Day 19: Mansilla de las Mulas to Léon
“The followers of the sun”, he said “used to walk this route. They would follow the same path as the rising and setting sun until they had reached the end of the earth”. I was talking to an elderly Spanish guy that I’d chatted to briefly before but never had an in-depth conversation with until the last half hour walk into Léon today. He was a treasure trove of information and I felt like I was receiving my own private history lesson as we walked the last section into Léon. He told me how ancient sun worshippers had laid down the original path, how Rome had declared the Camino the official pilgrimage to replace the one to Jerusalem in the middle ages, how Hospitals (refuges) and churches had been built on the route for pilgrims. I have never enjoyed a history lesson as much. An especially interesting lesson about the path I was walking and how I walked in the footsteps of others now dead for many many centuries.
Today almost felt like a day off. A mere 18 or 19 km walk into Leon. I slept in and didn’t head off until about 7:15. By this stage the dorm was empty and everyone was on the road. This didn’t worry me as everyone moves at their own pace and as mine is reasonably fast I knew I would catch up to friends throughout the day.
So it proved. The walk was flat and not overly interesting but you can see we’ve moved out of the mesetas now and are seeing more trees and shrubs and evidence if water. It’s not exactly green but it’s changing. The road was mostly the yellow dusty road we’ve become familiar with. The one that covers your boots with a fine yellow dust that sticks like chalk. I soon passed a few friends then caught up with my Lithuanian friend and we strolled the last 8 or so km into town.
The walk into Léon was much better than I’d expected or heard about. A winding road kept us mostly away from the highway and then we climbed over a little forested hill and there was the city of Léon, to the right we could see the white towers of it’s gothic cathedral poking above the red roofed buildings.
We wandered into town where we caught up with the guy who told us so much about the Camino. We were so engrossed in the conversation that we forgot to follow arrows and got a little lost. We soon found our way and before long we were happily ensconsed in the Benedictine Convent on this beautiful little Plaza Santa Maria, with it’s combination of old wooden and stone buildings, it’s fountains and statues and it’s wide open plaza with well rounded cobblestones.
That afternoon I spent pleasantly drinking beer and wine and trying tapas. Later on the Korean girl I’d met a few days earlier and I sat in a little park and discussed everything from travel to Korean blood types to the social obligations of business. We then wandered through Léon’s cathedral. A beautiful building, if not quite as intricate as Burgos’s, it has a beautiful peaceful ambience. It’s interior is filled with beautiful stained glass windows that rise several stories in this high ceilinged cathedral.
After the cathedral we met, as pre-arranged, with other friends and then following recommendations we were in a little tapas bar down one the lively side streets not so far from the Cathedral. At the table sat 9 of us from Korea, Australia, Estonia, Lithuania, Barcelona, Valencia, USA, Italy and Sweden. We had a great evening drinking and dining together. Each of us had started the Camino alone but, as everyone else will attest to, it’s nigh on impossible to be alone on the Camino. It’s one of the many things that make the Camino special. The evening finished with a mad scramble through Léon’s crowded streets as we rushed to be back before the Convent closed for the night.
A great day and night in Léon. One of my favourite (out of many delightful towns) towns. A place that is full of character and history and yet is full of life and people enjoying themselves.
— Posted from my phone