OK, so where do we start? Yesterday was a shorter day in that Mikey hiked a less arduous distance, but took a ferry, checked into his hotel, and met up with the remaining Irish pilgrim from his group for a small bite. Ergo, it was busy!
Well, it started raining in the early evening, so our protagonist raced to a market to purchase cheese, chorizo, cherries, cerveza, and a crianza wine. (Yup, Mikey loves alliteration, but this really was his bill of fare!) Returning in a downpour, he settled in for a night of bad Spanish TV and a sodium-enriched supper. Sadly, there was nothing else to report for that night.
But…in keeping with the pilgrim tradition, Mikey rose early the next morning and visited the Cathedral of Santander.
In a nutshell, the cathedral is comprised of two churches: the upper being from the 14th century and the lower dating back to the 12th. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing, but just think of it like a 2 for 1 special.
Oh, but this was the dome. Yeah, that’s looking straight up to the ceiling. You can really see the Moorish/Islamic influence in the geometric design. (Remember, most of Spain was under Arab rule for almost 700 years!)
Then we went into the older part:
Yep, this is the early 12th century part of the cathedral. Also known as the Church of the Christ, it is an excellent example of gothic architecture. Notice how more cavernous this earlier style seems. The columns are much lower, but still really thick. This is due mostly to the earlier technology not being as efficient as that of 200 years later.
And it houses the heads (encased in silver) of the 4th century martyrs Emeterius and Celedonius. These brothers were Roman legionnaires who were tortured and decapitated sometime around 300CE in La Rioja. So, their heads were put on a stone barge and it floated to Santander. Kinda cool, right? Well, the locals thought it was, so they named the town after San (Saint) Emeterius and the name slowly morphed into Santander. (Sorry Celedonius!)
Next stop was the Menendez Pelayo Library. The guy for whom the library is named was a true 19th century renaissance man. A voracious reader and author, tenured professor at 23, member of the Spanish congress, and many other crazy things, he amassed a library of over 40,000 books some of which date back to the 15th century (aka pre-Gutenberg!)
Well, Mikey had to lie a bit to gain access. Apparently one has to be a credentialed academic researcher to see the inside of the library. In fact, there was a guy wearing cotton gloves and just poring over a manuscript while Mikey was there.
The lie? Well…given the time he spent researching at the UCLA graduate library (it really felt like a job!), Mikey just told the librarian that he had worked at a college library in the US and would love to see this most beautifully preserved Santander-ian(?) treasure. Hey – if you’re gonna tell a lie, best believe yourself. Oh, and guess what – it worked!
The fruits and vegetables were absolutely ripe so Mikey had to buy some cherries. Oh, in case you ever find yourself in Spain buying fruit – do not try to touch the fruit! You can point, but the wench … er, vender will pick it out for you. (Not that Mikey got yelled at or anything 😔)
Of course, they had the typical local products marketed towards vacationers and travelers who don’t have to carry everything on their backs!
There was even a bar – talk about shop till you drop! Well, Mikey just had to stop in.
For a much needed coffee. (Come on guys, its not all about wine!) Well, the funny bit about Spain is that “bars” are really more like all purpose cafes in that they are open from early morning until late evening and serve everything from breakfast and coffee to beer, hard alcohol, lunch, and after dinner desserts. There’s really nothing comparable to them in the States.
With the needed caffeine gulped down, Mikey hit the streets to check out some culture and stuff. This was a nature photography ehibit set up in the main plaza. The prints were huge and the entire effect was quite impressive.
Next stop: The Human Evolution Museum! (I mean, Mikey just went bananas over it. Get it?!)
Of major importance was this specific stela which prominently displays a solar symbol. While nature worship was common in northern Spain during the pre-Christian era, this symbol is a direct ancestor to the Basque “lauburu” or cross, the Jesuit sun, and the Nazi swastika among others.
Even the Crusader Cross on these medieval coins can be traced back to the pagan sun symbology.
Speaking of pagan lands, Mikey bought a Coke Zero and the bottle told him that he should enjoy it in Hawaii. Nah, Santander was just fine – and probably just as hot.
Well, one traveler tip that we are happy to share is the best way of beating the heat – museums. Think about it, just like banks, they’re normally air conditioned and (unlike banks) you can stick around for quite a while with no one getting too nervous.
And while the tank in the aquarium part wasn’t that huge, it was pretty rad.
Oh, remember that day when Mikey ate sea urchin? Yeah, this guy made him hungry!
Well, it was time for some food, so we headed back to the downtown area. Oh – this? Yeah, just some random naked statues along the way.
A display of local beer from Cantabria lured Mikey into this bar. While he wasn’t about to try them all, he made sure to snap a picture for future reference.
He did decide on a local pale ale and a shrimp tortilla española. It was really good and paired well.
Inspired by his find, Mikey looked up the one craft beer bar in Santander. Yep – it was within walking distance! (Yes, I know that that’s totally subjective given that we’re on a walking pilgrimage. Let’s just say that the pub was 10 minutes away.)
This was the taster flight paddle that was carved out of a tree with the bark left intact. (If you don’t already know – taster flights are normally 4oz pours of on-tap beer.) Now when we say that this was the taster paddle, that is to say that it was the only one. Mikey still had one beer left when he had to return the paddle for someone else to use!
Well, that’s about all for the rest day. Mikey went back to the hotel and got his stuff together since we’re back on the trail tomorrow. Thanks for sticking with us through this longer post. We’ll have some stories next time about trains, funerals messing up plans, and torture!