 
the boy was a pilgrim who had taken a vow of silence and had no money. 
Without hesitating,
Tomas had shown us a beautiful example of true hospitality.

At bedtime, we were shown the way to the attic, 
up some very steep steps.
We were instructed not to come down next morning until the bell rang. 
There would be no early-bird 5:30 rustling-plastic-bag pilgrims here! 
 Joe and I were happy at this news!
I slept like a log.

Joe said he woke up in the middle of the night 
because of a bright light in his eyes.
It was the full moon, shining through the skylight.

Next morning, we awakened to the bell.
Good Morning Sunshine! Watch out for those rafters!
We rolled up our sleeping bags and made our way downstairs 
where we found a welcoming breakfast of
hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate, bread, butter, jam, and cookies. 

As far as we're concerned, this place is primitive, but real:
a very authentic pilgrim experience, 
and one we would recommend it to anyone 
with a sense of adventure and a taste for the old ways.

We set out once more in the rosy dawn, 
happy and blessed by the hospitality of Tomas of Manjarin!

Annie and Tomas

See my website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Pilgrimage Trails of Europe
Walking the Camino Santiago

Thursday, April 19, 2012

James Michener's IBERIA - A Thirst For Adventure

For those of you who are contemplating walking the Camino, 
one book you may enjoy reading is James A. Michener's "IBERIA."
It will help you understand the character and history of the land you'll be walking,
and entertain you at the same time.

From the back cover:

"A dazzling of the riches and most satisfying books about Spain in living memory." SATURDAY REVIEW

"A magnificent book, a noble pilgrimage." 

"From the glories of the prado to the loneliest stone villages... 
here is Spain, castle of old dreams and new realities."  

"This book will make you fall in love with Spain."  

While a student in Scotland, Michener worked as a chart boy 
aboard a Clydeside freighter which carried coal to Italy 
and brought back oranges from Spain. 
On his first trip, off Cabo Finisterre, 
he began aching to see Spain first hand.  
He rode a barge ashore at Burriana, 
and that was the beginning of his adventure. 
Michener fell in love with the country and its people.
He made several trips back to Spain up into the 1960's, 
and this book is the result of those travels.

Michener writes in beautiful detail about
what his experiences in Badajoz, Toledo, Cordoba, 
Las Marismas, Sevilla, Madrid, Salamanca, 
Pamplona, Barcelona, and Teruel.
The final chapter is a delightful look at Santiago de Compostela.

A master writer, Michener tells his stories in such vivid detail
 you can smell the heat rising from the dusty road.  

THE SATURDAY REVIEW says it best: 
 "A dazzling panorama... 
one of the richest and most satisfying books about Spain in living memory."

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is planning to walk the Camino. 
For those interested in knowing more about Michener,
this link has a short biography:
Michener Biography

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Castrillo de los Polvazares; The Fascinating Maragatos and La Covada

Note:  I apologize to my readers. I mistakenly posted an unedited version of this blog yesterday. We caught the mistake today, and hopefully, all the errors.
Castrillo de los Polvazares  is a quaint town that is quite striking in the early morning or late evening sunlight.  The village is preserved almost in its original state. All houses are built of stone.  
The cobblestone streets and red tiled roofs reflect the light and shadows, giving it an eerie and unique rosy golden appearance.
According to some sources, the name "Castrillo" comes from the closeness of the Castles of San Martino and Teso to the town.
The inhabitants of Castrillo were traditionally known as Maragatos.  There are several hypotheses concerning the origin of the name maragato. Some believe the word is derived from the Latin expression Capti mauri (captured Moors). Others say the Maragatos descended from the Berbers of North Africa who crossed into the Iberian peninsula with the first Moorish incursions in the early eighth century. This could be true, based on recent genetic studies.
Still other traditions suggest a relationship between the name maragato with King Mauregato, the famous Asturian king.
Rubio Laureano. Professor at University of Leon, argues the name originates from the days when they were famous as fish traders. They transported salted fish products from Galicia (the Sea – “mar”) to Madrid (Cats) on long mule trains, returning to their homeland with sausages and dry products. Thus, the name “of the sea to cats” which is reduced as maragato. 

