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Today (Febr.2015) I found an interesting link about the "Ruta de la Plata". With this link you are up to date about the silver path. Click here.

Ruta de la Plata and the last third of the Camino de Compostela

 

When I made this journey from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela in spring 2002, I still didn't have a computer. Readers of my website are interested in the "Ruta de la Plata”, so I had to take photos out of my photo album. I then scanned them and took the description, of our hospital newspaper, where I had published it



We cycled till Astorga the “Ruta de la Plata” then changed to the pilgrimage road of St. Jacob.     

Left the official symbol of St. Jacob road. The road begins for the northern countries in Saint Jean pied de Port,(France Pirenees). For the pilgrimage of the south, Sevilla is the starting point.

Our bicycletour from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela, via Astorga, is a combination of the old Roman road "Ruta de la Plata" (the silver road) and "El Camino de Santiago". The old Roman road in the west of Spain once connected the south with the north (today the N 630), where the Romans got silver from the Asturi mountains and transported it to Sevilla and further on with ships to Rome.

It is amazing to find so many, still well preserved traces after 2000 years.

 

I counted 60 arcs at this roman bridge in Merida. It is in perfect condition.

A further landmark of Merida is this Aquaduct.

21.04.2002 at 08.00 o'clock we entered the MD 87 of the Iberia airline which brought us to Sevilla. With us I mean my sister and I. We have already experienced some beautiful routes together. The evening before, we had brought the luggage and the bikes to the airport Kloten (Zürich). I nearly forgot to let out the air of the tyres, otherwise it would have possibly become catastrophic. Where would we get new tyres in Sevilla on Sunday afternoon?

During the takeoff in Zurich the temperature was 8 Celsius, when we left the plane in Sevilla it was 30 degrees.

A first overnight accomodation was booked into the 700,000 inhabitants city. After the room inspection we made a Sightseeing tour by bike, the best way to tour a city. Sometimes we biked and sometimes we walked so we were able to many kilometers without getting tired. If we went into a museum, we parked the bikes where many people had a view of them, e.g. before a coffee terrace. Like that, a suspected thief will never be sure whether he is being observed or not - a trick that has worked up till now.

 

Oranges, palms and with yello and white painted houses. So typical for Sevilla

Plaza de España. Under each arch a mosaic is made of "Azulejos"(tiles) where each province represents itself with characteristics of its county

El Alcazar. Dondellas innercourt

Torre del Oro - the golden tower

What a magnificent city Sevilla is! So many parks, planted with tamarisk, palms and scented orange trees. In the evening a great fireworks welcomed us. Or was it perhaps the end of the "Faria" the celebration absolutely for Sevilla?

The 1½ day stay was not enough for the most important objects of interest. La Giralda, the Minarett of the Almahaden Mochee from the12. Century and of course the gothic cathedral with the grave of Columbus.

When we left the church, we had for the first time a "Café con leche". Then we drove to the Plaza de Españia, where each Spanish province represents itself with a mosaic of Azulejo's (ceramics). On a board is written "Once you have been in Sevilla, you will come back again". With these words we left beautiful Sevilla somewhat more easily and in my head began plans for an Andalusia tour.

 

There we go

        A church tower without a storknest is difficult to find

Hazienda surroundet by 0live groves.

On Tuesday we started with the “Ruta de la Plata” (the silver route ). About 10 km north west of Sevilla is “Italica” (Santiponce). The first Roman settlement established on the Iberian peninsula, approx. 200 year BC. In florishing times, in the 2nd century, a oval Amphitheatre provide place for 25.000 spectators.

Biking to El Ronquillo 65 km. was enough for the first day. The most beautiful thing of the daily routine,with about 30 degrees C, is the refreshing shower thereafter and fresh clothes.The Spanish dinner starting at 20.30 was often too late for us, but fortunately supper (13.00 to 16,00) you can get in most restaurants. So we ate only light food in the evening.

Cosy place for a "café con leche in Zafra

Still young grapevines of the sort "Tempranillo"

Ideal temperatures in the underground wine cellars

After the second stage we left Andalusia and came into Extremadura. A travel book stated that 80-90% of the Conquestadore (conqueror) in the Middle Ages, came from this province.

A beautiful country with red earth, grape vines and olive trees as far as you can see, then again cork oaks. It is a paradise for the grey-black pigs, roaming around, searching for acorns. They later become the desired, air-dried Iberien ham. Likewise we met bulls, which are breeded for other purposes. A beautiful free life, apart from the last 20 minutes, during which they have to meet the bullfighter in an arena.

We continued to ride over Fuente de Cantos, birthplace of Zubaran, one of the greatest painters of the golden age. (in Spain mentioned “painter of the monks”) to Zafra. Once more a beautiful village with white painted houses.  

 

        Siesta into oak forest

Free of cherge. Pilgrim accommodation in an albergue

          Mansion on the road

The next day we avoided the N 630. Across countryside, where villages are apart for up to 20 km. Sometimes a “Hazienda”, absolute silence, no car, no motorbike or other technical equipment. Nature pure.

At noon we found a big tree, which donated shade, the correct place for a picnic "Grande Siesta".

