Nothing worse than hearing the alarm at 6 in the morning… oh wait… waking up 20 minutes BEFORE the alarm goes off is worse. Well, at least I will not miss the bus. Packing my stuff, eating breakfast – of course I put clothes on – what did you think and then downstairs to call a Bolt taxi.
The driver arrives after 5 minutes and the trip costs about 4 Euro to the city center. Meeting point for the trip to Santiago de Compostela in Spain is the office of the company Living Tours that I found on the GetYourGuide app. 85 Euro for the trip.
I am as always a little bit early. But I didn’t know how the traffic is in Porto on a Monday morning. Several people arrive after me and 15 minutes before the scheduled departure you check in. I get a card with a number 2 on it and will be called when the driver arrives.
The driver is a little late. The small group of 8 people fits in this small bus – me in the front. An US family, two women from Florida and mother and daughter from Chile. Our driver Francisco starts the tour by telling us, that we have to change the bus, since he got a Christmas tree on the dashboard and he would like to have a working vehicle. That is done fast and we are on the way. Me sitting in the front to give the others more space. Premium view. 🙂
Francisco gives us a lot of information. All about the history of Portugal, the region and an the end coming to the history of Saint James and the city of Santiago (San Tiago = Saint James in Latin). A lot of interesting stuff that is to much to repeat.
About 40 km before Santiago de Compostela we do a little coffee stop and stretch our legs before we drive the last 30 minutes to our goal. The bus is parked in a garage by the old town and Francisco is taking us to the cathedral square. Since I have not booked the lunch I have bout 3,5 hours to explore the city.
It is the day before the day of Saint James. There is some pilgrim activity in the city and lots of tourists. Our guide told us that people who did the pilgrimage react differently to arriving. Some cry – and I am sure it is because they found out that there are busses to the city. (I know I will go to hell for this^^).
3,5 hours and a new country for Geocaching. country no. 35. Starting at the square I start my tour through the city. Always in the direction of the next Geocache. I enter different churches, so don’t ask what the names were. I think each Saint has his own church. I smelt a little bit of sulphur coming from me every time I entered, but I didn’t go up in flames. 😀
What I like about these old cities are the narrow streets that suddenly open up into squares. Santiago de Compostela is such a city. A lot of interesting architecture, a lot of churches and chapels, squares and most of the houses are well maintained. Some need a little bit of paint, but they are the exception. I also find the Mercado De Abartos De Santiago. A very nice group of buildings, each dedicated to one type of food – meat, vegetables, fish etc. I just saw some people going there and followed them. The best way to explore a city is to get lost in it.
Since our guide told us to visit the cathedral after the mass for the pilgrims I do just that. There is no long wait in line. And it is free to enter. Not the biggest cathedral, but they sure have a lot of gold and other stuff at the altar. At the same time they want your donations in every corner. Unbelievable.
You enter on the side entrance and leave through another side entrance. The main entrance is closed. You also have the chance to visit the remains of Saint James under the altar. The cue is long outside to see some bones. It is said that you can wish for something – i might have a list of people that I wish have an itchy bum and short arms – but I stand over.
Before leaving I see a group of pilgrims that enter the cathedral square together singing and go to kilometer 0 in the center of the square.
We were lucky on the weather- On the drive here we had some heavy rain, but it is dry throughout the stay. You cannot see everything in a short time, but a good impression of the city. One thing I see old cities have in common. They are packed with tourists and there are shops after shops that sell stuff that nobody needs. Really cheap stuff that is so useless and the nice old storefronts look like a Chinese factory outlet.
Time to get back to Portugal, with many steps walked already. The american family got lost and is a little bit late. But there is a good mood on the bus. Francisco is telling stories from his job and maybe, some people should not travel – very funny stuff.
We have one more stop on the way home. Directly at the border on the Portuguese side of the river Miño. The old fortress city of Valenca (I can’t find the c with the worm under on my keyboard^^). We were told that there might be passport controls at the border because the Pope is coming next week (security), but we cross the border without a stop. The way to the fortress is closed so we have to do a detour to get there – and end up in a road block by the Guarda Nacional Republicana. They stop everybody to check the passports of everybody. First confused moment when the guy from Norway presents a German ID-card (they had to change their list again), the women form Chile that travels on a Italian passport (and only has a copy with her – never do that when crossing borders. The real deal is the only thing that works) and the Americans get the every page of their passport checked. But we may pass without a problem.
After we find a parking spot (which was not easy), Francisco takes us into the town. We have 45 minutes to explore. A very nice town, but unfortunately this is like a border shopping center for the Spanish. Every shop is selling pillows, duvets, towels, socks and other stuff of BAD quality. It is just cheap and you can see why. Lets destroy a beautiful town by filling the streets with shit (excuse my French). But otherwise an impressive fortification. I even manage to go around both parts in the short time we have and find the only Geocache there. 😀
Time for the last hour home without anything happening (I don’t know why he had 99 Luftballongs on the playlist…). We get dropped off in the city, close to where we started. Dinner at McDonald’s (you know what you get) and then I buy a three day tourist ticket for the public transport. Much cheaper than normal tickets. All zones for 72 hours after activation for 15 Euro.
Line D to Marqũes and then bus 402 to the stop around the corner. I got a message from the guy who owns the flat that the water stopped dripping and I can use the AC, but there is a hole hut in the ceiling. No problem. Just that the sound stopped.
I can feel my legs after three days of walking. Tomorrow will be a slower day.