Today we left Valenca, crossed the River Minho and thus left Portugal and entered Spain. Shortly afterward we exchanged greetings with a Portuguese Perigrina who remarked with a smile, “Remember, Spain is NOT Portugal!”
The Camino enters Spain in Tui, medieval rival to Valenca on the other side of the river. The ancient friction between these rival cities gave impetus to the investment of incredible amounts of time and money into the erection of massive fortifications necessary to insure survival.
The path took us to the Cathedral in Tui where over 14,000 Perigrinos began their walk to Santiago. We obtained stamps in our credentials at the Cathedral and then walked onward until we encountered the Convent of the Clarissa Nuns that dates to 1508. Once a thriving community, the cloister is residence for a fraction of the Sisters that its block long structure can accommodate. Both on the street and within the church one can see the design elements that are in place to separate the Sisters within from the temptations and corruption of civil life. Whatever once drew young women to the monastic life has long passed and this convent community, like so many others, may be destined for extinction. Within the church are prison like bars that define the confines of the community. Similarly, the windows without are barred. The convent “entrance” is an imposing door that is flanked by small carousel portals that allow for the passage of messages and supplies without personal contact. Think of a drive up bank teller drawer.
We covered 22km today, but temperatures were in the mid 60’s and the terrain was relatively flat. Most of the time we wandered pleasantly through woods and along streams.
At one point we encountered a monument erected hundreds of years ago to the memory of San Telmo, a Perigrino on the Camino who died of a fever at that spot in 1251. It is remarkable that he is remembered and venerated over 750 years later.
About an hour after passing the San Telmo monument we heard a cry of distress behind us. Turning, we saw a Perigrina lying face down on the path. We hurried to her aid. She was cut and badly shaken. Her sunglasses had shattered and there were immediate signs of bruising and swelling around her right eye. She was German and about 60 years old. An excessively long loop on one of her bootlaces had hooked on the other boot and caused her to fall face down on the pavement. Two Spanish women who lived nearby also rushed to her assistance. They called an ambulance which arrived shortly thereafter to take the Pilgrim to hospital. Hopefully her injuries are not serious, but it will take X-rays to determine that. Walking the Camino is not without risk.
We arrived in Porrino, showered, found beer and tapas, and by luck found our two Perigrina friends from Finland, Sirkka and Kirsti. The four of us shared dinner together and embraced at the end as if our paths would never cross again. Indeed, they may not. That is the way of the Camino.
Peace Everyone. Pete