The walk into Ponferrada follows a dusty track, but with beautiful views of the town and surrounding countryside:
Within a short while you enter the town centre and find yourself with the option of turning right towards the Saint Nicolas albergue, or turning left and coming face to face with the building which makes Ponferrada Mucho:
The castle, originally a small village, was built by the Knights Templar (13th century) and they stayed on at Ponferrada until 1308. It’s possible to visit the castle grounds and on Wednesdays there is no charge for the entrance. Personally I wouldn’t recommend paying for the entrance as most of the castle complex has been either reconstructed or renovated, using modern wood architecture. As I sat and gazed at the castle interior I couldn’t help but wonder what a Knights Templar would think of the new architectural take on one of their most sacred spots this side of Jerusalem.
If you really feel the need then there are no end of Knights Templar souvenirs on sale in the neighbouring shops:
In the evening I headed towards the historical quarter of town, tobacco-free, and set myself up for a bit of a play:
I was abruptly asked to move by a shop owner – under threat of the police being called – so I belted out Wonderwall (at her annoyance) before agreeing with myself that it would probably be best to move up the street a little to avoid a disturbance. I played for 2 hours in my rapidly deteriorating t-shirt and earned just over 20 Euro:
I sang my most popular songs, but also introduced to my repertoire It’s so hard, by John Lennon (which was very popular with the coin-throwing public).
When the playing felt more like work than pleasure, I headed back towards the donativo albergue where I was told I could get a mat on the floor:
I was welcomed in with a meal and then shown to my mat on the floor; consequently crashing and having a deep sleep. They (the albergue owners) expect everyone out of the albergue by 7:30am and they wake pilgrims up by playing Mozart through speakers.
I made myself a coffee – gradually making myself feel human again – and went outside to the garden to wait for the albergue gates to open.
Not long to go now:
Be warned that walking out of Ponferrada is no simple achievement as the Camino signs are sparse and almost everyone whom I spoke to this morning complained that they either got lost or found the path very confusing.
Today I walk on, tobacco-free, looking forward to the walk ahead but aware that I am now coming to the end of my walk and not really experiencing yet the satori which I had in mind at the beginning; those 3 months ago when snow dogged my path and when I had the spark of expectation in my eyes.