Galicia and back again

Galicia Travel Blog

 › entry 29 of 49 › view all entries
After taking a few days to recuperate from the trip down South I headed all the way up to the Galician province in the North for 4 days. I stayed with a friend and colleague of my graduate school professor for the first two nights in A’Coruna. The next two nights, unexpectedly with another mutual colleague of them both in Lugo, and the last night back in Santiago before heading back to Madrid.

A’Coruna was my first and only opportunity to see the coast of Spain. The city is on a peninsula shaped like a mushroom, on one side of the stem is the marina and industrial port, and on the other is the beach. The top of the mushroom has sparse development except for some large military and academic buildings, and the pride of the city the Torre de Hercules, the lighthouse.

I spent all of Tuesday walking to, through, and around the coast line, old city, and the surrounding area between Rafa’s flat and the harbors. A’Coruna had a very distinct style with gallery fronts on the historic buildings, and some attempts at them on the rest. And much like the best of the historic cities there are narrow streets, some dedicated only for pedestrians. Passed the harbor is the medieval wall and the Castle of San Anton that acted a fortress ready to protect the city from attack.

My main objective and favorite part of the day was enjoying the sea, Ensenada del Orzan, and the beach. I walked across the peninsula, took off my socks, and shoes, rolled up my pants, and walked straight for the water. The water was a cold as it was blue, so really cold. Still though, it was refreshing and rewarding. The sand was very light and a close look revealed that the grains large and small were nearly transparent. I walked through the wash of the waves before sitting up on the beach, letting my feet dry, and enjoying the last of the sun.

Before heading back up town, I ventured again through old town, the harbor, and La Rosaleda, the harbor side park. Still with some time and light to take advantage of, I headed up the peninsula through plaza after plaza and eventually to a larger hill top park called Parque de Santa Margarita. The circular roman style city performance center, is built in to the hillside of the park and along side the building is a large waterfall. In the top and center of the park is a planetarium. The sunlight was nearly gone so I began my walk home out of the old town past the shopping centers, malls, and large residential towers, which only took about a half an hour, I think—no point in keeping track when I am not in a rush.

The next day I was up bright and early with Rafa to go to Lugo, where he works at a campus of the University of Santiago. Also there were a group of Norwegian bachelors students studying parcel consolidation in Galicia. I spent the entire time with them in Lugo starting with a couple hours of presentation on parcel consolidation in the province.

In Galicia there are a lot of land owners who own a lot of noncontiguous parcels. Thus, the uses of the land are split into small areas making profitable farming very difficult. These efforts are not to consolidate ownership, but rather to consolidate use, and to allow land that is not being use by owner, absentee or not, to be used for land uses complimentary to those that are use next to it. Of course all parties involved have to agree. On Thursday we drove for hours around Galicia, from Lugo to the coast and back again seeing the effects of the policy implementation. We visited one success where portions of the land that were previously used for growing and harvesting eucalyptus for paper production was turned into pasture and crop land to benefit the dairy farm in front of it. Now the dairy operators have a larger operation with 40 instead of 10 cows, can grow a large proportion of their own food instead of depending on processed foods from out side sources. Another dairy farmer has the same number of cows, but is not able to produce a larger proportion of the inputs. This form of land consolidation seemed to be very successful and very different then ours which focuses also on ownership consolidation and has generally, in my opinion, over consolidated and homogenized crops to a disadvantage.

When passing around the region with the Norwegians, I served as an interpreter, an unexpected benefit from this Yankee who was suddenly joining their party. Lugo was an amazing historical city. I really felt, here more than anywhere else, that I was way back in time. The medieval wall still encloses the city and you can walk along the top in about a half an hour. Vehicle traffic is permitted, but limited and the center is primarily dedicated to pedestrians. The city is small even considering outside the city walls, which is not nearly as appealing in character and charm. I over ate in Lugo big time! I do not know exactly why, but the two plates for every meal and a postre is too much. In Madrid when I only ate one the waiters all looked at me like I was crazy…That’s all! They’d say.

