Day 19 to Murias de Rechivaldo - Goodness, Gothic and Gaudi

Good morning! I’m feeling totally rejuvenated after my stint at the Albergue Verde. Time to evaluate my Camino. 1. I’m done with mega sleeping factories. Picking the right albergue makes all the difference. 2. No more asphalt jungle. I can handle the miles, but the monotony simply kills my spirit. I prefer taking the longer, more scenic path. Like this morning. Instead of following that horrible N120, I’ve picked the mountain trail to Astorga. I’m soon greeted by charming villages, forests and fields. The sun is playing hide ’n seek with the clouds. The shadow play creates patterns as if the light is showing the Way. How biblical. The trail turns ochre. The Camino now resembles the yellow brick road to Oz. I should have worn my red shoes.

Camino de Santiago mountain trail to Astoria

As I cross the forest I come to La Casa de los Dioses, a mud house with hippies flags, stone circles and a huge food stall. “Self service! Help yourself” screams a longhaired dude. Eh? I’m hesitating. How does this work? “This is not a shop, man. Take what you want. It’s free.” I’m deeply moved by this incredible act of kindness. A total stranger is offering this bio banquet to random pilgrims. “Because we want to give a different Camino experience” explains the good soul. God bless him. I thought commerce had completely taken over the Camino. Not all is lost.

As I descend towards Astorga: another surprise, another rendez-vous with Remi, my French Camino doppelgänger. I can’t believe fate has brought us back together again. Alas, it will be for the very last time. Yesterday, Remi walked all the way here, now he’s returning to Leon. It’s the end of the Road for him. For the very first time, I ask for his email and Facebook. He says he’s not into that, that Internet is fake. “You’re right. The souvenirs are all that matter” I respond. We pose for a final selfie and shake hands like true gentlemen. I will miss the little French bugger.

Camino de Santiago - Gaudi's episcopal palace Astorga

The Camino gently snakes up the citadel of Astorga, another feast for the art pilgrim. On one of the squares I meet Andrea, the cute Austrian (Day 14). She’ll probably stay in Astorga, but I still have some miles in my legs. The Camino passes all the blockbusters. It’s Leon revisited. Like the Casa de los Botines, Gaudi’s Episcopal Palace is another tribute to the nearby Gothic cathedral. The Medieval fantasy style is pushed that extra notch. I have the feeling of walking into Neuschwanstein. The stained glass windows, the rustic stairs, the cross ribbed ceilings, the dark crypt and the neo-gothic chapel all scream for Siegfried und Parsifal. The Palace was only finished in 1915 and no bishop ever lived here. It was wisely converted into a museum of religious art. But the naive sculptures and paintings never overshadow the real masterwork: the building itself. It could pass for a medieval castle, ditch included. Which is actually an ingenious way to bring light into the crypt. Only the 3 trumpet shaped arches of the entrance announce Gaudi's surreal genius.

Camino de Santiago - Gaudi's episcopal palace Astorga

Next door is the Gothic cathedral, often considered as a lighter version of Leon. They’re equally beautiful if you ask me. Leon’s cathedral was built in just 50 years, resulting in a rare unity of style. Construction in Astorga lasted from the 15th to the 18th century, explaining the many styles that were added to its overall late-gothic appearance. The towers and facade are baroque. The portico is renaissance, the cloister neo-classical. Another big difference is the number of visitors. I’m all alone. There’s the vague scent of incense and a deafening silence. A magic light beam shoots through the stained glass windows and dramatically hits the baroque retablo. Absolutely divine. The adjoining museum of religious art is rather dull and dark.

It’s an easy walk to Murias de Rechivaldo, just 4.7 km from Astorga. Bella - the receptionist of the Albergue Verde - recommended the Albergue las Aguedas. In summer this place must be heaven. But right now, it’s feels like Siberia. I guess you can choose the albergue, but you can’t choose the weather. Good night, Camino. Brrrr.

Travel Essentials

What to see in Astorga?

Gaudi’s Episcopal Palace

Absolute must-see. Don’t be a cheapo. DO go inside. A single ticket costs 3.5 euro. Buy the 6 euro combi ticket that also allows access to the nearby cathedral and museum. Take note of the rather strange opening hours.

In Winter: from 11 am to 2 pm and from 4 to 6 pm.

In Summer: from 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 to 8 pm.

Sundays and Holidays: 10 am to 2 pm.

Closed on Monday.

Cathedral

From Monday to Saturday: from 9 am to 10:30 pm.

Holidays: 11 am to 1 pm.

Closed during the Christmas holidays.

Cathedral Museum

In Winter: from 11 am to 2 pm and from 4 to 6 pm.

In Summer: from 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 to 8 pm.

Closed: every Monday, Sunday and Holidays in the afternoon.

Where to sleep in Murias de Rechivaldo?

Albergue las Aguedas - Calle Camino de Santiago, 52, can’t miss it - +34 636 067 840 - Open March-Nov, noon to 10 pm - 40 beds, 8 euro - The hostels has a comfy dorm and some private rooms around a charming patio. Must be great in summer. May is unusually cold. I am freezing on the windblown sundeck. The pilgrim’s meal is rather minimal for its 10 euro. Kinda overpriced. Breakfast is 3 euro. You also have to pay to use the kitchen. Uncool.

The nearby Municipal is only 4 euro, maybe worth checking out. Plenty of little bars in the area to have a quick bite.

If you still have the legs and the heart, I strongly recommend walking to Santa Catalina de Somoza (4.6 km) or El Ganso (8.7 km). Two more charming villages with traditional architecture. Accommodation is limited there, so forget your ego, do make a reservation upfront.

Buen Camino!

Next episode: ‘Day 20 to El Aceba - The Weight of the Past’

#Hiking

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