Friday, October 30, 2009

The Saddest Story (with apologies to Ford Madox Ford)

Today we finished by walking across the new bridge to the new Portomarin, from which we could look down at the old Roman bridge and the ruins of old Portomarin, which have re-emerged after the reservoir which flooded the old town when the rio Miño was dammed in 1962 was allowed to drain.
The new town was built to include the old Romanesque church, every stone of which was moved block-by-block to its new location. That poses the metaphysical question whether a 12th Century church that has been moved a mile or so is still an old church, or merely a replica (I have much less trouble with the block-by-block reconstruction of a church in the same place where it collapsed, such as the Frauenkirche in Dresden).
But the more important problem is the new town was otherwise built with a monolithic architecture for its stores and bar-restaurantes, and a tract-housing style for its residential streets. Overall, the esthetic is high-end prison camp.
If I lived here, the only sadder thing I could imagine than living in this soulless town would be seeing my old town re-emerge from the water and mud so that I could look down every day and say, “There, those foundations on the riverbank fourth from the bridge are where I used to live.”
Apart from the downer presented by Portomarin, this was another day of walking ancient paths and quiet roads. The man in the picture owned a small herd of cows that walked down the Camino toward us this morning. A friend who had not yet amassed her quota of cows-coming-down-the-Camino pictures, took out her camera. The man gestured emphatically that it was more important for us to take a picture of him and his faithful shepherd dog. So we all did.
The old-trees-on-the-Camino pictures are, I know, hackneyed. But walking here is so timeless. I’m powerless to resist these photographic clichés.