Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Santiago de Compostela I

I took a night train up to Santiago de Compostela, planning to see the town and then take the next night's train back down to Madrid.

A word about pilgrims: for people supposedly so wrapped up in the transcendant, life altering, spritual experience of the camino, they sure have limited respect for what some people consider to be sacred.

There are signs all over the cathedral saying "no flash photography". So everyone uses flash. There are signs saying no tourism stuff during Mass. So what do they do? Wander the aisles, noisily get up and down, stand up and wave to their friends, shoot pictures with cameras that beep.

I don´t know. I´m not Catholic, but if I´m in a Catholic church during mass I try to have respect for the place and the people in it.

At least I can take comfort in knowing that most of these people, at least the ones I saw today, were not ugly Americans. They were ugly Germans, mostly, with some French mixed in. And some were quite ugly, in the metaphorical and literal sense. One guy had obviousy just arrived by bike. He was in his biking gear, and apparently was wearing nothing underneath, if the prominent bulge in his stretch pants was anything to go by.

I guess pilgrim behavior in the cathedral has always been a problem, though, which is why Gelmirez cut off access to the saint´s tomb in the 12th century.

I have to say that I love Santiago and am kicking myself for never having come here before. When I arrived at 7 a.m. the place struck me as quite clean; of course, the pilgrims were not yet up and about at that point. I had some tasty chocolate a la taza at a little bar with a non-nasty restroom. Later I had some caldo gallego and pulpo gallego (when in Galicia, you know). Later this evening is the Corpus Christi procession, so I think I´ll be heading back for that.

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