Built upon orders of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem in the12th Century, also known as Church of St. Nicholas. When ancient Portomarin was replaced by a brand new town, notable structures were disassembled and in its new location it was reassembled brick by brick. It is one of the most impressive church structures in Spain. Buddy Gomez
Portomarin entry. A new bridge over Mino river that replaced the submerged bridge from Roman times, visible below at water level. At the background is the replacement. Buddy Gomez
Stairway to town. This is the stone stairway to the new town level at the edge of the Portomarin bridge. Pilgrims may also use it. After a 24-kilometer hike, I did not have the strength to scale it. There is a local saying: if you stop at all, at any point while ascending, there is a curse with one’s sex life. Buddy Gomez
A little church known as Iglesia de San Pedro. The building on the right is Hotel Pazo Berbetoros. Buddy Gomez
A farther angle of the Iglesia de San Pedro with a mini park. Buddy Gomez
Second of a series
Today’s town of Portomarin in Galicia, Spain is in reality only a 50- plus-years-old replacement community for an ancient river town.
Infrastructure development in Spain during the 1960s, still under Franco, deemed that Mino River, upon whose banks existed old Portomarin, could be harnessed as a reservoir. Old Portomarin lay right along the path of inevitable inundation as a consequence of the dam and reservoir project.
Happily, the most valuable and historic structures were dismantled, relocated and restored/reassembled literally brick by brick. Such is the church fortress of St. John of the Knights of Jerusalem. That it is also known as church of St. Nicholas remains unanswered.
Portomarin has a population of just a little over two thousand. Its surrounding vicinities are agricultural and notably devoted to dairy farming. It is 25 kilometers from my last stop, Sarria. Because of the “pilgrimage”, Portomarin has also become an important rest and layover choice.
Anyway, for those wanting to know how a jolly octogenarian would fare hiking over strange and unfamiliar terrain, I am pleased to report that I survived! Without blisters, albeit with sore thighs, legs and toes. The pilgrims’ route intentionally avoided national highways and goes through rural roads, farm roads, rights of way, cow paths, with a minimum use of provincial highway. Some are shaded by farm windbreaks and pine stands but many stretches fall under sunlight assault. It is summertime in Spain.
The first fifteen kilometers was a constantly undulating uphill climb. It was gentle and moderate for younger bones but certainly not for the likes of me. What would normally take 6 hours to walk the Sarria to Portomarin stretch took me 8. After 15 kilometers, my pace had gone down to half of when I started with the first five kilometers. And then, I was strolling with my knees and legs threatening to buckle. But as I said, I survived.
All along the pastoral paths were hayfields (much of Galicia being devoted to dairy farming), cornfields, vegetable tracks. What impressed me most was that farmsteads were boundaried by wall-like fencing of stones and slates, neatly piled one on top of another, waist high. The stones and slates are much mossed over, with crevices peeping out with ferns, wild berries and wild flowers, profuse with yellows, violets and whites. Behind these stone fences, there are apple and fig trees.
My next destination is another 25-kilometer stretch, similar terrain. Pals de Rei.
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