09.00 – When in the morning you wake up and take a look at out of the window, you will see the foggy topped hills, which people tried very hard to pass through, surrounding the city, and as famous as the city itself, the rain meets the eye. It was not a big surprise for us, as we had heard before going that it rains a lot in Santiago.
10.00 – We were at breakfast. Though Spanish people generally prefer coffee and something sweet to eat at breakfast, we tried our first Spanish omelet. It tasted quite different from the omelet that we were used to, its ingredients like black olives, red peppers and onions, made it quite interesting. Churros is another of the delicacies that we tried at breakfast. It resembles Turkish “Tulumba” but lacking syrup, and it can be served with chocolate sauce to be dipped in or covered with powdered sugar.
11.00 – We passed by two storied houses lined up side by side, on whose walls snails hung to, and reached Parque de Belvis. Belvis is a word diverted from Galician “Bela Vista”, beautiful view. As the name implies, the huge and whole green Belvis Park extends to the south of the city. We had the chance to chat a little with the people we came across who had come for a walk, or shopping, or were passing through to go to church, or simply walking their dogs. We learned that there was a dog park where people took their pets and it was very close by. Later following the tracks extending to the north side of the park, we climbed up to a hill and reached a spot where we admired the scenery of the old city extending just in front of us, the white and gray clouds dancing on the hills and the “Catedral de Santiago de Compostela.” From this fabulous scenery we could easily understand how the park was given its name.
12.00 – We dropped by the market place near to Belvis Park, “Mercado de Abastos.” In this colorful market, which even the local little kids on their field trip found interesting, you can find all kinds of things, from Galicia’s famous seafood to meat/dairy products, and from all kinds of flowers to fresh vegetables. Young and old alike, all the locals come here and shop. It was very interesting that some bought huge fish, gigantic squids and lobsters without having them cleaned. The sellers at the market were also swamped, but when we stopped to ask or buy something, they were companionable enough to turn towards us. We did some shopping and observed the interesting fish on the stands before we left.
13.30 – Finally we reached the fabulous old town. The moment we stepped on the street, the almighty “Convento de San Francisco”, with all its hospitality, met us. When we started strolling around San Francisco Street, two people from Santiago came out of one of the stores on the left carrying a tray of Tarta de Galicia (a kind of an almond cake) and Caprichos de Santiago (a kind of a cookie again with almond). We promised to drop by on the way back and continued our way.
When the magnificent “Santiago de Compostela Cathedral” was on the horizon, we couldn’t help but gasp. The gigantic cathedral, climbing high with all its stateliness, seemed like it had a promise to astonish everyone who put their eyes on it and left us speechless. The vicinity of the cathedral, which was too big to fit our frame, is surrounded by “Palacio de Raxoi”, which was built in 18th century and designed by French Carlos Lemaur, “San Fructuoso” church on the top of which you can see the statue of “Nuestra Señora de las Angustias”, and “Colegio de San Jeronimo”, which has been open for hundreds of years.
After strolling around “Praza do Obradorio”, which is just in front of the cathedral, and admiring both the cathedral and the other artworks, we decided to go in.
14.00 – We saw that the interior of the cathedral was no less splendid than the exterior. It was so splendid that observing the chapel, the altar with the writing “Yo soy el pan de la vida”, the huge chandeliers, columns and gold foils, carvings and embroiders, it was impossible not to be impressed. The cathedral is the last stop of the long pilgrimage route, “Camino de Santiago” a.k.a. “The Way of Saint James,” and also the burial place of Saint James. For that reason it has a very significant importance for Catholics. You can come across lots of pilgrims with their huge bags and muddy shoes, and lots of souvenirs like t-shirts and mugs with the writing “Camino de Santiago” printed on them.
16.30 – After stopping by a restaurant nearby and having the famous Spanish meal Paella finally we had the privilege to enjoy the old city which has been listed in UNESCO’s world heritage sights since 1985. From the way locals refer to it, “Ciudad Vieja”, it seemed like it would be a promising a mesmerizing adventure with its narrow streets, statues and fountains, churches and squares. Walking around the streets, where every corner holds the chance that a little surprise might be hidden for you, getting into the souvenir shops which are in abundance, or the restaurants, stores and delicatessens where you can find local and international tastes, and mingling with the street musicians and the people speaking and laughing out loud with joy, you feel like somehow that you have traveled in time. We enjoyed the streets and the alleys as we wished, went to the post office to send our friends postcards, tried the cheeses at the local delicatessens, admired the statues, and bought some stuff from the gift shops as souvenirs.
19.30 – After a long walk we realized that we were starving and ended up at one of “tapas bars” which Spain is famous for. Tapas can be described as appetizers in Spanish style which consist of snacks of lots of kinds of meat, sea food, vegetables, pickles and olives and served either cold or hot. After ordering our drinks at the tapas bar, we chose from the different types of tapas which were lined up side by side on the counter. We selected the ones which we wanted or found interesting, and ordered calamari (which is very popular in this region) and Pulpo (Spanish for octopus it’s a dish which lots of travel guides advise as one of the things to be tried when visiting Santiago de Compostela) to share. The tapas with meat, fish and vegetables and the pulpo with spices are both fabulous but the champion of the competition was surely fresh calamari. The tapas bars in Santiago serve Albariño wine in pretty ceramic cups.
21.30 – Following dinner, we decided to walk around a little bit more, drop by a few stores, and buy some of those cookies with almond as we had promised ourselves earlier. As for the last time we strolled around those narrow streets, which seemed like they were snuggling up to each other, we were happy because we had had a marvelous day, we were among Galicians who knew very well how to have fun and we had had a very delicious dinner. Yes we were happy, but sure that we would miss all these things when we returned home. Before returning to our hotel, we thought that we would probably like to come to this city again, for Santiago de Compostela, despite being small, is very lively. Each step you take leads to some surprises, and it is a marvelous city which is very much worth seeing at least once.
Before visiting Santiago de Compostela:
“The Way”(2010). With Martin Sheen and James Nesbitt on leading actors, it’s the dramatic story of a father who decided to finish his son’s pilgrimage, which was left unfinished at “Camino de Santiago” when he died. If you prefer a Spanish movie, then I will suggest the thriller/horror movie Dagon (2001), which is adapted from a story by H.P. Lovecraft.
Even if you don’t like blues, this band is really fun. I recommend you to try “Bakin’ Blues Band”. If you’re lucky enough, you may come across their concert when you visit Santiago de Compostela.
The favorite of historical novel fans, the British writer Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe’s Rifles” can be a good choice if you’re the kind of person who likes novels based on history. “The Pilgrimage” of Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is about his 700 kilometers pilgrimage starting in 1986 from Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. With the help of the novel, you can better understand the pilgrims that you come across in the city.