Monday, October 12, 2009

The Joys of Sunrise


The Camino can pass from the sublime to something considerably less in a moment. We spent most of yesterday climbing through a splendid forest of oak and pine before finishing the day at the Monastery of San Juan de Ortega (San Juan “of the nettles,” don’t ask me why), with its imposing Romanesque fa├žade and later bell tower. A few minutes later we were checking into a Motel 3 several kilometers away (real name omitted to protect the guilty). No internet, no air conditioning on a hot day (or more precisely, A/C turned off), and floors that had not been swept since brooms were invented. Nothing else in the area. But then this roadside disaster turned out a fine dinner – garlic soup and grilled beefsteak to be proud of. So redemption is always just around the corner.
Started early this morning, to get to Burgos (“the jewel of the Camino”) as early as possible. Haven’t been out walking for so many sunrises in many a year. The first picture shows the sunrise shadows walking into Atapuerca (on a paved road, a rarity for the Camino, but empty of cars). Atapuerca is riding its lately found fame as the site of the world’s oldest humanoid remains (800,000 years!), but the archeological station was not open at sunrise. That is one trouble with passing through places at random times. The second picture is a sheep lot leaving Atapuerca. Good sunrise light, still. But notable mostly for the sheepdog not quite in the picture. A very large, deep-throated sheepdog, who objected mightily to my reaching over the seven-foot wire fence at the left of the picture to take a picture without (much of) the fence. If it had been a five-foot fence he could probably have gotten his teeth around my hand, but luckily the combination of a tall fence and a large, heavy dog allowed me to take my picture with (nervous) impunity.Reached Burgos at lunch time, after 12 miles of wonderful country walking and 6 miles of slogging through barren industrial suburbs laced by crowded highways. The old problem of trying to superimpose a medieval pathway on a modern city again. But central Burgos is still a haven. A cathedral surrounded by other churches notable in their own right. In an hour or so, I’m off for a 90-minute tour of the cathedral, which will teach me more than I need to know about the 15 chapels circling the nave.