Day 36 (2/Nov/2017): Aldea de Cano to Caceres (23km)

The first “rainy day” on this Camino. As I left Aldea de Cano, I felt a fine drizzle on my face; not enough for me to bother putting on a rain coat for. This happened at intervals through the day. When I reached Caceres and sat on the stone seat outside the co-cathedral, I felt underdressed as fat drops of rain fell on my skin.
Today, I continued along the same Roman road as yesterday, but the farms on either side of the road were predominantly “dehesas” – grasslands. To my untrained eye, there seemed to be very little grass for the cows to eat. Nonetheless, it seems that this is the environment in which to rear long- and short-horned cattle. I wondered if any of the animals here were the red hide “retinto” beef cattle whose meat I had enjoyed in Merida.
The road was good and the walking easy, but the scenery struck me as less exciting than yesterday’s rocky holm oak meadows. Perhaps the leaden skies and drizzle brought back my glass-half-empty perspective. I was filled with dark thoughts about war in general and the civil war in particular as I crossed the runway of the Caceres airfield.
Shortly after this, I met two more Dutch walkers coming the “wrong” way. They introduced themselves as Dick and Aneke, and in a short time we exchanged all manner of useful information about the road ahead (or behind, depending on your perspective). They joked about “Radio Peregrino,” as their main source of valuable intel. Of course, they already knew that there was a Dutch mother and daughter two days ahead of them. It seems they have walked all the way from the Netherlands, via France, then the Camino del Norte as far as Leon (?), and then the Via de la Plata. It’s not their first adventure on these paths. And that was it. We went our separate ways.
Caceres is a city whose “Golden Age” started in 1229 as the catholic kings began their reconquest of Spain. The city is a maze of tight, medieval streets that feel as though they ought to be populated with knights and archers. It’s not like Tallinn, which I visited earlier this year, but it has a similar, “tight and pointy” feel to it. In addition, I noticed that the shops are open in the afternoon. I didn’t have to wait until 5pm to restock with toothpaste, sun cream, and groceries. It’s like no other place that I’ve come across in Spain so far. That may be partly down to today’s grey weather. But I think there’s more to it than that. I feel as though I’ve crossed some kind of north south divide. Is that possible?
I get the feeling that the golden age ended some time ago. The commercial centre has that “stuck in the fifties” feel to it. In one sense it’s nice that so many independent, family businesses dominate the centre. On the other hand, it’s evident that, with the exception of fancy delicatessens that sell Extremadura products to tourists, the shops are struggling. Some are boarded up and graffitied over. Others haven’t been updated in years.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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