In the evening we reached Merida. A day of rest and many interesting objects awaited us. Merida was the most important city Hispaniens and ranked number 9. of the whole Roman Empire. Here great buildings were established. Among them a very well preserved aqueduct, theatre, Amphitheatre and the well restored bridge with over 60 arches, which still operate today.

On Sunday we drove to Caceres. It was foggy and therefore we decided to take the N 630. We had the whole road completely for us. Caceres was so noisy and busy, that we cycled 10 km. more to Casar de Cascares. Arriving at the market place in Casar, a couple in cycle clothing signalled to come over. Their bikes where already free of luggage. Behind them a door to a hostel was open. This invited us to the desired shower and the fresh clothes.

Subsequently, we visited the opposite restaurant, in order to satisfy a pleasant hunger. The landlord, also responsible for the lodging, said “the overnight accommodation is free of charge". A lodging for Peregrini (Pilger) normally costs 3 euro or a free donation. The beds in the hostels, remind me of our alp-sheds. Walls and floor surfaced with tiles “azulejo”. Keeps clean and cool.

 

Last view of the beautifull Extremadura

Only 450m. difference of heigh before us

The coming day led us to Plasencia in the north of the Extremadura, where we crossed the Rio Tajo in the afternoon. The Rio Tajo flows west to Lisbon into the Atlantic. Placentia is at an altitude of 280 m. The pass "Puerto de Vallejera" must be crossed at 1186 m. Once more a cloudless day accompanied us.

In Baños de Montemayor we had already risen to 500 M. After a long and strengthening Siesta we continued on to the remaining upward gradient. We decided to stay in a hotel on the summit and saved the wonderful departure to Salamanca for the next day. Once more a place, which is worth one day of rest and  sightseeing. With its Puenta Romano, the Plaza Mayor, the enormous cathedral and one of the oldest universities, it will not be a boring day.

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Casa de las Conchas (hous of the shells)

Salamanco is worth a day of rest

 In order to reach Zamora, our next goal, we avoided again primary routes. Meanwhile the landscape had noticeably changed. We were now in "Castilla y Leon", the grain-barn of Spain. Neither common grape vines nor olive-trees were to be seen, but on both sides the road grain and poplar.

The old part of town of Zamora is car-free (bikes permitted) and radiates a calm atmosphere. The white cleaned houses of the Extremadura changed to sandstone. There was much to discover again. The cathedral with the byzantine dome, a bridge from roman times and a parador (historical building, which is converted by the state to the hotel), which mostly corresponds to a 5 star hotel but without room for a bike.

On the Plaza Mayor grow dozens of plane trees, whose branches are grafted with one another and which turn smoothly together. A place to stay and linger.

    We saw many grain barns

A ruined grain barn, airy building method

Branches are grafted with one another

The next day started rainy. Clothes as well as luggage had to be stored waterproof. Gladly however it was only for a few km.

12 km.after Zamora there is a fork in the road. The left leads via Orense to Santiago de Compostela. It is the shortest way. We however took the right route via Benavente to Astorga. There we left the "Ruta de la Plata" and followed the "Camino de Santiago".

Most Pilgrims from the north meet in Saint Jean - Pied de Port (in the France Pyreneeses). From there the Pilger goes on by foot, horse or with a bicycle the way to Santiago. All other means of transportation are not permitted, to stay overnight in a pilgrimage accommodation. The lodgings are approximately 5 km apart, so that it is possible for the pedestrians to reach the next one. They are simple, but clean. On the Ruta de la Plata, the pilgrimage accommodations are about 20 km. apart.

 

Natural stone gives a cosy atmosphere in Rabanal

          Rabanal

                 Grande Siesta

Everything began with the fact that it was claimed that the relics of Jacobus where found in Santiago de Compostela in the 6th century. However, in the Middle Ages the city developed into the third most important place of pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome.

The weather was favorable, changing clouds and not too hot for the next ascent.

In Rabanal there is a big iron cross on the summit. There is a tradition for pilgrims to bring a stone from his starting point and put is at the foot of the iron cross.

Cows go first             

      Iron cross

    Hermit-like for a coffee brake

For today we had to surmount Porta de Pedrafita at O Cebreiro. It is not the highest but steepest climb. 

We enter the province “Galicia”. It looks like “das Emmental” in Switzerland. Very green and hilly.

After the run down we came into Samos. There is a huge Benedictine Monastery surrounded by an iron fence decorated with the symbol of the “Camino” a Jacob shell.

         Sched to store food

   Green and hilly

         Monastery in Samos

The cycle-computer showed 1060 km. when we reached “Monte de Gozo”. It is a hill in front of Santiago de Compostela. The Spanish built a camp for 800 pilgrim. Luckily there where only 200 of them.

In the cathedral, built in the 9th. century, there is a censer 1.50m in size. It is tied up on the vault with a long rope. After mass they let it swing from one side aisle to the other. A strange custom, it's rumoured that it is done to drown the sweat of the pilgrim.

From Monte de Gozo you have a good view on Santiago de Compostela

A camp for 800 pilgrim. Monte de Gozo

  Santiago de Compostela                 

       

Botafumeiro (cencer1½m.in size)

Troubadour

                                       

Santiago has sights for at least one week. Unfortunately we have only 2 days. The beautiful flight back was a small consolation. The extreme clear weather gave a fantastic view of the Alps, a sign to be near at home.  

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