To El Acebo

22.08.08 Friday.

Astorga to El Acebo via Foncebadon and the Iron Cross.

First some more about Astorga which we left at 0600 this morning leaving Ray and Richard sleeping to catch a train later. This town is important as well as being a nice sized city with a number of good albergues, it was the crossroads of two or more important Roman roads. Remains of Roman buildings are still being excavated with plans to incorporate them into the new roads and paths in the city. Napoleon captured the city in 1809 and the recapture by Wellington and some Spanish forces is commemorated in a large symbolic statue of a lion killing an Imperial Eagle. It is of course the Diocesan centre and the Bishops Palace is a beautiful building designed by Gaudi in the late 19th century. It houses a gallery of 3 floors of (mainly ) religious art which we went round, along with a basement of roman artefacts, although the building itself tends to overshadow the contents.
The cathedral and its own museum may well be worth seeing but we were rather overloaded by then and only looked at the outside.
As soon as it was light we could see the Montes de Leon, the mountains between us and the next major town of Ponferrada and at 1530metres the highest point on the Camino. We climbed steadily but not steeply over 20km and after passing the hamlet of Foncebadon (permanent population 7 people) with two albergues we reached on the col a large iron cross surrounded by a pile of stones. The cross is not original it was overwhelmed by the load of stones dumped on it by past pilgrims eager to symbolically get rid of their sins in the form of rocks carried on their journey. We saw the original in the museum in Astorga. Nonetheless the new pile seems larger than the picture in our book and we duly added to it our stones carried from England, and three for Richard from his family in France. Tim’s stone was excavated by the badgers in his garden, and Tony’s was a piece of Mendip limestone.
We were then intending to stay in a small albergue 2-3km down from the col at Manjarin (permanent pop 2!). This was described in our guidebook as being ‘extremely spartan’ and this did indeed prove to be the case. We found a fairly ramshackle building with a lean-to outside containing religious bits and pieces for sale being serenaded to religious music which may have been provided by ‘Radio Maria’. This transmits locally on 101.3 on FM and is widely advertised with the picture of a photogenic nun. Luckily we do not have a radio with us so we have not been tempted to listen. Despite our feet being tired, we decided that this was probably not the right stopping place for us, so be continued on another 7km to El Acebo where we found lodgings in a very nice albergue and restaurant.

Link to where we are on Google Maps