After five strenuous midterms I packed my backpack and met the group before dawn on Friday for our long bus ride to Galicia. I can’t sleep on buses, mostly because I don’t want to miss anything along the way. In Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux said he, “hated parachuting into a place. I needed to be able to link one place to another.” I believed in this principle wholeheartedly, and therefore saw the dry grass grow green and full in a dreamy daze.
We first stopped in Léon, a small, misty city founded in the 1st century BC, to see the Basilica of San Isidoro. Full of beautiful stained glass, a gothic design, and a crisp coldness, the Basilica was vast and impressive. The stop was concluded by a quick walk through the historic area of Léon and a hearty lunch, during which we discovered that a customary Spanish steak was barely cooked.
Finally we crossed into Galicia and arrived in Santiago de Compostela at sunset. Our excursion was filled with unique, yet refreshing plans for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday morning we arrived in O Grove, a quiet coastal town, for a small cruise around the fjord. We ate mussels along the way, occasionally feeding one or two to curious seagulls after our professor demonstrated how to do so. After a peaceful picnic by the water, we returned back to a walking tour of Santiago.
Before leaving for Spain, I hadn’t heard much about the Camino de Santiago besides a few musings from my friends. However we learned plenty during our tour of the famous Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, hearing all about the pilgrimage to the Cathedral and the religious significance behind it. We finally climbed the old steps to the roof to peer over the stretch of red rooftops in the historic part of the city and the ornately sculpted stone towers.
The most refreshing and unexpected stop was the visit to Las Médulas, the site of an old gold mine of the Roman Empire, on the way home on Sunday afternoon. After a quick stroll to the viewpoint we gasped at the remarkably colossal rich towers of red rock scattered along the landscape. We sloppily scuttled down the hillside trail through a blanket of fallen leaves and tall barren trees to draw closer to the towers and preserved caves.
While the previous excursion to Barcelona was glitzy and exciting, the visit to Galicia was unparalleled. Perhaps it was the relaxation after the stress of exams or the lack of expectations, but the break from Madrid and the escape to green hillsides and a sea breeze has been my favorite stop by far.