June 2-5, 2019
Many people, when hiking the Camino de Santiago, are driven by their destination. Each day is an opportunity to log more miles, seeing the city of Santiago as the culmination of their journey. Early in this walk, Jay and I agreed to be mindful of the present, enjoy each day, be open to possibilities. This mindset brought us four fascinating days exploring the city of Burgos.
The Hotel Alda Entrearcos, located in the center of town, allowed us to explore in the morning, come back to our room to regroup, then head out again. A hamburger joint on the corner next to our hotel quickly became a favorite lunch spot.
Topping a hill near the Castillo de Burgos, the Mirador del Castillo (Castle Lookout) gave a sweeping view. A railing in bronze relief oriented tourists to the important sights in the historic town below. “How cool!” I thought as I ran my fingers across the buildings and surrounding landscape depicted in bronze. “A tactile way to get ones bearings!”
My imagination had free rein at the Castillo de Burgos. Steel catwalks linked partial ramparts with open walls. Signs obligingly identified our surroundings in both Spanish and English.
Deeper than the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, “El Pozo”, the castle well, turned my respect for medieval engineers into awe. I peered longingly through the locked grating, my inner vision tracing the spiral steps deep into the earth.
I took a picture of the sign explaining the well, as the immensity of its existence boggled my mind. I loved the diagram showing the bottom of the well reaching all the way to the water table supplying the Río Arlanzon!
Found in Wikipedia, a 1638 manuscript, Historia de Burgos, explained the staircase and well were “so artfully done that looks like work of enchantment.”
Statues, parks, and street musicians helped make Burgos a magical place for wandering.
The Catedral de Burgos easily dominates the town, and invited us to enjoy a tour. We visited this building last Saturday for Mass and the Voces del Camino concert. (Link to that blog post here.) https://sarahandjayhike.blog/2019/09/21/dawn-to-way-past-dusk/
On our second visit, we bought tickets for an audio tour.
We had the privilege of hearing an organist practice his craft behind a barred gate.
About the time I started feeling overwhelmed (even slightly oppressed) with impressive works, I spied an open window.
The Camino skirted the Sierra de Atapuerca before coming through Burgos. This small mountainous region, riddled with limestone caves, sinkholes, ridges, and fissures, has been continuously occupied by humans for the last one million years! Since excavation began in 1978, many caves have yielded a wealth of ancient human remains.
“It’s a cornucopia of human history,” Jay commented. “Those caves are like a vertical filing cabinet.”
The Museo Evolución Humana showcases the extraordinary findings from the Sierra de Atapuerca as well as offering, to quote the museum, “a holistic vision of the human presence on Earth.”
Jay and I viewed bones, tools, and life size models. From Neanderthal remains, found a few miles away, to a model of Homo habilis, found in Africa, I was swept with a vision of the many changes in this amazing world.
Reality truly hit me when I entered a room of skulls. Walking past row after row of craniums, I was suddenly stopped by an eerily familiar sight. Jagged breaks on one jaw were in the exact places x-rays showed on my broken jaw last August! Startled, I bent to read the sign which informed me that the woman’s mandible had been broken and healed, but had developed infection and probably caused a lot of pain. My own bone throbbed in sympathy as I stared at the skull of Homo heidelbergensis. A wave of gratitude for modern medicine swept over me. I had it good compared to this ancient woman.
I turned to Jay with a smile. “History is fascinating, but I’m glad we chose to live in the present!”