We start the year in this blog talking about one of the elements most closely associated with the Compostela pilgrimage: the botafumeiro, the enormous incense burner (or thurible) in Santiago Cathedral that swings
What does “botafumeiro” mean?
The name “botafumeiro”, in galician language, means “smoke expeller”, though strictly speaking, a more correct expression would be “bota fume” or “fumeiro”.
Where does it come from?
The botafumeiro was installed in Santiago cathedral for the first time in the XIII or XIV century, in order to alleviate the odor caused by the masses of pilgrims that spent the night at the cathedral after their long voyage. Santiago wasn’t the only place with a similar device: in the past, the cathedrals of Orense, Zamora and Tuy also had their own botafumeiros. Nowadays, however, it’s only used in the latter in special occasions (and in Santiago, of course).
Through history, the temple has had four botafumeiros: the first one was used until 1530, when a new one was made of silver thanks to a donation from king Louis XI of France. This one, however, was stolen by the french troops during the Peninsular Wars in 1809, and it was replaced by a new one made of iron that was in comission until 1851, when the current one was built by José Losada, the same craftsman who made the urn where the remains of the apostle Santiago are kept.
What is the size of the botafumeiro?
The botafumeiro weights 80 kg. and measures 1.60 m. of height. Every time it’s used, it has to be filled with 40 kg. of charcoal and incense.
When the botafumeiro is used, seven “tirabuleiros” pull the ropes and make it swing, thanks to the elaborate system of pulleys in the cathedral. The botafumeiro swings for about 15 minutes, which is the time it takes for the priests to walk around the nave and aisles of the cathedral.
When can I see the botafumeiro?
The botafumeiro is used oficially during the opening and closing of the Holy Year of Jubilee, as well as in the most important religious celebrations. During the year 2016, these will be:
- Epiphany, Jan. 6.
- Easter (Resurrection Sunday).
- Feast of the Ascension.
- Apparition of the Apostle Santiago – Clavijo, May 23.
- Santiago Day, Jul. 25.
- Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15.
- All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1.
- Feast of Christ the King.
- Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8.
- Moving of the body of the Apostle Santiago, Dec. 30.
We are hard at work preparing the upcoming season of the Camino, and today we can announce that, as part of our services, next year we will be providing luggage transfer services in the Camino Portugues (Portuguese Way) through our friends at Transfertaxi.es.
Transfertaxi.es is a cab service located in Pontevedra which provides 24 hours transports and covers the airports of Vigo, Santiago and Porto. Transfertaxi.es also offers day trips through Galicia, services for events and all kinds of transport and messaging services.
The Camino Portugués starts in Lisbon, and passes along the portuguese cost through Coimbra and Porto before entering Spain through Tui. Caminofacil and Transfertaxi.es offer our services in the following stages:
- Porto – Vilarinho
- Vilarinho – Barcelos
- Barcelos – Ponte de Lima
- Ponte de Lima – Rubiaes
- Rubiaes – Valença do Minho
- Valença do Minho – Tui
- Tui – Porriño.
- Porriño – Redondela.
- Redondela – Pontevedra
- Pontevedra – Caldas de Reis.
- Caldas de Reis – Padrón.
- Padrón – Santiago de Compostela.
If you are going to walk the Camino Portugués and need your backpack carried for you, call us! We will be delighted to help you.
When one thinks of all the historical sights that can be visited along the Camino de Santiago, what comes to mind are usually churches, cathedrals, abbeys… It’s quite less common to think, for example, about a soviet spacesuit from the 1960s:
Or a reconstruction of a british trench from World War I…
And yet, both things can be found by the pilgrim along the Camino, in the town of Belorado (Burgos), in the Inocencio Bocanegra Radio Broadcasting Museum.
The museum, created by the eponymous industrialist, hosts his personal collection of radio equipment: from the 1920s crystal radios, to military units used in all the conflicts of the XX century (german, american, soviet radios…)
In addition, and given the relationship of the collection with the military world, the museum also contains several mementos from that field, like a M-60 Patton tank, or a detailed reconstruction of a british trench during World War I, the biggest such in Europe.
The museum is installed in Belorado’s old grain silo, which has been restored, keeping all the machinery that it contained when it was in use.
In order to visit the museum, you have to make a previous appointment in the Belorado Tourism Office.
As we mentioned when talking about the church of Santa Maria de Eunate, there is a church in the nearby village of Olcoz with an almost identical portico. This unique fact in romanesque art has caused lots of legends to sprung around these two works; here we will recount one of them.
