After the challenges Camino de Santiago Day 3 threw at me, I supposed Day 4 would provide some pleasurable difference. You know, I expected balance and so on. Different is was. It was more difficult, more steep, and demanded more from my not-so-happy-after-the-25th-km feet. But, you know what, I came to realize that putting yourself to the test and striving to go on only transforms the rest afterwards into vigorous enjoyment and at least doubles the luxury of a hot shower, clean clothes, feet up and something Galician to eat.
Walking traditionally started at dark and probably for this reason we failed to take the right turn (there are two alternatives to chose from after Villafranca del Bierzo – a mountainous route and the “highway” route). So instead we found ourselves walking along the road, for most of the time the highway was high above our heads, but overall, surprisingly, I found the way quite peaceful, probably because it was too early. There was a divider to separate pilgrims from the road. Level walking on flat surface early in the morning was not a bad idea. Some lovely small villages for an occasional cafe con leche were quite welcome as well.
At one of them we bought some delicious Spanish bread and sausages and sat down to recharge the batteries at the first suitable place along the road. As pilgrims were constantly passing us by, we were wished Bon Appetit every minute, so some thanking with my mouth full, but who cares
At one point the scenery became so picturesque that it was almost hard to bear. Small idyllic villages, green meadows, cows, and unique tranquility. I tuned in to a relaxed mode, totally inadequate for what was about to come.
The ascent began abruptly and we started rapidly going up through a forest. After it ended, the ascent continued…and continued…and continued. Behind every turning I expected a change in the circumstances but all we got was more ascent. Logically, it was already scorching and in other words perfect timing to have some tree-free kilometers.
The albergue we stayed in was municipal (which we generally tended to avoid on Camino de Santiago). Nothing really to complain except that the rooms accommodated far too much people. I think in the room we slept there were about 50 people with distance between the beds barely enough to walk. Don’t get me wrong, not that I was choosy at that point, but it is nevertheless a challenge to the ear and nose to have a good night’s sleep with this amount of people in such limited space. There were 3 sinks for hand washing for the whole albergue – more than 100 people. Not bad, maybe if they consider putting a 4th one it would make pilgrim’s lives easier. Oh, and the bathrooms had no doors
O Cebreiro itself had immensely sterile atmosphere. On the top of the mountain, with magnificent views, streets laden with stones and the typical pallozas – round stone houses with straw roofs. The Church of St. Mary is also definitely worth visiting.
I tried for the first time empanada in O Cebreiro and I loved it. Actually, chances are I would have never tried it, but we ended up being in another bar with the owner not speaking a word in English and the menu in Spanish. However, there was a Spanish couple next to us on the bar and the girl was so helpful I’d be forever grateful to her. Actually, not only me but all the pilgrims passing though the bar.
After explaining us in details about Galician specialties, the owner asked her to translate the menu in English for poor fellows like us and she did! In gratitude, he gave her a bottle of red wine. For once, everyone was happy. So, when you are in O Cebreiro try and ask for a menu in English. You may be lucky.