These merchants traded with wine, fish, and many other goods. The transport of fresh fish to the royal families was carried out by the Maragato muleteers who made it possible for the fish to be in Madrid from Galicia in 4 days.
On the 20th of February 1367, because of their excellent work, Henry II declared them exempt from the payment of the Portazgo, a tax that all muleteers had to pay on arrival to a city of the kingdom. This attracted muleteers from other regions to establish themselves in Astorga and surroundings.
The Crown continued to give Maragato muleteers special treatment.  They were charged with the tax collection and the job of transporting goods arriving from the Indies from the port of entry to the Court. They charged double the price charged by other muleteers.  However, apparently, clients preferred the pay the extra cost for the security and trust that they inspired, as they were known for their honesty and fidelity. The Maragatos also ferried the monarch’s gold from place to place.  They were famous for defending the goods they were transporting with their life.
When the railroad grew at the end of the 19th century, the need for muleteers decreased and Maragatos became bar owners, sellers of overseas products, businessmen in Galicia or fishmongers in Madrid.
The Maragato houses, called "ant houses", were built on what were originally Roman ruins. They were structured to fit their trading activity.  The typical Maragato house has a large door-like gate that opens unto a central patio where the carriages and carts could be parked. The living room is on the top floor next to the bedrooms.
The town originally was in a different location. It was destroyed by a flood, and rebuilt in the 16th century in its current location.
Unlike other converted Moors who blended into Spanish culture after the first expulsion of the Moors in 1492, the Maragatos have preserved their identity.

They were first recorded in the area in the 10th century. Like the Jews and gypsies, their reputation as traders and businessmen and their success has occasionally prompted jealousy.

"Yes, in the past people around here envied us," said Isabel Rodriguez, who runs an inn catering for Santiago pilgrims. "But all that has gone now - we have integrated."

Although they share their folklore, weddings and food with tourists, Maragatos have a protective and distrusting demeanour that few penetrate. They play down any differences with their neighbors. Endogamy was practiced among them, but it was practiced among many communities all over the world.  (Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific ethic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such basis as being unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.)

The national epic El Poema del Mio Cid, gives evidence that the Maragatos were entrusted by El Cid and the Court of King Alfonso VI of León, to transport the dowry for his daughters, and the riches gained from El Cid’s conquest of the Moors in Valencia and Alicante. One of the transfers involved more than 200 horses!

Three hundred years later, Maragatos were indispensable during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. They were commissioned by the Catholic Kings to transport munitions down through the rugged mountains to aid in the reconquest of Granada in 1492. In recognition of their contribution to the liberation of Christian Spain, one family was given the title of nobility and was known locally as the ‘Salvadores de Castrillo (Saviors from Castrillo)’. Salvadores is still their surname today.
The Maragatos traveled throughout northern Spain from Galicia to Navarra and Huesca trading wines, oil, dried goods, bacalau (salted cod) and other salted meats and fish.
Over time dried goods and particularly beans become the backbone of their enterprise, since they were easier to haul and store than salazones, and weighed far less than wines. The present company, El Maragato, is owned by decendents of these tough traders.
The Salvadore family patriarch says that they chose the name El Maragato for their business because it suggests honesty and evokes a sense of continuity. But most of all, the name was chosen because the Salvadores family is proud of their cultural and historical roots as full-blooded Maragatos. To demonstrate their commitment to their community, they include a beechwood spoon with many of the bags made by handicapped people in their village.
In The Bible in Spain, an account by 19th century English linguist and traveler George Borrow about his travels in Spain —the author wrote the following:
“In a word, almost the entire commerce of nearly one half of Spain passes through the hands of the Maragatos, whose fidelity to their trust is such, that no one accustomed to employ them would hesitate to confide to them the transport of a ton of treasure from the sea of Biscay to Madrid; knowing well that it would not be their fault were it not delivered safe and undiminished, even of a grain, and that bold must be the thieves who would seek to wrest it from the far feared Maragatos, who would cling to it whilst they could stand, and would cover it with their bodies when they fell in the act of loading or discharging their long carbines.”

The main economic activity of people today is based on tourism and handicrafts. Its main tourist attractions are its typical architecture and cuisine.
Fava beans are important to this culture, and I found the high value placed on fava beans to be interesting, as these giant beans are also important in the Portuguese culture. I remember slipping off the skins of the salted favas at every festa as a child.
The fabada beans grown for centuries in the neighboring kingdom of Asturias are legendary.  La Granja beans from Asturias are the crucial ingredient for authentic fabada – the bean and sausage stew which has been emblematic of the Asturias for over one thousand years.

