PonferradaOctober 29, 2016 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 13 °C
To reach Ponferrada we had to climb up into a mountain range which would take us to the highest point on the Camino, a place called Cruz de Ferro. At 1500m elevation, we had walked up through forested mountains again dotted on their ridges and peaks by wind turbines- out only markers, like sentinels, the larger they loomed, the closer we knew we were to the top!
Cruz de Ferro is an iron cross at which pilgrims leave something of themselves ( usually a stone as a symbol) behind at the foot of the cross to symbolise this part of their pilgrimage. It was a very quiet and peaceful place surrounded by pines and wooded glades. We stood and remembered those who had gone before us and all those we loved.
We also had a local sheep dog befriend us on the path up the mountain. See pic. These dogs were traditionally used by local farmers to protect their sheep and cows from mountain wolves. He stayed with us for about 8k and led us up the mountain path, which was single file through scrub and trees. Every now and then he would stop to turn and check on us as we puffed up the rocky path after him. Whoever said that a companion on the Camino had to be human! I will never forget this lovely affectionate Camino dog who made it his business to look after us on The Way.
Inevitably, 'what must go up- must come down!' echoed in our ears as we commenced a very steep descent of 900m in 11k. This steep descent pocketed by villages along the way led us out of the mountains and down to the city of Ponferrada which is the capital of the El Bierzo region In Castille de Leon. It is hemmed in by mountains and sits at the head of a very long valley stretching out ahead of us like a canvas. It would take us the next 3 days to walk the length of it!
Ponferrada's history was both Roman as it was an important settlement and also Medieval. Its name derives from its bridge built in 1082, the first to be built of iron. Hence, Pons Ferrata became Ponferrada.
It also has a most magnificent castle with an interesting history and was declared a national monument!
In the 1100s the Templar Knights were made custodians of Ponferrada by King Fernando in 1178. Having inherited the original fort here, the Templar Knights built it into something much larger. Not long after they were, sadly dissolved. The castle stands as a monument to them and their protection of the city and especially the pilgrims who travelled through it on their way to Santiago.See Pic.Read more