First of all, here is a tally of the photos I took on the Camino:



As you can see, I did take more photos in Spain overall, because I really did find it more photogenic. And here are a few notes and photos from the days after our Camino.
  • Yesterday, our final day of walking, seemed like a blur. Maybe it was the weather or our fatigue and lingering illness. But it wasn’t the bright, crystal clear moment of sheer celebration I’d been expecting. Oh well – it was excellent in other ways.
  • Speaking of which – my appetite still hadn’t returned. Even thinking about Camino food made me feel nauseous. The day Ori got sick, I’d bought myself a little bottle of hot sauce to spice up my usual ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Even now, a year later, the thought of how that sauce tasted makes my stomach turn. Blech.
  • Ori pointed out how the Camino made us realize how “luxurious” normal day-to-day life actually is. To own more than one pair of shoes and shorts! To have clean laundry every day! And not washed by hand!
  • I selected the “religioso y otros” box when giving the reason for my pilgrimage at the pilgrim office. My reason wasn’t actually “religious,” though it was certainly a partially spiritual journey. I suspected they wouldn’t give me the compostela (certificate) if I didn’t specify “religioso,” however.
  • Lots of Santiago Matamoros (“Saint James the Moor-slayer”) statues in the cathedral – depictions of Saint James riding a white horse and decapitating Muslims with a big sword. Nowadays, the poor Moors are mostly covered up by strategically placed foliage.
  • Amazing to remember how, at the start of the Camino, each day seemed so full of adventure and excitement. By the end, it was pretty much automatic.
  • Everybody talks about how exciting it is to hear yourself identified at the pilgrims’ mass; we’d expected it to be something like “two from Canada who walked from Le-Puy.” But it was actually, “from Le-Puy, pilgrims from France, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, …” and muttered in barely intelligible Spanish at high speed. Oh well…we didn’t do it for the recognition.
Below: Protesters camping in the square in front of Santiago’s cathedral, as they had been in all of Spain’s major cities during the last month. I never figured out what, exactly, they were protesting, but I think it was to do with the country’s financial mismanagement.

Below: Souvenirs for sale along the Rúa do Vilar in Santiago. Note the miniature hórreos (right).

Below: Souvenir botafumeiros were for sale, too. We bought one. (More on the botafumeiro later.)

Below: A bit late to be buying a walking stick, don’t you think?

Below: A souvenir t-shirt that crams in the most Galician clichés possible: octopus, bagpipes, sore feet…

Below: Inside the cathedral. Here, the organ.

Below: The pulley mechanism for the botafumeiro and an “Illuminati”-like symbol on the ceiling (argh, stupid Dan Brown – he had us seeing Illuminati symbols everywhere!). It is, of course, a symbol of the Christian Trinity, but still pretty creepy.

Below: The cathedral’s high altar, built above the tomb of Saint James. That is a statue of him that pilgrims line up to hug (from behind, so it’s more of a headlock).

Below: Ori and the supposed reliquary for Saint James’ pilgrim staff. Obviously a lie, because Saint James was never a pilgrim in life (he was a fisherman and later an apostle).

Below: The steps down from the statue-hugging platform. Note how worn they are!

Below: After “hugging the apostle,” one descends below the altar to the tomb of Saint James. This is the entrance (no photos were allowed inside). At any rate, the “tomb” only consisted of a silver box well out of reach, with no indication of what, if anything, it might actually contain. At the tomb, we deposited the prayer requests we’d carried with us from the Le-Puy cathedral, which seemed the appropriate place.

Below: The original cathedral façade by Master Mateo was undergoing restoration, and as part of the process they had 3D-laser-scanned it and made it viewable in a virtual reality exhibit in the cathedral basement. That was nifty, but even better was that they commissioned musical instrument-makers to create functional versions of the instruments depicted in the stone carvings. The prototypes had then been played by professional musicians, and visitors could listen to the recordings while viewing the wooden instrument copies.

Below: The botafumeiro, the cathedral’s famous thurible. They don’t swing it every day, but you can pay them 300€ if you want it done. Fortunately, a Japanese film crew had paid the fee in order to make a documentary, so we got to see it in action. We were told by a cathedral docent that, “if the botafumeiro is hanging when you visit the cathedral in the morning, they will be swinging it at the pilgrim mass that day.”

Below: Sure enough, the mass ended with the team of professional botafumeiro-swingers assembling.

Below: The incense was lit…

Below: …and a mighty shove was given.

Below: The team of swingers pull at the right moments in the botafumeiro‘s swing to increase the amplitude of its oscillations. In the background, the organist played epic music and a nun sang.

Below: Eventually, the botafumeiro was moving fast enough to soar to within a few feet of the ceiling! Pretty scary, when it weighs something like 80 kilograms, is full of red-hot embers, and is right above your head. It certainly filled the cathedral with smoke and the smell of incense!

Below: With some big bells in the cathedral cloister.

Below: By sheer coincidence, we found Alfonso at the botafumeiro mass and enjoyed catching up. By this time, he had walked all the way to Finisterre and back to Santiago again.

Below: A “living statue” dressed up as Saint James outside the cathedral.

Below: Pulpo (octopus), the Galician specialty. We tried some, and I didn’t particularly like it.

Below: The cathedral on the evening before we left Santiago.

Below: Saying good-bye to Santiago.

I’ll post about Finisterre tomorrow.

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