20th Day: Leon to Villar de Mizarife

The click-clack of scallop shells provided a bit of background noise to the first 12 kilometers of the Camino. Andrea, from Italy, who had invited me for a San Miguel last night and a espresso this morning at the bar across from the Real Basilica San Isidoro, carried a a staff with two scallop shells that were threaded with a leather lace through a hole at the top of it. The shells always announce his presence before you actually see him.

The Camino seems to be a small world some times, as I have met Andrea on the first Day in St. Jean Pied de Port, the 14th day in Burgos, and now the 20th day in Leon. After he bought me the espresso, we stopped inside the cathedral, constructed on top of a demolished church dating from the 10th century, for a quick 20 minute perusal. They say if you walk through the front door of San Isidoro, or the Door of Pardon, the church will will grant you the same absolution as walking all the way to Santiago, but only if you are sick or injured. Thankfully, I was neither, unfortunately, Caetano was not as luck as me. He had come down with some serious stomach problems, and according to an email from Lea, they would have to end their Camino today in Leon and head back to Germany. I thought of them as I read about the Door of Pardon.

After passing through the door of Pardon twice, Andrea and I traveled on to Trabajo del Camino and then further on to La Virgin del Camino, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Alvar Simon. She invited him to throw a stone. Wherever it landed a church would be built on top of it. As it seems to happen to churches in this area, it too was demolished, and now a slightly out of place modern sanctuary built in 1961 is built on top of the landing pad of Alvar’s stone.

After La Virgin del Camino, a pilgrim can choose to go right to Villadangos del Paramo or left to Villar de Mazarife. Hanging a Louie, I met up with another pilgrim from Germany, (there seems to be something in the water there), Christian. We walked the last 15 kilometers to Villar de Mazarife together and even explored a “hobbit hole” (just an underground storage area built into a hill) together. Christian has already completed the first part of his Camino in 2012, from St. Jean Pied de Port to Sahagun, where he picked up his efforts again three days ago. In a bit of a coincidence, he has also met the most interesting pilgrim on the Camino – Albert from Austria who took a donkey to Santiago on a Champagne bet. In fact, he was in the mist of his trial by donkey when Christian met him in 2012. The Camino seems to get smaller by the day.

There were problems with the Photo Upload, so there are only four photos now. I will upload the rest tomorrow (hopefully).

Pulchra Leonina, the main cathedral of Leon.

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A Scallop Shell and a Spire of the Pulchra Leonina in the background (taken from the Square that houses the Basilica of San Isidoro).

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Andrea’s Scallop Shells.

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Inside the Real Basilica San Isidoro

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The Hobbit Hole

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