Saturday, July 4, 2015

Camino de Santiago - Part 4 - Estella > Najera

Camino de Santiago - Part 4
Estella > Torres del Rio > Logrono > Najera 

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Day 6 / Friday, May 22, 2015
Estella > Torres del Rio

Day 7 / Saturday, May 23, 2015

Torres del Rio > Logrono

Day 8 / Sunday, May 24, 2015

Logrono > Najera

Day 6 / Friday, May 22, 2015
Estella > Torres del Rio

The Monasterio de
Santa Maria le Real de Irache (Iratxe)
One of the oldest religious institutions in Navarra. It was first mentioned in writing in the year 958 and in the 11th century the Benedictine monks began the building of  the new monastery on the foundations of a monastery that had already existed in the 8th century. The monastery experienced its heyday under the Abbot Veremundo at the end of the 11th century. In Irache (in Basque, 'iratze' means 'fern'), he founded one of the first pilgrim hospitals on the Way of St. James and dedicated his whole life to it. St. Veremundo is the patron saint of the Way of St. James in Navarra. The huge monastic building combines architectural styles Romanesque (main entrance and Portal de San Pedro), Renaissance (the 32 x 37m large cloister) and Baroque styles (church facade). The monastery has not been used since 1985, but there are plans to turn it into a Parador Nacional (state-run luxury hotel).
The former monastery winery of Bodegas Irache (www.irache.comis well known, not least for its Fuente de Vino (free wine fountain!!). Pilgrims are invited to drink water as refreshment and revive themselves with a sip of wine. If you are more thirsty, you can buy bottles of wine to take with you.

As you can see, even though we left Estella less than an hour ago and it is not yet even 8am in the morning.. everyone is lining up to take a drink from the wine fountain. It is just one of the things you have to do on the camino.. and it is one of the stories you will take home with you that will boggle the mind of your friends and family. The shared experience of the 'FREE WINE FOUNTAIN' is one of the highlights of the camino.

8:40am (also known as vino'clock in Navarra)

As you can see..
free wine brings together the young and the old...
 and just about every nationality.

The wine fountain is open every day from 8am to 8pm and they give away a maximum of 100 liters of wine each day.

OK Pilgrims.. enough drinking this morning.
Get your buts back on the camino!

It was not long after leaving the wine fountain when I met for the very first time, a short Latin lady that was standing alone and crying as she looked out over the hillside at a long ridge made up of spectacularly white cliffs. We asked what was the matter.. was there something we could do to help?

She said "No. Thank you! I just can not believe that I get to see something this beautiful. I can not believe I am this lucky to be here to see this."

It was absolutely true. Where we were right at that moment was absolutely stunning. But at the same time, my cynical bitchy side came out and I also had several thoughts.
1. How much wine did this lady drink?
2. What a drama queen!
3. I was actually a bit jealous of her.
Where we were right at that moment was absolutely gorgeous. However, she was able to feel more passionately about the beauty of the moment than I could. I would have loved to have broken into tears, moved by the awesome nature around me.. but it just wasn't there inside me to do that and I was a tad envious that this lady was getting more out of the experience than I was. 

What I didn't know though, at the time, was the heartbreaking and life-shattering story that had led this lovely woman to this moment in time. The fact that I met her at this specific moment in her journey, in so many ways throughout the next month, seemed like destiny. 


When you reach the tiny village of Azqueta, go to Calle San Cristobal #2 and knock on the door. There is a man that will greet you and invite you into his home. This man has made it his mission to provide pilgrims with FREE WALKING STICKS. He will take you around to the back of his house where there will be a stack of well selected, ash wood walking sticks. He is kind of a 'well-known secret' for people that live on the camino. We did visit him and three of our group (Pavle, Agnes and Jakob) chose sticks. He has his own camino passport stamp so be sure to get that as well.

Pavle offered him a donation, but he seemed a bit insulted and strongly refused.

