Monday, September 5, 2011

Santander - September 3rd & 4th, 2011

                                        Santander, circa 1590 - by Joris Hoefnagel

The original plan (somewhat grandiose, it turns out) was that we would walk from San Sebastian to Santander, but this became impossible both due to the stages being long and difficult (at least for me), and Sergio needing to return earlier than expected to Málaga. So, we decided to skip the walk and take the train (a beautiful three hour journey) to Santander where we spent the last two days of our abbreviated Camino del Norte trip. Santander is located on the edge of the "Mar Cantábrico" and, for me, is highly reminiscent of childhood trips to Atlantic City (before it was destroyed by gambling industry, etc.).   We had cool, cloudy weather, a bit of rain, and generally spent the two days exploring the coast.   On the first evening, we took a tourist trip around the bay, and learned about the various important architectural sites: the former summer home of Spain's Royal Family (Palacio de la Magdalena), the Lighthouse of Cabo Mayor  which presides over the entrance to the Bay of Santander, and the beach of Sardinero.  Sardinero is lined with hotels, restaurants, and a casino, and is regarded as one of the most elegant beach resorts in Spain.

The port city of Santander is the capital of the autonomous community and historical region of Cantabria situated on the north coast of Spain.   In the early 1900s Santander became the favored summer residence of King Alfonso XIII, who built the Palacio de la Magdelena as the residence of the royal family during the holidays. The city gained great popularity from this and from the 19th century enthusiasm for sea bathing and it remains popular with the Spanish for beach holidays today.

                               Rocky coastline of Santander.

 One of the many varieties of signposts ("señales") guiding the Camino Pilgrims ("Peregrinos"), all of which include the yellow arrow ("flecha") and the symbol of the scallop.  The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago.  Over the centuries the scallop shell has taken on mythical, metaphorical and practical meanings, even if its relevance may actually derive from the desire of pilgrims to take home a souvenir.  The scallop shell represents many different ideas associated with the Camino: One story says that after James' death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago.  Off the coast of Spain a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean.  After some time, however, the body washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.  In another metaphorical meaning, the grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela.  The shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim.  As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God's hand also guided the pilgrims to Santiago

      A sculpture on the boardwalk of Santander designed from layers of oxidized iron, each with carved-out portions which, all together & viewed from a particular angle, create the face of a man.  There were a number of somewhat strange art sculptures around the city of Santander, including the following one which was high up on a cliff overhanging the sea:

The beaches of the city were alive with a multitude of sea creatures, birds, fish & even the sand itself looked to be the graveyard of many of these same animals:

                           A lone sea anemone in beach tidepool.

                           A baby coral in Santander tidepool.

                        Two sections of a seaside mural.

                         A bittersweet farewell to the Camino.

Decidimos acabar este Camino en Santander, para ello tomamos en Bilbao el FEVE, siglas que corresponden a Ferrocariles Españoles de Vía Estrecha. Estos trenes circulan por unas vías mas estrechas que el resto de trenes. Este tren discurre por toda la costa Cantábrica y es una forma ideal de conocer esta zona.

Llegamos a Santander después de tres horas de recorrido por entre frondosas montañas, oscuros túneles, por entre encajonados trayectos y pueblos pequeños.
Santander es una hermosa ciudad costera bañada por el Cantábrico. Nada mas llegar nos subimos en un barco turistico que hace una ruta por la bahia, que resulto ser muy instructiva, gracias a los comentarios que hacia el navegante, al mismo tiempo que gobernaba la embarcación.

A la mañana siguiente paseamos hasta el palacio de La Magdalena, un fastuoso palacio donado por el pueblo de Santander a Alfonso XIII, abuelo el actual rey de España.
Santander posee playas de amarilla y fina arena. Las mareas de este mar Cantábrico son significativas, y pueden llegar a dejar varadas a las embarcaciones. También dejan al descubierto infinidad de conchas y caracolas. Un lugar ideal para dejar descansar nuestros castigados pies...

            Dusty curioseando por entre las rocas que la marea dejo al descubierto.

1 comment:

  1. Dusty, thanks for posting your blog - I've looked forward to tracking your progress and seeing your photographs! Though I have to say - I'd initially thought 'gee I'd love to do this someday' - but words like "torture" (even though its "worthwhile" torture) and the reality of the walk's difficulty are somewhat off-putting to my inner adventurer. Hope your feet are getting happier...