Everybody who has walked the Way agrees it has much to offer, independently of the starting point of the journey: gastronomy, culture, nature, friendship, experiences, mysticism… Combined, they all make the Way a unique experience, even if repeated and following the same route.
This blog entry aims to enumerate some of the curiosities and “secrets” on the Way that may have gone unnoticed to some during the Xacobean adventure. Other travellers did notice and have kindly and altruistically agreed to share them with us. Credit where credit is due!
Incidentally, I will only indicate the area where each one of these “little secrets”, and not the exact location as I have done on our posting of the 7 most representative bridges on the Way. We aim to play the with the concept of “secret”, so you can all chase it by yourselves, but in some cases due to a real lack of knowledge of the exact position (even though I will always deny the later most emphatically!).
The Start of the French Way
Who does not know the starting point of the most famous route of the Way? In Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the start from Navarra of the French Way, you will be able to find this small indicator.
Game of the Goose on the Logroño
Very close to a famous church in Logroño you will be able to play the Game of Goose on this incredible 150m2 board where squares have been substituted for emblematic places and monuments on the Way. By the way, I have read somewhere or other a theory that places the origins of this game on the actual Way…one day I will dig deeper into this question.
A cave in Padrón
If you, like me, find one of the most attractive things of the Way its actual history and collection of legends, then this is certainly one for you: finding the ´Pedrón´(o big stone) in the town of Padrón. In Spanish, this reads like a game of words, but it actually refers to the roman tablet dedicated to the god Neptune. Legend has it that it was on this stone that the boat carrying the lifeless body of St James back from Palestine to Padrón (then known as Iria Flavia) was secured.
Those that cross Burgos on their way to Santiago often fall in love with its cathedral. Just before entering the city, some travellers manage to come across the church of San Juan de Ortega, and of those, some will also manage to locate a splendid romanesque sarcophagus that can sometime go unnoticed, in the shadow of the church’s beautiful capitals.
If you are in luck and you happen to arrive to Portomarín (well, more on the exit than the entry route) when its reservoir is low in flow of water, you will be able to see the old Portomarin. The old town had indeed disappeared once the damm was built, and drove the construction of the new one on a different location.
The Pilgrim´s corner
The city of Ourense has a bar in which every pilgrim has a spot. Part of the Sanabrian Way, the bar invites all pilgrims that visit to leave their signature on any of the hundreds of scallop shells that adorn its walls. Undoubtedly, a very original guestbook.
Route: Camino Sanabrés| Stage: Xunqueira de Ambía – Ourense
A very special prize, beyond the well-deserved rest, awaits those who finish the fourth stage of the Northern Way. After a small search of the area, we can find an altar, shaped by nature inside a small chapel. I will not reveal the name of the chapel in question, but will mention that, until very recently, it did not have opening time. I will also leave you with a relevant name: José de Lizardi.
Just before arriving to Puente de la Reina, there is peculiar trail filled with these particular rocky mounds. Also known as hitos, mercuriales, apachitas o hermas, these are usually used to mark the roads or specific points on them. However, on this particular road these posts are placed very close to each other, acquiring a more landscaping rather than positioning aspect to them.
We thank the pilgrims José y Maju for the help which has enabled the accurate addition of this site to the list.
The hidden salt mine
The Portuguese Way does also contain secrets – perhaps because, like John Ruskin, I am also fascinated by derelict buildings. We are talking about a slightly isolated spot, but worth seeking. The Granja de la Salina is indeed a location where nature claims back what once belonged to her, creating a truly spectacular scenery.
“Runes” of Mogor
Close to Pontevedra city is the beach of Marín. On the beach, close to the shore, is a collection of stones which have been carved with words and symbols related to the Way, and whose author is and will probably remain anonymous.
There is a small park in Caldas de Reis harbouring a small statue honoring the Apostle. The statue is kindly referred to by travellers as the “santiaguiño” due to its small size.
The fountain of wine
Close to Estella is a water fountain…up to here, all seems normal. What makes it rather special is that it dispenses wine as well as water, should the visitor wished so. Yes, you are reading correctly: wine. But what makes it even more special is that this is all free to those coming along to fill their bottles (o wineskins). But beware, and remember that wine might make you zigzag and hence increase your journey!
And this is all from me, folks, but the floor is open to those of you, Way experts, who might have want to contribute more to this list. We encourage you to share comments with us and other users. And don´t forget this share this blog entry if you liked it, and to continue to follow Vojo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Till next time!
Header photo: lacavernadelescriba (Blogspot).
Translation: Ana Padilla.