|When I last wrote, I had made the long walk from Carrión de los Condes to Sahagún and then taken train to León. León is a really nice city, with many monuments and museums. I went to the Basílica de San Isidoro, a large older church with simple, elegant architecture and an interesting museum adjacent. Unfortunately, they didn´t allow photos inside the museum, so can´t show you the really interesting frescoes on the ceiling of the Panteón Real (royal crypt).
Also, the Hospital de San Marcos, an old Knights Templar hospital and refuge for pilgrims. Lots of uses for this huge complex over the centuries, including monastery for centuries and concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
The Cathedral was breathtaking - the upper half of the all the walls are stained glass. It is a pure Gothic structure from 12-13th century. The choir stalls were especially well-carved and intriguing, but that was the moment when my camera battery decided to die!
Meant to ¨rest¨ my feet in León by sightseeing. Instead, I ended up getting turned around lots in the winding, medieval streets and walked just as much as a regular day on the Camino (or it sure seemed so on all those cobblestone streets).
On Friday, 6/14, I caught a bus to Astorga first thing. This is a charming town with two intriguing buildings right next to one another in the heart of town, at top of hill. The cathedral was nice enough, but a bit of a hodge-podge after León. It is Gothic in style as well, while it´s next door neighbor, the Palacio Episcopal (bishop´s palace) is Neo-Gothic, a late 19th century delight designed by Antoni Gaudí. Seems that the folks in Astorga were so appalled by his ¨modern¨ design that they put the cabosh on the project, and Gaudí vowed never to return to Astorga. It got built a few years later, but by one of Gaudí´s students. In any case, it is a lovely, light-filled joy as have been all the Gaudí structures I have seen.
That afternoon, went on to Rabanal del Camino, a nice village further up into the Montes de León. Had a chance to do laundry, and for it to get dry in the very warm sun. Also went to vespers at a tiny monastery church that evening. I think there were about 7 monks, and the service was almost exclusively chanted. Very nice end to a long day of travel, and a nice transition back to walking the next day.