Day 11 (to Santo Domingo de la Calzada): The Chicken Story

I headed onwards at 7:20, my …

2014-04-14 08.25.48
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… ankle feels better then yesterday, so I started a new day with … somewhat … firmer steps. The white-bearded German gent from Ludwigsburg asks if I want to join him and another pilgrim back to Najera, where they plan to take the bus to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Thanks but no thanks … I came here to walk and don’t feel like taking shortcuts … when it hurts I plan to walk slower… but by golly its onwards I plan to walk.

And so I continue, Maren catches up with me shortly afterwards and we discuss the global geopolitical situation with an emphasis on globalization trends. An English lady with an olive branch in her backpack catches up, and I quickly lag behind both of them.
After a while I hear a melody in the distance … sounds like a shepherd’s tune. There is only one problem … there is no shepherd in sight … its not my mobile making strange sounds either. In a bit I discover a solution to this mystery. Its my roommate from yesterday, Fernando, playing a flute … and doing it quite well. I recorded a video of him playing an Irish tune. I played him a few traditional tunes from Dalmatia and we agree that I’ll teach him klapa singing. But not today because he is much faster than me (and not later because he proved to be quite faster then me)
The scenery is idyllic as usual … nice fields as far as your eye can see.
At the top of a small hill I spot a picnic zone with Maren, Massimo and the French family including my doppelganger … though when I looked closer the guy does looks similar but nowhere near twin-like. Angus and Grace are also here, the first Scots I came across so far. Few people are approaching from a distance … its Cindy the Canadian and Scott the Australian. Sandy is following her sister on a bus because her knee has some major issues.
The path goes … uphill..I chat a bit with a German lady who is 72 and walks in her sandals because her feet are full of blisters. On a side note, everyone carries a pair of sandals because albergue etiquette requires you to leave the boots in the lobby. A few minutes later the German lady reports smelling coffee … and so it is … a cafe right next to the golf court.
Golf course … where did that come from, I ask Angus .... “didn’t you see it on the left side of the road”nope, my eyes were stuck to the road…. must have been a legacy of my driver’s ed class.
After a short break the road continues through a ghost town … apartments complex built before the latest recession, and nearly empty of life.
I am wondering if I got lost again since I see no yellow arrows and no pilgrims ahead either. There are a few pilgrims behind me but they must think I know where I’m going. A yellow arrow at the nearby lamppost shows that I do in fact (this time).
A small village… then fields and meadows … then uphill … and downhill … then blue skies over the meadows. Then a city in the distance … and another round of “find a yellow arrow” game played in the city suburbs.First alley has a bench …yessss. … it would be almost impolite not to try it out.
The path runs through the suburbs and leads to an old city gate with a modernist sculpture of a pilgrim and a massive yellow arrow.  There lies the albergue … I only did 15km today to give the ankle swelling a chance to subside … although I felt like I could have done more. Still … plenty of time to get to Santiago, no need to rush.
During check-in I was mislead by the quality of  hospitalero’s  English, so I asked … in English … for a bottom bunk. Then he started explaining its few streets to the left and another to the right. ?!? … It took me a bit to figure out that he thought I was asking for a bank, not a bunk. Naturally the bunk I was assigned to was the upper one.
Almost everyone is here, Scott, Cindy and Sandy, Maren, Angus and Grace.
Scott joins me for a stroll around the city that I continue in a cathedral-museum. Interesting sculptures in the cloister and 3D paintings for Stations of the Cross … spectacular golden altar construction … and of course … a glass case with chickens … its time for that story.
The town was named after the Santo Domingo de la Calzada… or St. Dominic. He wasn’t accepted the first time he wanted to join the friars but managed it on a second occasion based on recommendation of another local saint. He built a bridge for the pilgrims and a hospital/inn which is today … ironically enough … is a five star hotel.
“but what’s that got to do with the chickens” … you might ask? … Patience … I’m getting to it. 
A long time ago (and not in a galaxy far away) a family of pilgrims from Germany was passing through the town. The local waitress fell hard for fair-haired son who traveled with his parents. Alas, in a tragic case of unrequited love, he didn’t return her affections. Since, as the poet wrote a while back .. .hell hath no fury as woman scorned … the waitress decided to frame him for theft, by planting a silver chalice from the church in his backpack, and reported him to the authorities. Punishment was swift in those days, and the guy was sentenced to death by hanging.
… “but what’s that got to do with the chickens” … you might ask? …
Patience … I’m getting to it.
The next day the grieving parents went to the gallows to see their son one last time before continuing to Santiago. To their shock … they found their son … still alive on the gallows, telling them he was saved by Santo Domingo.
...”and the chickens?” … Patience, I said.
So the ecstatic parents went immediately to the local mayor, who coincidentally was just having lunch, and told him what they saw and heard. “Baloney”… says the mayor …  “your son is equally alive as these roasted chickens on my plate” … As he finished speaking, the chickens came to life and started running on the table.
Ever since, a pair of chickens is held in the cathedral (new pair every two weeks) and chickens are practically a symbol of this town.
After a tour of the town I returned to the albergue for a rest … lovely armchairs in the lobby ... and  a chat with Scott. After a while I hear someone calling me … Beata has arrived as well.
For dinner I parked myself at the appointed hour in the nearby bar.  For those unfamiliar with the custom, in Spain (like in Italy) dinner is served only after specific time (usually 18h or 19h). earlier than that you can only order tapas.
Time for a bed … big room … lots of people…hmm … I expect a bit of eine kleine nachtmusik., of the snoring variety.
That was day no. 11.

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