What makes La Granja faba beans unique is that they have an uncanny ability to absorb the complex tastes that the chorizo and black sausage lend to the broth, in much the same way as Bomba rice absorbs the rich broth of a paella. When cooked, the beans double in size and have a unique buttery flavor and smooth texture.
Production of favas is extremely limited because they need to be planted and weeded by hand along the fertile valleys and riverbanks of Asturias. They take 150 days to mature, in contrast to ordinary beans, which take 90 days. They have to be hand-tied to the vines, hand husked, and then dried in raised stone barns, called hierras. As with many of the finest products of Spain, there is no substitute for individual attention – you need to follow centuries-old procedures.
Maragato Gastronomy.
The regional gastronomy attracts thousands of people every year with the special dish being the "Cocido maragato". Originally, this dish would feed the field workers in a single meal preparing them for a hard day of work. The ingredients of a Cocido Maragato are soup stock, cabbage, chickpeas, and seven types of meat. As mentioned before, the meal is eaten in a manner we would consider backwards. First you eat the meat, and then the soup. This tradition is thought to come from the Napoleonic troops who not knowing when they would have to go into battle, would begin with the meat, just in case.
Cocido Maragato is made with to 10 different kinds of meat: chorizo, pigs´ ear from the previous year's killing, chicken, bacon, smoked beef, shoulder of ham, knuckle, cow rib, bones and pig's tongue. Ther is a filling made of beaten eggs, a bit of chopped ham and chorizo, bread crumbs and garbanzos of the "pico de pardal" variety, small with a sharp end. The soup has thick noodles or country bread and it must be so thick that the spoons leaves a mark. 

It is usually followed by natural desserts like flan or maragaton roscon, a sweet bread filled with dried fruit.
Moragatan Folk Rituals
Several celebrations take place in the small village. At the end of July, the small village celebrates its Roman and Asturias heritage. La Fiesta de Santa Marta is similarly celebrated the last week of August. The spring rites have been compared to the Lupercalia of the Romans, where a man dressed as a goat chases women, hitting their behinds with a stick or whip, invoking fertility. 
Other Moragatan rituals that stand out the most are La Covada and La Boda. 
La Covada is a custom whereby the mother, during childbirth or immediately after, gives up the bed to the father. In many societies this custom reaffirms the role or the legitimacy of the father and it is associated with matriarchal societies.
The term "couvade" comes from the Latin expression cubare postpartum (post-partum bed rest) and alludes to the fact that the fathers stay in bed to get the attention generally given to women after childbirth. In French, it means “brooding” or “hatching.”
For some time before the birth, the husband is required to submit to a strict diet and to avoid hard work or the handling of weapons and tools, to abstain from hunting, smoking, and other amusements. After the birth, the mother is expected to get out of bed, and the father INTO the bed, where he is considered ill. He lies in bed for anywhere from four to forty days, and is fed as an invalid.
The first documented mention of this ritual comes from Apollonius of Rhodes, grammarian and director of the Library of Alexandria, who describes in his book The Argonauts, how men get into the bed after their wives give birth, and demand the same care as the new mother.  This is mentioned again by Diodorus of Sicily in the first century BC, again in 1275 by Marco Polo, and again by the preceptor of Louis XIV.
In 1818,  the notary JA Zamácola Vizcaya ensures that "she just gave birth, rose from the bed, while her husband got into it with the boy. "
In fact, Until the mid-twentieth century there have been found some form of couvade in Lapland, Borneo, England, France, Brazil, and Germany. Even in the United States in Alabama and South Carolina, the father’s hat was placed on the pillow of the mother’s bed. This surprised me, since in Portugal, a hat on the bed portends an argument or even death!
I wonder what THIS would mean???
In a database of the Anthropological and Ethnological Museum of Madrid collected during the 19th century, there is evidence of this custom. In Ibiza "As soon as birth occurs, the husband gets into bed with his wife, drinking cups of broth like her, and placing the baby between the two." In Tamarite, Huesca, the neighbors invited to celebrate the birth approached the bed where the couple lay. The father placed his penis on a canvas and the neighbors all touched it, at the same time proclaiming their congratulations. Oooooh-kay?
There are many theories about the couvade; the expression of the magical physical link between father and son, an invention by the women to encourage the father to stay home to help her, or a search for balance between the masculine and feminine energies to fight evil, to share the pain of labor equally. Freud's theory of penis envy may explain why the man shows his penis to the neighbors. But really, the reason is lost to time.
If you are interested in learning more about couvade, there is an ebook you can find online called The Custom of Couvade by Warren Royal Dawson. Another interesting book on this topic is Birthing Fathers by Richard K. Reed.
The Boda or wedding rites of the Maragatos are beautiful.   From the day the engagement is announced, a trail of straw joins the couple's home, so that all the people can see.  This is most likely a blessing of fertility. 
The community organizes a choir to go and sing at the bride’s house, much like the Chivaree of the Appalacians in the United States.
In fact, the combination of the Couvade and the Chivaree customs make me believe there is a French connection.

