Day 12 - A Dance Through the Meseta
26 kilometers - 15 miles
We entered the Spanish Meseta today--early
Forty percent of Spain's land mass is made up of the high plateau, know as the Meseta. Largely treeless and windblown, the Meseta is blistering hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. During the growing season, the northern Meseta shimmers golden with cereal crops.
In Camino-speak, the Meseta is associated with a mind-examination walk, because there is generally no point of interest. It is endless crop land. No buildings for miles, no traffic. A few rock piles in the middle of fields, and a few plateaus in the distance.
The edge of loneliness. When you are alone with your thoughts in the Meseta, no one and nothing is gonna bother you.
We hit it early today. To avoid some of the Burgos city stuff, we taxied about eight miles from our hotel and were let off on the Camino by Pepe, a very Camino-knowledgeable driver. It was still dark when we left the car at about 6:45, and we were fortunate to find that we were about 200 yards behind a four Pilgrims who had started earlier.
We followed them for about one-half hour until the sun rose and we were able to make out signposts, arrows and the trail.
Down to Hontanas
The first half of today's walk was mindless and uneventful. The walk included several moderate climbs and descents.
Nothing to photograph----Nada.
Finally about mid-point through the walk, we reached Hontanas. A sleeping village at 9 am, the prime bar was the center of Pilgrim activity. The usual jockeying for position in line at the bar was taking place with a lot of early morning Pilgrims.
During our twenty minute break, about 50 Pilgrims stopped as well. At times the bar was not so comfortable--just busy.
After wrapping up our break, Jackie tried something different. New hat and pigtails.
Before leaving Michigan, her daughter Rhiannon collected favorite song lists from all the kids and put them on Jackie's iPhone.
She broke it out today, and danced her way for the next seven miles.
We streaked that seven miles. She was dancing and I was watching for bikes on the path.
En route, we passed the ruins of the gothic Monasterio de San Antón and the remains of its pilgrims hospital. The Camino continues through the archway across the road.
The hospital was founded by a French religious order believed to have healing powers. They specialized in treating a disease known as Saint Anthony’s fire, a disease that caused the sensation of burning inside the body if its victims. Other symptoms included gangrene, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, amongst a raft of other symptoms. The disease originates from a fungus infecting Rye and cereal crops are the mainstay of the economy in the Meseta. Some of the monk’s treatments were quite extreme, including amputation but many of the pilgrims that passed this way were “cured” through plenty of exercise, copious amounts of wine and the divine hand of San Anton himself and then sent on their way after being blessed with the ‘Tau’ or T shaped cross.
The remains are still stately.
Finally, we reached the city of our destination and found ourselves in a very, very special hotel.
The Castle And Castrojeriz
A now deteriorated castle, dating from the ninth century overlooks the village of Castrojeriz from a very high vantage point. We saw it many kilometers before reaching the village.
Legend claims that this was founded by the Roman emperor Caesar or possibly Pompey, but archaeological investigations have dated it to a much earlier time.
Underneath the castle the hill is honeycombed with tunnels containing bodegas built to keep the wine cool.
Those tunnels were also used in medieval times to provide protection for the people of Castrojeriz, as we learned on our tour of our wonderful hotel.
The legends and lore and life of this village is amazing, as we learned.
Emebed Posada Hotel
We have been really fortunate in the choices of hotels that we have stayed in along the Camino.
Until tonight, the probable favorite was San Anton Abad in Villafranca-Montes de Orca.
It may have been topped tonight.
We had a heck of a time finding the hotel when we reach Castrojeriz. The village is really cut up into three of four regions, and we couldn't find the right one.
Finally, frustrated by our search, we decided to rest outside a bar, order espressos and Cokes and see what we could learn.
"Eeees Major Nice," the bar proprietor assured me, when I asked about the hotel.
"Eeees only a few blocks, I show you."
He left his post behind the bar, exited to the building and pointed further up the street.
We nodded, and after drinking our drinks, regained the search, eventually finding a "gem" of a hotel.
Gloria and Raquel are the women who operate the hotel. They are unmatched in service, certainly much better than we've experienced at most hotels--including the paradors.
If we were to stay in only one hotel on the Camino, it would be this one.
Our laundry was done, a "homemade" dinner was made in the hotel, just for us. Then they took us on a tour.
The hotel sets on a main square. In the lowest level, the owners have renovated an animal living quarters area into a elegant lounge.
And from the lounge.............the special Castrojeriz secret----the tunnels.
Gloria and Raquel took us into the tunnel under the hotel and showed how it ended at a point, probably 15 feet under the street.
Apparently, these tunnels provided protection for the people of this village during the medieval periods.
In the event of attack, they headed to the tunnels and the castle.
It was super cool.
We were served a couple of wonderful creme filled pastries after dinner as part of our desserts. These were special.
There were purchased, as they are each day by the women of Emebed Posada from the Monastery of Santa Clara--a socially closed nun's monastery in this village.
Gloria recounted that upon each visit, she is forced to say a confessional in an empty room, then receives the goods she desires, without actually meeting any of the nuns.
She places her money on the closed lazy susan type mechanism in the wall and receives her goods. No nun interaction.
Another cool part of our dinner was the amuse bouche, prior to beng served our dinner. Jackie's amuse bouche included cheese, made locally by Raquel's family.
Coolest hotel we've stayed at on the Camino.
We are walking to Fromista tomorrow. Another longish day.
We hope there is more than Meseta.
Jackie is planning a music march.