Flatter country with woodland paths and villages of stone houses with raised corn stores.
Uwe and I learned our lesson from the breakfast-less start of the previous day. When we woke in the unheated bedroom of the albergue at Albergueria, Uwe turned on the stove downstairs and broke out the supplies that we bought yesterday at the bar (Rincon del Peregrino). He prepared a breakfast of eggs, ham, and bread warmed up in the oven. As we were clearing up, the owner of the bar came to see if we had left – Uwe saw him put his head into the porch of the albergue then turning back to the bar. Despite being a kind person with one of the most eccentrically decorated bars in the world, he is, apparently, quite shy. We dropped by at the bar to say thanks and farewell before we left the village, walking past a small church, the site of an old courthouse (according to the German guidebook), and a dog, who took his time to stretch and wake up before eventually deciding to bark at us. This delayed bark seems to be a cultural preference among Galician dogs. I first noticed it in Campobecerros, and it happened a few times today.
Shortly after leaving Albergueria, the route took us along forest trails where we took an optional detour to see the ruins of the abandoned village of Cama and a 1,000 year old tree, which is just off the path. As I stood next to its massive trunk, I wondered what stories this tree could tell. It was already 500 years old at the time of the Reconquest!
Later in the day, we passed through several active villages and were able to stop for a morning coffee in Vilar del Barrio and for a cheese omelette sandwich in the afternoon at the super-friendly “Asociation Peregrinos” bar in Bobadela. We spoke to the owner there about albergues in Xunqueira – He explained that the excellent private albergue, Casa Tomas, had reopened and he called ahead to let Tomas know that we were on our way. It turns out that the original Casa Tomas suffered a fire, but the owner has reopened in a new location.
Our omelette was sandwiched in a wonderful dark bread made from “special cereals,” that seems to be a speciality of this area. We were served the same bread with dinner in Xunqueira.
Other local features that one cannot miss in this part of the country are the Horreos – elevated stores for drying corn. As the landscape changed from hilly to flat, with large, open, fields, we started to see them with increasing frequency. Like the tobacco curing barns that I saw earlier on this walk, they’re designed to allow air to flow. They’re built on stone bollards that are shaped to prevent mice from getting at the maiz. (Try it with German pronunciation). We saw some in use that date from the 1930s, and some more modern versions, but many of the old ones have fallen into disuse and disrepair.
I have also noticed that the fresh water springs around here often have a large pool next to them, with sloping edges on three sides. After some discussion with Uwe, we decided that these might have been places for villagers to wash clothes. But the design of some seems quite unergonomic. So perhaps they have some other role? I wondered if they might have been used for dying textiles or something.
We arrived in Xunqueira in the late afternoon. The town is small but has some impressive buildings – particularly the C12th church in the centre. It’s on an entirely different scale to the small chapels that we’ve become used to in the mountains. There’s also an impressive C18th inn on the way into town, which was built to accommodate pilgrims (but it seems to be a more upmarket hotel now). It has a Santiago statue on an external corner of the building.
We passed the “old” Casa Tomas on our way through the small town. It looks like it is being rebuilt. The new one is just around the corner. When we arrived, a neighbour picked up the key from its hiding place and let us in. We dropped our things inside and had a beer at the Bar Luciano, next door, while waiting for Tomas. He arrived shortly afterwards and showed us the laundry facilities downstairs. It’s great to have the use of a dryer again in this season.
There isn’t a lot of choice, food-wise, in Xunqueira. Since Bar Luciano’s welcome had been perfunctory at best, we took a look at two other two bars in the town centre and found a better option; Bar Guede was friendly and offered us a chance to start our meal with “Caldo Gallego,” soup. Thick and full of green veg. It hit the spot.
Tomorrow we will go to the hot spring town of Ourense. I have been looking forward to it since the start of this Camino.
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