So now, everyone in our group at this point has walking sticks. I had the shepherds hook staff I bought in Pamplona, Tin Tin had 'Stickington' an ash-wood branch he found, Sveta had the stick I bought for her.. and now the rest just adopted sticks from this kind man.



Your first thought about Los Arcos after passing the village sign is that there just isn't much there. On your right there will be a few vending machines behind gates, some benches on the dirt road leading into town and an interesting menagerie that includes chickens, ducks, goats and one very gentle dog. The sign on the fence asks to donate money to feed the animals.

With nothing else in sight except a few rural, suburban houses.. you would think that is it. So we took our scheduled rest there at the entrance to this village and waited to collectively revive our energy so we could continue.

When we eventually began to walk again, within 15 minutes we found ourselves in the most beautiful town square. We dropped our bags and made our way into the church and were immediately floored by its humble beauty. This church became one of our favorites on the entire camino.

It wasn't until later when we started to tour the massive cathedrals of Burgos and Leon, that we fully appreciated these smaller churches. The cathedrals seem to be over-sized mausoleums, completely funded solely so that the benefactors could be buried within the walls in alabaster sarcophagus. The cathedrals eventually seemed to be nothing more that overly ornate crypts for rich people.. while these smaller churches in these smaller villages truly seemed to be the heart and soul of a community that has existed through centuries.

The most significant building in Los Arcos is the Iglesia de Santa Maria (12th-18th century), situated in the central square of the same name. It combines archectectual styles from the Romanesque to the Baroque. Worth seeing are the plasteresque (adorned with finely chiseled decorations) church portal, the Gothic cloister, the choir stalls from the 16th century, the Baroque high alter and the Rokoko organ.
Take the opportunity to sit in the chairs of the ancient choir stalls. Notice how the seats fold up so that they turn from chairs into small shelves that you can lean against in a standing position to take some of the weight off your legs yet still maintain a better singing posture. Take a moment to walk on the warped wooden floors. As you get closer to Santiago, choir stalls will all be behind closed gates. Enjoy this small church. It is one of the best on the camino.



You will spot the outline of Sansol in the distance at least 4 or 5 hours before you get there. It can be quite frustrating, looking at this destination you want to get to so badly.. and feeling like you are not getting any closer.

This was the last day my feet truly were killing me toward the end of the day. As I approached Sansol, I knew I was quite a ways ahead of the rest of my group, and I took the time to check the village out, and then passed through the village to see just how far it was to our final destination, Torres del Rio.

As you pass through Sansol, on the edge of town you can simply look downhill and the final destination is right there. Only another 15 minutes to go.

(Church of the Holy Grave)

This chapel, from the end of the 12th century, is worth visiting. Although there are no reliable sources, it has been attributed to the Order of the Templars. The inside is beautifully simple. Light only comes through a few, small, slit windows into the unadorned high interior. The church dome clearly shows Moorish influences. The cross above the altar dates back to the 13th century.

The church is nowadays considered a funeral church on the Road to Santiago.

The master builder who designed it and the sculptors who adorned it were Mudejar working in the service of Christian employers. Its design came from Cordoba and there is something of Cistercian art about it. Its construction and use are assumed to be Templar, but there is neither information nor indications to prove it or to surmise, since it has an octagonal floor and is not typical.

It is known, on the other hand, that in 1100 there was an existing monastery, and together with the church, were yielded to the Benedictine order of the Irache Monastery. 

Day 7 / Saturday, May 23, 2015
Torres del Rio > Logrono


Day 8 / Sunday, May 24, 2015
Logrono > Najera


As you pass out of Logrono, you will pass an oversized gameboard for Juego de la Oca (Game of the Goose). It is thought to be an original version of the present day Snakes and Ladders or Chutes and Ladders. The origin of this game has been linked to the Way of St. James and getting to the end of the game board is symbolically linked to the difficulty of completing the camino. Here in the square, the game board has been set into the ground.




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