According to it, the portico in Santa Maria de Eunate was started by a master sculptor from the templar order, who after doing a large part of the work, had to leave for unspecified reasons. The local authorities called another local sculptor to finish the work, which he managed to do in only three days (according to some versions, this second sculptor was a giant, which would explain a lot, as we’ll see).
When the original sculptor came back from his voyage, he was angered by what he saw as an usurpation of his work. The local authorities challenged him then an identical portico in the same time that it took his substitute. Faced with such a challenge, the master had to resort to the black arts.
(Pictures courtesy of TaxNavarra).
It was the midsummer night (St. John’s day). Following the advice of a witch that lived close to the nearby river Nekeas, the master hid himself close to the river, and waited until a huge snake appeared. The snake left a moonstone that it was carrying on its mouth on the shore. The master waited until the snake had submerged into the river, then picked up the moonstone and ran away to the unworked portico, which was already raised in front of Eunate. He put the moonstone in a cup full of the river’s water, put the cup under the portico, and waited…
…And when the moon reached its apogee, the portico’s stones started taking by themselves the shapes of the sculptures, columns… that existed in the original portico, only reversed. The only problem happened when the second sculptor found out. Angered by the copy that his competitor had made in just one night, he kicked the portico with such force that it flew away from Eunate to Olcoz, where it is now…
And indeed, the current portico in Olcoz is almost identical to the one in Eunate, except that its features are reversed.
Throught the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim can find many religious monuments (churches, monasteries…), remains of the centuries of tradition and history originated in this route. Among them, however, the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla is special, since it holds the honor of being considered the birthplace of the Castilian language, the most spoken language in modern Spain.
The Monastery of Suso (one of the two existing monasteries in San Millán) was, in effect, the place where the “Glosas Emilianeses”, considered the first words written in Castilian (or at least a primitive version of it), were authored. These were notes written on the margin of latin codexes, in order to clarify words or expressions from the main text. Some of these comments were also written in a primitive version of the Basque language, so they can also be considered the oldest existing Basque text.
San Millán de la Cogolla was also the working place of Gonzalo de Berceo, considered the first literary writer in castillian. His main work, “Milagros de Nuestra Señora”, was a compilation of miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary written around 1260, and is considered as one of the first literary works written in Castilian.
Due to these reasons, the Monasteries of San Millán were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1997.
When talking about the Camino de Santiago, one usually thinks of backpacks, walking staffs and pilgrims striding through fields and towns. However, it’s more than likely that some pilgrims in centuries past took that voyage through the sea… or at least, that is the excuse that four irish adventurers used when starting a similar adventure in a naomhóg (irish traditional boat).
Dómhnall Mac Síthigh and his three colleagues began this adventure two years ago starting from their residence in Kerry, in southwestern Ireland. Rowing and sailing, they followed the irish coast up to Wales and Cornwall, and then crossed the Channel to Brittany (France); from there, it was just a “simple” matter of following then the european coast until Santiago.
This year, after two summers spent at sea, they finished their odyssey at the Basque Country, and next year they expect to start again their trip for the third year in a row, for the final stage along Spain’s northern coast.
Of all the monuments that the pilgrim can find along the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way), one of the most original is probably the Church of Saint Mary of Eunate, one of the greatest achievements of spanish romanesque architecture.
How to arrive.
Eunate is located 2 km. of Muruzábal, in Navarra. If you are following the Camino Francés, once you reach said town you can take a detour towards the church, instead of going straight to Obanos. Once in the church, you don’t need to backtrack to Muruzábal to go back to the Camino; you can follow the N6064 until you reach Obanos and Puente La Reina.
Why it is special.
The church of Eunate (one hundred doors, in the Basque language) is a romanesque construction from the 12th century, although there’s a lot still unknown about its origins. Since it’s outside the town, and archaeological excavations have found scallops (symbols of pilgrimage) in the burials alongside the church, it’s been speculated that it was used as a hospice for pilgrims.
(Pictures courtesy of TaxNavarra).
The most original feature in this building, aside of the arches that surround it, is its octagonal plan, extremely unusual in romanesque art. This plan, similar to that of other churches founded by the Knights Templar all across Europe, has caused all sort of theories and legends about its association with said military order, despite the lack of evidence.
The legend of Eunate and Olcoz.
Regarding this church and a similar one in the nearby town of Olcoz, there is an interesting legend, which we will recount at a later time…
Although the Camino is a place to forget about daily routine and find new experiences, it’s always convenient to keep a link to “civilization”: home, family, friends, that Wikipedia article explaining the history of the church you have in front of you… Not to mention the chance to share pictures of your experiences:
Therefore, we here present some of the best options for pilgrims who have travelled to Spain to walk the Camino and wish to access the Internet or phone home.
