Thursday 2 September 2010

Nájera: of storks and pilgrims

Nájera - 1

Nájera (La Rioja)
Mon 10 May

Nájera is a small town in the wine-rich region of La Rioja, not far south of the mountains which separate the Basque Country from the rest of Spain. It lies on the Camino de Santiago, the historic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and is a convenient staging post between Logroño and Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

I don't know how many pilgrims pass through the town, or stay overnight on their journey, but we saw several - it was mid-afternoon - and we seemed to be the only visitors who weren't engaged on the Way. The pilgrimage is significant enough to warrant its own section on the local council's website, and you can find lots of pilgrim accounts on the web.

We had a strange conversation with a Dutch couple (in English, of course), who asked if there were any food shops in town - they'd been walking through Northern Spain for several days, and hadn't yet found anywhere they could buy food to take with them as they walked. In fact, the question was more like "Are there any food shops in Spain?".

On reflection, I suppose the daily stages of the journey mostly take pilgrims across country; the towns, where the food shops are, are at the end of a stage, and by the time they get there, it's probably Spanish lunchtime (2pm-5pm), and the shops are shut. There's a message in there somewhere.

We spent an hour or so on a fruitless search for the medieval Jewish quarter - la Judería - which I had seen references to; there was a street-name, and a bar, but nothing else to suggest the town had once been home to a substantial Jewish population. We also failed to catch sight of the castle, which apparently dominates the town.

Many moons ago I stayed in the town's campsite, located within the former bull-ring. It is said that campers are sometimes woken in the middle of the night by the sounds of thunderously pounding hooves, angry snorts, and cries of '¡Olé!'. Or that may just have been the Rioja speaking.

The storks, by the way, were everywhere.

Here's a handful of Nájera pictures.

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