Day 44 (10/Nov/2017): San Pedro de Rozados to Salamanca (24km)

I descended from my room at the hotel VII Carreras to find the bar and dining room empty. I shouted a few Holas, tried telephoning (nobody came to answer the phone behind the bar), and then shouted “Shop!” because I’ve always wanted to. After 20 minutes, I gave up. I left 40 Euros on the bar with a written estimate of the bill for my room and dinner, with my phone number and email address. I haven’t heard anything, so I suppose the establishment is happy with that. I went to the panaderia, where I was able to buy a ham and cheese empanada and a pastry filled with crème pâtissière from the taciturn baker. Michel Cerdan informs me that the people of this region are known for being less demonstratively friendly at first. (In a way, I regret hearing this, as it puts a filter on my experiences – and I no longer know what I am working out for myself and what preconceived ideas I’m bringing to those experiences. But I suppose its better to be forewarned). I ate my breakfast on the wing, as I strode out of San Pedro.
The city of Salamanca came into view in the distance soon after I left the village. Its persistent presence on the horizon was a good motivation to keep going on the path, which ran alongside a road for most of the day.
The country on either side of me consisted of large, ploughed fields. This was underwhelming after the drama of the landscapes that I’ve enjoyed for the past few days. I’ve been spoiled on this Camino by the monuments left by the Romans, the Moors, and the Visigoths. I amused myself with the thought that I was looking at territory that had been shaped by the Invisi-goths; a tribe unknown to most historians. The history of the Invisi-goths is composed of acts of omission rather than commission, which makes them hard to pin down. Next time someone asks “Who left the light on?” or “Who didn’t lock the door?” you could try blaming it on the Invisi-goths. It’s an answer that’s no less likely to resolve the issue than answers such as “The prime minister didn’t lock the door,” which, while entirely true, often provoke a negative response.
Of course, Julia later informed me that the fields to the east of this walk into Salamanca were far from uneventful. I should have been imagining the scene of the Duke of Wellington’s victory over the French at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. How fortunate that there’s a well informed German around to tell me about Wellington.
Once in Salamanca, I had to kill an hour before the albergue opened at 4pm. With my backpack still strapped to my back, I visited the national archive of the Spanish civil war. (Surprisingly, they would rather have me walk around with a rucksack than keep it behind the reception desk). It’s interesting to see how Spain has preserved documentary evidence of all kinds to enable a proper understanding of the events of the 1930s. I spent most of my time comparing the propaganda posters of the nationalist and republican sides. I noticed the famous photograph of a republican soldier, apparently falling in battle, by Robert Capa. I almost mentioned this photograph in my journal entry for Cerro Muriano, since Capa claimed that it was taken during the battle there. It seems that later analysis shows that the background scenery indicates that the photo may have been shot in Espejo. There is controversy surrounding the image, with the accusation that it was staged. Nonetheless, its significance as a defining image of the conflict is indisputable.
On checking in at the albergue, I decided that I don’t like it. It’s hugely popular among pilgrims because the facilities are great and the location right by the cathedral is unbeatable, but it feels constricting and bureaucratic to me. I don’t like the tone … I will probably find a hotel or an Airbnb for the rest of the weekend.
In the late afternoon, I took a walk around the historic centre of Salamanca with Julia – seeing the cathedral, the plaza mayor, the round church, and so on. The city seems so beautiful and lively. I look forward to getting to know it over the weekend.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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