BootsnAll Travel Network

In Vigo with a Better Plan

I woke with a sore throat and am coming down with a ferocious cold, so spending the whole night on a series of trains and ending up in Lisbon at 5 a.m. was definitely a bad idea. Instead I hopped a two-hour train to Vigo, where I can get a luxurious night´s sleep and then catch a train tomorrow at the reasonable hour of 7:45 a.m., getting to Lisbon around 3 p.m., then catching a half-hour train to Sintra. All it took was letting go of the money for the hostel, letting go of Santiago de Compostela (that was hard), and then springing some fairly big bucks (for me) on a credit card for the Hotel Mexico, located a short walk from the train station in Vigo (pronounced BE-go). On my way from the train station to the hotel I passed this internet station, two doors before the hotel door, so here I am again, after a couple of hours of lying in bed, sneezing and blowing my nose, and watching CNN.

I brought some Emergen-C with me and am dosing myself with Vitamin C, drinking litres and litres of water (taking advantage of the private toilet that goes with the big bucks hotel), and listening to the official US line on the troubles in Lebanon and Israel till I could puke. It´s the first time I´ve seen English-speaking news since I left the States, and it makes me sick. Same old voices. There´s Wolf Blitzer interviewing Henry Kissinger, propped up in a chair and dishing out the same double-talk he has been muttering since I was a teenager. Nobody has the courage or the honesty to say STOP THE VIOLENCE, so there is only so much B.S. I can listen to. Condoleeza Rice says if the UN passes this (heavily anti-Islamic) resolution, we will then know who stands for peace. Where does she get the brazen nerve to say that? How can she, representing the most belligerent, war-making, violent nation on earth, say anything about who stands for peace? Shimon Perez sounded more honest than she did.

It was hard to leave Santiago after only a day and a half, but I did read the book about it on the train down to Vigo. Santiago´s mother´s name was Salomé, so I think it´s a pretty good bet the statue in the cathedral is meant to represent THAT Salomé, and not (thanks, Cindy) Jesus´s aunt. Whoever she is, or is meant to be, Santa Salomé appears to my uneducated eyes to be a wood polychrome, though there may be some enamel or ivory there. In any case she is a serene presence in that cathedral, which was absolutely WILD today. That cathedral has more going on (not even counting the people) than anywhere else I´ve ever seen: more chapels, niches, statues, pictures, sculptures, gold, silver, and energy. Add to all that the energy of a thousand and some pilgrims, another thousand (I´m guessing, here) tourists, and all the residents who provide services and sell things to the pilgrims and tourists, and you have SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA in August. Add to all that the fact that there is a festival of Galician clowns going on right now. Unicycle riders, tumblers, pairs doing pratfalls, puppeteers, fire-jugglers, people in big shoes, people with red balls on their noses, and mimes. Then there are the street musicians. Last night as I strolled around, not knowing I was harboring germs that were about to burst forth into a full-blown cold, I saw a harpist with a cigarette in his mouth, squinting at the smoke as his two hands were busy with his harp; a duet of violin and guitar; several solo guitarists; a guy playing a hammered dulcimer with his dog tied up to the door behind him; a woman with blonde dredlocks playing a steel drum, and a guy with a black stocking over his face (yes, blackface), with big red lips and a fake cigarette glued onto the outside of the stocking, playing mediocre jazz guitar and calling himself “The Jazzman.” I said goodbye to my three collegiate Italian roommates this morning, took one last stroll through the town and through the cathedral, and then got the train south.

One of the ways Finisterre and Santiago are different from Portugal is the color. Up there, most of the buildings are gray, granite, or white, without much color except the flowers and (in the case of Finisterre) the sea. Another difference is the windows. Up there, there are walls of windows designed to let the sun IN. Few metal shutters, as they have in Portugal, to keep the sun OUT. Vigo is a transition zone, with some metal shutters and some galleries of windows, and it´s a huge, sprawling metropolis, full of massive blocks of apartments. It also has an old center, but I´m not well enough today to go explore it. I need this time to decompress from Santiago, lie in bed, and nurse my cold. I was reminded the moment I stepped off the train that I am re-entering the HEAT as I leave Galicia and head back toward Portugal. There are forest fires in Spain and Portugal, and even one in a suburb of Santiago de Compostela yesterday. Here in Vigo there is a heavy haze over the harbor and the port with its cranes and big ships. I can see the port from the front of the hotel and out the windows of this internet place, but not from the little bedroom in the back where they put me, which is probably just as well. I will keep drinking water and go to bed early. I hope to be well enough to enjoy everything about Sintra, which I saved till the end because there is so much I want to see there.

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2 responses to “In Vigo with a Better Plan”

  1. Cyndi Jones says:

    Sorry to hear about your cold. I hope it goes away soon.

    I’m enjoying looking up the places you are visiting and learning interesting, if untrue, stories. I don’t know if this is part of the book you bought, but I found it interesting.

    According to reports, Santiago de Compostela was also known as St. James. He was brother to the apostle John (wasn’t Jesus and John cousins? If so, then maybe Salome was Jesus’ aunt and their mother). Both James and John followed Jesus until the Apostles split up to spread the gospel. James was to travel to Spain, but he was killed by King Herod.

    I found your story of the shells being sold everywhere fascinating. Although you were in a different city, I did find a possible connection in the story below.

    Brief History of the Cathedral:
    St. James was said to have preached in Spain. According to legend, after he returned to Jerusalem and was martyred, his head was reattached and he was transported back to Spain on a boat made of stone, and was buried there. His resting place was unknown until Charlemagne had a dream in which he saw a vision of a road leading from France to Spain that ended at St. James’ tomb. In this dream, Charlemagne heard the voice of God telling him to free this pathway, which was then controlled by the Moors. He did that, and apparently was aided in the battle by St. James. It was not until 812 that the tomb was actually discovered. A hermit named Pelagius from Galicia, the northwestern region of Spain, found the tomb, led by a bright star over an empty field. There he found a body with a note reading “Santiago, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John, whom Herod beheaded in Jerusalem.” A couple of different churches were built on this site and destroyed by the Moors, until the cathedral that still stands today was started in 1073. Some add the story of a man who had been following the boat carrying St. James’ body to Spain who fell into the ocean and drowned. However, St. James came to life and resurrected him, and when St. James brought the man out of the water, he was covered with scallop shells. Since then, the scallop shell has been the badge of the pilgrim of Santiago de Compostela.

    Sir Walter Raleigh wrote:

    Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
    My staff of faith to walk upon,
    My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
    My bottle of salvation,
    My crown of glory, hope’s true gage,
    And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

  2. Kendall says:

    Wow, Cindy! You go girl!

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