I've been pretty tired the past few days so I've a few quiet ones. Staying overnight at Barcelona airport wasn't fun - I was there too early to check in so the security people wouldn't let me past the main access point without a boarding pass, so I stayed in the main foyer area all night. The chairs here all had metal arm rests of them so it was impossible to be able to lie down straight. I tried to sleep sitting up but with all the security staff on their segways (I don't know it that's how you spell it – like Gob in Arrested Development) and the guy driving the floor polisher, it was useless. A couple of guys near me managed to get some sleep but one of them starting shouting in his sleep, which thoroughly terrified a group of Asians girls on my other side. An eventful night.
By the time I got on the plane at 7am to go to Santiago de Compostela, I was feeling pretty wired. I fell asleep on the flight but it was only just over an hour so I woke up feeling even more tired and like I was outside my own body. Me and no sleep are not a good combination!
Despite this I managed to make it to my hotel without too much difficulty an luckily my room was ready so I collapsed and managed to sleep solidly for 18 hours.
By the way, I no longer have a mobile – I accidentally left it at Barcelona airport as I was going through security. I had no credit anyway but I was left without an alarm clock, so when I had woken up after my mammoth sleep in Santiago I found a 2 dollar shop with alarm clocks. I had to act out to the guy at the counter what I wanted but he understood and showed me the wonderful collection of Hello Kitty and other Asian style animal alarm clocks he had, all saying things like “When life is smiling, happy for we be”. I now have a cute one with rabbits.
After my few days in Santiago I am so inspired to one day walk the Camino pilgrimage – one of the main routes is from France, making your way east along northern Spain until Santiago. This pilgrimage is a popular one and has been for hundreds of years since the tomb of St James the Apostle was discovered. The end of the pilgrimage is at the church of St James, where his tomb is housed.
Now I hadn't walked the Camino so I don't really know if it's cheating that I flew in from Barcelona, but I spent an afternoon at the church and paid my respects to the tomb. Directly above the tomb near the main altar is a bust of St James that the pilgrims hug when they arrive. To be honest I didn't know about this tradition but there was a priest there who showed me. I have never hugged a statue or figure of a saint before so it felt a little strange but I quite liked it.
The museum at the Cathedral was also really interesting and I also went along to a presentation about conserving the outside work of the Cathedral – all the symbolism of various statues and artwork was explained and it struck me how important Beauty is for the transcendence of the heart towards God. History books usually tell us that pictorial depictions of religion were widespread due to much of the populace being illiterate and I am sure this is one of the reasons it was popular, but I also think that our culture severely underestimates the importance of beauty. The idea behind this kind of beauty is that it encourages contemplation of the heart on the mysteries of God. For this reason I bemoan the church architecture that the 1960s produced.
A few times I saw pilgrims with their huge bags and walking sticks making their way towards the Cathedral. I witnessed one man's reaction to finally seeing it after the trials of the pilgrimage, a sight that is impossible to describe with words.
I wish I had more time in Santiago – I feel like I saw so little of it and it has so much to offer. Of course, it doesn't help that everything in Spain is closed between the hours of 1pm-4pm. They take their siestas seriously here!
Some of the parks - it's a really really beautiful town.
I'm now in Madrid – I arrived last night. Today I'm off to see the famous museum Museo el Prado!
One last thing I have to say – my bags now are fairly heavy – the big one is about 20kg and my back pack probably another 7kg. I manage well with them though and have walked up a fair few hills with them. But I cannot believe the amount of men who can't lift them!! In Turkey, when the bus driver would go to pick them up, there would be much swearing as he dragged them to the bus, being unable to lift them. The same happens when someone at the hotel goes to pick them up. I am thinking of declining any further offers to help from porters or bus drivers to save the torrent of curses that come my way:) My response? Toughen up.