Yesterday dawned dull and cloudy so we decided to get the 12 noon bus back to Santiago. Before leaving, Ella and I took a trip back to the long beach at the entrance to Finisterre so that she could collect a few keepsake shells.
En-route we came across the German woman we first met weeks ago and have bumped into a few times along the way. Her husband had come to meet her and they were enjoying just hanging out. She didn’t speak any English and Ella has only a little German, but it never stopped us conversing every time we met. It was good to see her again.
At the bus stop we saw Derk, the Belgian guy that Ella cooked for one night, who we saw on and off for a couple of days and then not again until today.
The bus journey seemed interminable, and lasted three hours. It occurred to me that I had not been on any form of transport for over five weeks, probably the longest period in my life. My father was a sales rep when I was born and we always had a car. I can’t imagine any other circumstance in my life when this might happen again.
It took us a while to track down the hotel that David had booked but when we arrived we revelled in the luxury of space, efficient bathroom with soft towels, and lovely crisp bed linen.
Ella made the most of the facilities while I went out to wander in the city. I bought a pair of jeans so that I could keep warm in the evening and stopped in a cafe famed for its handmade chocolate and churros. The chocolate was thick enough to stand a spoon in and the churros were fresh and crisp. I couldn’t finish it all but thoroughly enjoyed what I did.
We had our final meal together before returning to the hotel for our last night.
We got up early this morning and I walked with Ella to the airport bus stop not far away. And after a few minutes’ wait, Ella was gone. That was it – all done and dusted. The most amazing five weeks had come to an end.
Ella is about to embark on a new stage in her life. After spending only one day in London, meeting with some good friends and collecting her belongings, she will be boarding a train to Leeds tomorrow, where she has never previously visited. She has job interviews lined up and properties to view. I can’t imagine taking such a huge step into the unknown, but I know she will work very hard to make a success of her new life and I wish her lots of good experiences and happiness in the coming weeks, months and years. She is a very brave young woman and I love her very much. I would never have embarked upon my recent adventures to the Far East and walking the camino if she hadn’t asked me to join her and I thank her with all my heart for giving me the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone.
So now I am alone until David arrives tomorrow evening to spend a couple of days together in Santiago.
I left the hotel to find the post office in order to send my walking poles home, as they are not allowed in carry on baggage. The kind man at the correos used a bit of force and a lot of sticky tape to make them fit into a box that is a bit too small, and then I went to the cathedral for the pilgrims’ mass. I arrived about 30 minutes early but still the pews are full and I finally found a place to squeeze into.
More and more people piled into the church and lined the aisles in all directions. When the mass commenced it was lead by a nun with a most beautiful voice which became hauntingly angelic when she sang many psalms and hymns. A list was read out giving the numbers of pilgrims that registered their arrival in the pilgrims’ office the day before, stating details of their country of origin and their starting point. I didn’t understand a word of the service and have very little interest in religion, but I was transfixed and enthralled by the beauty and grandeur of the occasion. Some priests became involved towards the end of the service and after the wafers were given to those that desired them it became apparent that the botafumeiro was going to be launched. This does not happen vey often apparently and I wasn’t expecting it, so I was utterly delighted to be present as it flew above our heads with great momentum. Here is a description of the botafumeiro from Wikipedia:
…….The Botafumeiro is a famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container, or “incensory”. The name “Botafumeiro” means “smoke expeller” in Galician.
The Botafumeiro is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church . The current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604.
The present Botafumeiro is made of an alloy of brass and bronze and is plated by a very thin 20 micrometre layer of silver, created by the gold and silversmith José Losada in 1851. It has a golden sheen.
The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world, weighing 80 kg and measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral, but during certain important religious occasions it is brought to the floor of the cathedral and attached to ropes hung from the pulley mechanism.
Shovels are used to fill the Botafumeiro with about 40 kg of charcoal and incense. The thurible is tied to the rope with elaborate knots. The censer is pushed initially to start its motion. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros pull the ropes, producing increasingly large oscillations of the censer. The turible’s swings almost reach the ceiling of the transept. The incensory can reach speeds of 68 km/h as it dispenses thick clouds of incense.
At the top of the swing, the Botafumeiro reaches heights of 21 meters. It swings in a 65 meter arc between the Azabachería and Praterias doorways at the ends of the transept. The maximum angle achieved is about 82°. The maximum can be reached after about 17 cycles, and requires about 80 seconds of swinging.
It costs about 300€ for each thurible “performance” at the cathedral. Although this is expensive, the swinging of the thurible is very popular with pilgrims, tourists and visitors.
The Botafumeiro produces large volumes of smoke. This is in accord with the well-known saying in religious circles, “More incense, less nonsense.”………
It is said that it was originally used to disguise the smell of the pilgrims when they arrived at the cathedral, which might still be true, of course. Groups of pilgrims or other visitors can collect the 300-€ fee to pay for the performance. I am so very glad that I witnessed it today. Here is a video from YouTube that shows the drama involved.
Having entered the cathedral when it was cool and cloudy, I emerged to brilliant blue sky and strong sunshine.
I am now sitting on a terrace not far from the cathedral square, having finished a hot chocolate so thick that I did stand the spoon upright. It had to be eaten from the spoon rather than drunk, and I am now drinking a very nice white wine. In the last few minutes I have divested myself of body warmer, cardigan and t-shirt, leaving just a vest top (and trousers of course).
I paid a steep price for my prime position – 3.50-€ for the chocolate and 3.50-€ for a medium sized white wine. But it has to be done now and then.
I have now been to a supermarket and bought a few things for lunch and have been charmed by a large square on the quiet side of the cathedral, where I am sitting on some steps listening to a guy playing lovely guitar music.
And now I am in some beautiful parkland just behind the hotel catching some sun, just below an ancient monastery and within sight of the cathedral spires. It’s hard work, this relaxing business, but I suppose someone has to do it, and right now its my job!