This is not a comprehensive list. As anyone with experience in the subject knows, keeping track of all possible plans for all phone carriers can be exhausting. Instead, we have picked the most attractive offers for the non-spanish traveller spending a few days in Spain.
Consider also the following:
- Buying a SIM card is easy. Most of the carriers listed here have stores in almost every city and midsize town (and even some small towns) along the Camino.
- Spanish law requires you to provide ID (ID card, passport…) when purchasing a new phone line.
Vodafone has the Tourist in Spain plan. For 15 euros you can have a SIM card with:
- 1 Gb. data.
- 60 min. in phone calls to Spain or abroad (to a list of 35 countries).
All of them valid for one month.
Vodafone also has other offers under the “Vodafone yu” brand, with similar prices.
The SIM Holidays plan from Orange provides you, for 15 euros, with:
- 1.5 Gb. data.
- 60 minutos in phone calls to Spain or abroad (to a list of 40 countries).
Valid for 15 days.
Of all the offers provided by the biggest spanish carrier, we have picked the Habla 24 Horas + Tarifa Internet 5. you can buy a SIM card for 10 euros, with 5 euros of credit, which you can use then to buy
- 400 Mb. data access.
- Phone calls in Spain at 10 cent./min. rate.
Valid for one month.
Aside of that, you can also add the Habla Internacional plan, which allows you to make phone calls abroad at prices similar to those of local calls.
We recommend from this carrier the plan tarifa del uno 1 Gb., in which, for 10 euros a month, you can have:
- 1 Gb. data.
- 20 minutes of calls to spanish numbers.
- You can also use VoiceIP services such as Skype, Whatsapp, etc., which are disabled in the other prepaid plans of this company.
With this carrier, you can buy a SIM card for 10 euros with 10 euros credit, and then purchase plans such as the Bono Mejorado, which, for 7.9 euros/months, gives you:
- 1 Gb. data.
- 30 min. in calls to Spain.
You can purchase this card in all the Carrefour supermarkets.
Just like Carrefour, this carrier lets you buy a SIM card for 10 euros with 10 euros of credit, and use it to add, for example, the Todo en Uno 500 plan, which offers for 15 euros:
- 1 Gb. data.
- 500 minutes in calls to Spain and abroad (to more than 40 countries).
Questions? Contact us.
These are only some of the possibilities if you wish to have an Internet-enabled phone line during the Camino. However, if you want to save yourself some work, we at Caminofácil can help you. We can make the arrangements to provide you with a SIM card and leave it at the hotel of your choice. Contact us for more details.
One of the most frequently asked questions among would-be pilgrims is: “what do I pack?” There are practically as many different answers as people travelling along the Camino, since each person’s needs and tastes are different, specially when it comes to more “personal” equipment, such as boots or backpacks.
Neverthless, we can always look towards the experience of veteran pilgrims, since, after walking the Camino a few times, patterns start to emerge and we start finding ourselves facing the same situations, while other problems never end up taking place, despite us packing for them “just in case”.
This is why today we have asked Joaquín Luján from the “Club Caminante de Badajoz”, a nine-Camino veteran, for his packing list.
Joaquín insists us that he doesn’t want to tell anyone what to carry (since each person’s needs are different), but just to share his experiences. Thus, the first thing he tells us is that, when it comes to trekking equipment (boots, backpacks, walking sticks…), the best thing to do is to go to our local sports store and ask for advice there. After this caveat, Joaquín tells us about the things that he has found useful along his many Caminos:
- A light guidebook with towns and hostels.
- Shoes. Whatever they are (boots, sandals…), they should be one size bigger than your usual size, and ideally you should wear them for a couple of months before beginning the Camino. “In the beginning I used boots and two pairs of socks“, Joaquín tells us, “but now, after nine Caminos, I just wear sandals with no socks. A group of basque pilgrims saw me and called me ‘the sandals guy'”.
- First aid kit. A female hygiene pad might be useful, to treat foot blisters.
- Safety pins.
- Needle and thread for sewing.
- Even during the summer, it’s advisable to carry a rain jacket, as well as warm clothing, in case you decide to start your walk early in the day.
- The walking stick. As we have mentioned here before, it must be tall enough to carry it at “heart height”, so that your upper body takes part in the exercise.
- A LED lamp.
- A hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun.
- A water bottle.
Anyway, since each person has his/her own tastes, our advice is again to ask in our local trekking store for the most specialized equipment, as well as exchanging advice with other pilgrims. And of course, remember that if you got it wrong and packed more than you need, you can always use our services to carry your luggage day by day along the Camino.