The morning of the wedding a drummer goes round with the boys in town to warn everyone. They go from the house of the groom to the bride, beating the drum. 
While the groom's procession goes to church, the bride is helped to dress by the women of the village. The bride’s Godfather accompanies her to the church where her father solemnly blesses her.  The ceremony begins on the porch of the church, and then the priest ushers the wedding party inside. After vows are exchanged there is singing and fireworks. 

There is a parade displaying the marzipan or wedding cake. The cake is cut and the people carry the pieces home in cloth. It is traditional not to touch them until the following day. 

During the festivities, there is a “Bun Race.” The Godfather provides the prize. The race consists of passing a huge loaf of bread (shaped like a Maragato male) on a stick. Traditionally, the prize inside the bun was an ounce of gold. The race is followed by all-night dancing and a wedding breakfast.
Mitochondrial DNA analysis confirms that Maragatos from Spain are a genetically isolated group. Genetic distances between Maragatos and the comparison samples are significantly different even with the León sample which shares the same geographic area as the Maragatos. Although the North-African haplogroup U6 is present in them, their attributed Berber origin is weakened, as this haplogroup is also detected in surrounding populations with which, in addition, Maragatos have the smaller genetic distances. These U6 haplotypes are ascribed to a pre-historic African colonisation that influenced all the Iberian Peninsula. The presence of Neolithic haplogroups in this sample suggests that their isolation culture was not absolute until recent times.
If you have the time, the road to Castrillo is worth walking, especially at sunrise or sunset. The village has several nice albergues, all welcoming pilgrims on their way to Santiago.

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Alluring Astorga

Originally a Celtic settlement, Asturica later became a Roman military camp. 
Parts of the defensive enclosure of quartered troops, including a line of moats, 
have been excavated surrounding the hill on which Asturica Augusta was settled in 14 BC.  
 Its proximity to the gold mines of the area made it a very important holding.
Roman Military Camp Asturica
Plinius called Astorga Urbs magnifica (“magnificent city.”)  
One of the first three bishoprics in Spain was founded here, 
and the title of Bishop of Astorga is one of the oldest religious titles of Europe.
Roman City Asturica
After the wars against the Moors from 739 to 757, 
Astorga was abandoned.
However, in the 11th century it became a major stop on the Camino Frances 
for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.  

Construction of the cathedral 
(which began in the 15th century and continued until it was finished in the late 18th century),
 hospitals, and houses helped the city to again grow. 
The arrival of the railroad caused further expansion outside the city walls.

Green = fort  Black = Asturica City  Red = current city
 The walls surrounding Astorga are ancient.
 A new set of walls was built around 1242. 
Those underwent several repairs during the Middle Ages. 
The walls have a perimeter of 2,100 meters, surrounding 27 hectares 
with a trapezoid shape. 
They sport 30 semicircular turrets, each with an average diameter of 7 meters. 
These city walls form one of the best known images of Astorga. 

View from the walls of the city.
Consider a walk in the park high inside the city walls.
 From there, you have a fantastic view of the rooftops and surrounding lands.

Thermal Bath Furnaces
One of the most impressive public buildings of ancient Asturica 
were the Roman Thermal Baths.
 They were placed in the intersection of the two most important roads 
and in direct connection with two of the main sewers, still in use today  
Although you can’t see most of them, if you walk the perimeter of the city walls, 
there are a few viewing windows where you can see current excavation going on.    

Built in the middle of the 1st century, 
the baths were abandoned sometime in the 5th century. 
Ongoing archeological digs have identified a large frigidarium (cold plunge) 
and several spaces heated by means of hypocaustum, 
in addition to an apodyterium (changing room).

