Thursday, April 25, 2013

Azofra to Santo Domingo de Calzada

We started the day at 8:30 after a pilgrim's breakfast of coffee con leche and the biggest croissant I have ever seen. (Photo 1)
Today's journey was mostly country roads crossing through undulating farmlands. The views go in all directions and are hard to take in. (Photo 2) Our first stop was a small pilgrim's park where others had already stopped for a rest.
We then went through Rioja Alta Golf Club. Although there seemed to be a nice golf course, there were numerous condos that appeared uninhabited -- one of those developments that may have fallen prey to the economy. We passed by the only bar/restaurant and on into Ciruena. It was smaller than we imagined and I'm glad we didn't have to stay there.
Our next destination was Santo Domingo de Calzada (pop. 5,600). We ate our picnic lunch in front of the monastery turned hostel and contemplated our plan. (Photo 3 is fountain in front)
Although it was now only 1 pm, we decided that this was a town worth seeing and called it a day, having traveled only 10 miles. We also treated ourselves to nice accommodations and found a lovely room for 58€ at Hospederia Cisterciense, a brand new 2 star hotel run by the same nuns who run the monastery albergue. Smart nuns.
We then decided to explore the town, but by 2 pm, the bustling community we had walked into an hour before had gone to sleep. All the shops closed up, even groceries. How does an economy function like this? It has baffled me for years.
We were able to go to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, which is also a museum and costs 3€. It is named after a hermit who decided to devote his life to helping pilgrims in 1040. He worked to build a bridge over the River Oja, establish a hospital and build a little church. (The hospital is now a 4-star hotel.)
The Cathedral was impressive. I know, you will tire of hearing about cathedrals, bridges and water fountains in the coming days, but this one is different. Construction started in 1158 but much of the real architecture occurred in the 14th-16th centuries. What was most impressive were the stark clean lines of three naves with rib vaults at the laterals and 8 ribs in the central vault. They are void of the usual decorations or sculptures, due to the lack of economic resources at the time. (Photo 4) The remains of Santo Domingo are buried there in a crypt on the lower level with a burial laude (sculpture of him lying on his deathbed) on the main floor.
But perhaps the most unusual aspect of the church is the gothic hen house which was built in the 15th century to house a hen and a rooster in memory of one of Santo Domingo's miracles. There are live birds in the cage. It is too lengthy a story for here, but roosters and hens have also become symbols for the city.
We waited out the rest of siesta and then headed out for drinks around 6. We ran into 2 of our friends from Holland and had drinks at a cafe along Paseo del Espol. We were then joined by Perry from Holland and Martin from Denmark. (Martin is a dead ringer in all ways to my friend Dave Linthicum in Maryland. He was very knowledgeable about films and politics, two of my favorite subjects.) We had paella at the cafe for dinner and topped it off with a sweet treat from a shop in town. Another memorable evening in Spain.


  1. Wow. Impressive trip so far.

    1. Keep enjoying the hike. The travelogue is great.

  2. That coffee looks so good! Love, your sleepy daughter