Going to Lugo was a pretty sweat deal for me. I was treated exceptionally because of my association in Madison. Not to mention that the Norwegians offered me a job teaching in their department at the University in Bergen. They were pushing for January, but I informed them that I plans in South America and that I was not in a rush to get to winter. But I would consider next spring semester (about a year from now) if the offer would still be on the table. They kept pushing, informing that my salary in Euros would transfer over as 87 thousand dollars, which was intriguing, but after taxes and the cost of living in Norway...hmm.

My last there I went out to dinner with the two professors and Jonas, one of the students. We continued on to a wine bar that featured ancient roman toilets displayed under the glass floor. Jonas I continued the night out and went to a few bars, and it was here finally that I saw the youth of Lugo. The sight was so strikingly different to that I had seen in the day, with mostly families, middle aged, and elder people. But they did exist and it was great to see so.

Friday I took the bus into Santiago del Compostela, one of the most famous cities in Galicia. For centuries is been the destination of religious pilgrimages as home to a number of churches including the famously large Cathedral of the city (People still make the trek today, including my lovely hosts Ceci and Lucia). I managed to go insude, but I forgot the time and that mass usually occurs around noon and walked right in the middle of it (I wasn’t the only of course). I tried to inconspicuously take pictures and admire the building in all its grandeur. Soon though I was glad I came in during mass time because I was able to witness the airing of frankincense throughout the church. In a giant urn that hangs from the ceiling on a pulley, they light up a good amount of the stuff. Then about 5-6 men from the clergy (there were more, maybe 15 total, I have never seen so many at one ceremony before) grabbed onto the other end of the rope, hoisted the urn up and then released it over and over so that it swung east west across the cathedral. It was truly impressive, I stopped watched for a minute or so trying to get a picture of the action. Soon though, all the allergy attacks brought on by Christmas mass of my past came to haunt me as the smell filled the air, so I tried to rush out before it got the best of me. To no such luck, because as soon as I got some fresh air, it was on, I must have sneezed about 7 or 9 times and had to take a few minutes to gain my composure before continuing my exploration throughout the city.

The historic center of Santiago is not much different from that of Lugo, except it is larger, not enclosed by a wall, regular car traffic is not permitted (only taxis and vehicles with special permission), and the younger population has a greater day time presence. The later of which is simply because of the University of Santiago primary campus. I only had one day and one night here so I walked and walked and walked, but unlike in London, I ended up walking in circles and repeating my steps quite a bit including my ventures outside the center. Here as well exists a striking difference between the historical center and the new town. New town of course looks kind of boring, dirtier, and well more like a modern city rushed, plastic, and processed.

That night I went out to a late dinner, eating more of what I had eaten in previous days, because like in Italy, Spaniards can only cook Spanish style, thus every restaurant generally has the same food. But I happened to pick a good place and the main guy running the show, an immigrant from Colombia, said he would go salsa dancing with me at the Conga. But it was only 1am, so the place was empty. He gave me a few dances before having to go home to his family. With this we walked to the university side of town and parted ways. I continued down to another salsa venue I checked out earlier, Guayama or something like that. The venue was large and full of young college students mostly fooling around with very little dancing going on. Around 3:30 I decided to call it a night since my flight was leaving to Madrid at 8:30.

I was relieved to be back in Madrid and see the friends and family I made in Spain. I spent them all in Majadohonda with Diego and his mother, both of whom took amazing care of me and did whatever they could to ensure my happiness. Saturday night, Diego and I went out to the favorite bar, La Parna to meet up with his Dad and some friends of his. Before the night was over we went to two other bars, the one in the middle being the worst full of men and impenetrable cigarette smoke.

The next day, Diego’s dad took us out for lunch for Paella to the best place we could get it being so far from Valencia, where it originated as a peasant dish (only made fancy and expensive by tourist appeal). The next two days I took easy, tying up loose ends and helping Diego’s mom, Marisol, around the house. I was sad to leave them, but so very ready to return to the Western hemisphere once again.
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