Rain. Why´d it have to be rain?
- Mike Diamente
The brave group of pilgrims from Fordham University awoke in Sarria today to cloudy skies, a wet ground, and rain on the forcast for the foreseeable future. Undeterred however, the group set out to our next destination, the glorious city of Portomarin.
The rain held out for a good while, with the cloud cover keeping everyone cool, and morning coffee assuring that everyone was warm. Today´s walk took us through a variety of landscapes, starting with an uphill climb through areas of thick forests (in which my first Camino traffic jam occured. It involved two bikers and a steep hill) straight out of an enchanted Disney universe, and across rolling dairy fields with countless number of cows.
Along the way to Portomarin our group passed a road marker showing that we were 100 kilometers away from Santiago. According to the Church, 100 kilometers is the minimum distance that one has to walk in order to obtain the same indulgences and spiritual rewards as someone who walks any other greater distance.
Before I continue I must say that both the Kevins had a rough day today. While making his trip to Portomarin, Kevin S. unfortunately was unable to avoid the fresh droppings of a cow, while Kevin C. had water and wine spilled on him at lunch.
Once we reached Portomarin I felt I was obligated to start off our tour in style. We unofficially began our tour at a local bar after lunch, where everyone in the group tasted a local traditionally made liquor that was 100 proof. This liquor is not regulated by the Spainish government in any way, as long as it is made using traditional equipment and techniques. Although many did not like the moonshine, it was good to see everyone trying something unusual together as a group.
Since the city of Portomarin is the unofficial captial of the Spanish dessert cake ¨Tarta de Santiago,¨ I felt that I should provide my fellow pilgrims with some to start off our tour. With our taste buds satisfied I was able to start the tour of the city.
The city of Portomarin was originally built on either side of the river Mino, the largest river in Galacia. People began to settle there in the 12th century becuase of the bridge built by the Romans. The left bank of the river was known as the town of San Pedro de Portomarin, and the right bank was known as San Juan de Portomarin.
This bridge was one of th eonly ways to cross the river without using a boat, which made Portomarin an important location, not only for pilgrims, but also for economic and military reasons. Because the bridge allowed for control of the river, the town was always garrisoned in its history. During the Middle Ages the city became an important location for the Christian orders of the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller.
In the 1960´s the river Mino was dammed to create the Belesar reservior, putting the old village of Portomarin under water. However, most of the buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in a new location on top of a hill. This means that the town we viewed today is not actually the same city of mearely 50 years ago. The Spanish King Franco was the main voice behind the preservation of the city of Portomarin which I find interesting to note considering how strongly Franco felt towards the Camino and the Middle Age history of Spain. Franco believed that the Camino could be used as a symbol of a new Christian Spain, and the preservation of Portomarin was certainly a step towards that plan.
After talking about the history of the city, and finishing up any last pieces of cake, we moved on to the Templar Church of San Nicolas of Portomarin. The Templar church is located in the middle of town and was built in the late Romanesque style, but is unusual becuase it is designed to be both a church and a fortress. The church contains the usual elements of Romanesque architecture such as rose windows and rounded arches, however the church also includes parapets and other defensive military features to allow for its protection. The religious and warlike nature of the Templar´s is personified very well in this particular building.
After viewing the church, a few of us in the group went to find the famous factory of the Tarta de Santiago of which we were told that earlier Fordham groups were kicked out of. Although we were not kicked out, we did not find any more success as far as figuring out the secret of the holy cake, as the old woman running the shop simply closed the door on us and went back to her grandchildren.
Finally, a couple incidents during the day made me believe that I was truly a long lost resident of Portomarin. First, walking through the city I was asked 3 seperate times if I lived in the city and if I could give directions(I don´t and I couldn´t). Lastly, the waiter at the bar where many in the group had dinner was supposedly an identical twin of mine, so much so that Dr. Gyug came to find me to tell me to go see myself at the bar. Of course I was better looking.
(Since no one has the city after Portomarin let me just say, it rained really hard after Portomarin).
Mike (is awesome)