Roman Baths

The public baths were used for both personal cleanliness 
and to establish and nurture social relationships. 
Rooms were combined with water at various temperatures, from cold to hot. 
There was also a dry sauna (sudatorium) and a steam sauna (laconicum).  
The saunas were heated by underground air chambers 
fed by one of several furnaces under the rooms.

During excavation, several jewels were found in the drains, 
suggesting these baths were used by the privileged classes.

Ergastula and Museum

Here you can see Roman mosaic floors
One of the best-preserved buildings of Roman Astorga is the Ergastula, 
a large vaulted gallery, which is semi-subterranean.  
Today the preserved portion is a spectacular gallery.  
The walls and vault were made in Roman concrete (opus caementicium) 
and planked in wood. 
Construction may date back to 30 years after Christ.  
After being used as part of houses or private business, 
the gallery was eventually purchased by the city and 
now serves as the base of the Roman Museum of the city.

There is a great deal of information in the Roman Museum. 
If you have an hour or two to spare, be sure and visit!  
There you will find paintings, inscriptions, bronzes, coins, jewels and pottery
 found under the houses of the modern city, 
providing us with an wonderful overview of Astorga’s history.

In the reception hall, you can see the mosaic of the bear and the birds, 
dedicated to Orpheus.    

The Romans paid close attention to health matters. 
Sewers were built around their cities and ran under 
the pavement of streets and roads, 
enabling removal of sewage water into the rivers.

Initially shallow channels were built, but due to the city’s growth, 
a second network with higher flow rates was necessary.  
Around 80 AD, vaulted galleries were erected, sometimes up to 1.80 meters.
 These were built of masonry walls, complemented with stone and mortar. 
The floor was usually of slate.
In 1978 Astorga was declared a City of Archaeological Heritage, 
and its excavations became protected. 
Presently, more than 150 archaeological sites have been discovered, 
greatly enriching the knowledge of ancient Asturica.

Oct 1 to June 30:  
Tuesday to Saturday 10am -1:30 pm 
4pm - 6 pm
Public Holidays and Sundays:  
10 am - 1:30 pm

July 1 to Sept 30:  
Tuesday to Saturday 10am-1:30
4:30pm - 7:00pm

Other things to see in Astorga:

Santa Maria Cathedral

The Cathedral was built on top of a Romanesque church.
It was not finished until the 18th century, when its two towers were completed.

Its structure is late Gothic with some Baroque and Plateresque elements,
such as the main entrance and two of its towers. 
The main altarpiece is octagonal, a solution by its architect, Gaspar Becerra, 
to adapt it to the shape of the apse.
 The main entrance is in the flamboyant Gothic style and is exceptionally beautiful, 
abundantly decorated with plants and cherubs. 
The doors of the vestry are by Gil de Hontañón. 
Of particular interest is the walnut-wood pulpit with bas-relief attributed 
to the master Becerra. 
There are sculptures of great value 
such as an Inmaculada by Gregorio Fernández inside.
 The Diocesan Museum is located in a room off the cloister.

Plaza de la Catedral s/n
24700 Astorga (León)
Useful information
From Monday to Saturday
From 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Public holidays and Sundays
From 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Prices: Admission free
Services: Audio guides
In-house publications
Specialist shop
Guided tour

Gaudi Palace or Episocopal Palace

The Gaudi Palace (Astorga Episcopal Palace)

Antonio Gaudi is the most important Modernist architect in Spain, 
and one of the most famous in the world. 
When the old Archbishop´s Palace was destroyed by fire in 1886, 
the Bishop of the town commissioned Gaudi 
the building of a new episcopal see. 
The construction of the Palace begun in 1887 
and was not completed until 1893. 
The building comprises a cellar, ground floor, first floor and attic.  
The outer walls are made of grey granite. 
The whimsical inside is really worth seeing.

The palace now houses the very large Episcopal museum
 filled with artwork. 
 The building has beautiful modern stained glass windows, 
some with symmetrical designs. 
There are three enormous metal angels in the gardens.

Unfortunately Gaudi never completed this work. 
When the bishop who had commissioned him the palace died, 
the architect gave up the project. 
Nevertheless, those who continued the works 
tried to follow the plans as dreamed up by Gaudi. 

Open 20 Sept to 19 March:  11 am - 2 pm and 4 pm to 6 pm
Open 20 March to 19 September:  10 am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm
Closed Sundays and holidays
Admission:  2.5 Euros. Special prices for groups.
Tickets are available to both palace and Cathedral for 4 euros.

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe