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Day-27 (11 May—Sat) Montamarta

The Camino spirit is alive and well—I discovered that last night when Luigi invited me to join his group of three Italians for a home-cooked spaghetti ragu, eight in all. We enjoyed the mish-mash of languages and laughed the evening away—no one wanted it to end. The hospitaleras were invited and brought out some of their stash of pâtés and spreads.

Today was a great day for walking the 19.5 km (12.2 mi). The albergue here was a far cry from yesterday’s, so I opted to stay at a casa rural with my own room and bathroom—only one other couple here—a real splurge that won’t be available once I turn off on the Camino Sanabres. Not sure where the others went—possibly to a new Casa rural advertised by a leaflet delivered as we were walking by a car!!!!!

Here are some pics: first, the street cleaner spraying down the streets; dinner from last night; my Casa Rural; lastly, cyclists, maybe a few dozen that passed me by and wishing me, Buen Camino.”

Day-26 (10 May—Fri) Zamora

The day started with an un-forecasted drizzle, so instead of a planned short 8-mile walk, my French buddy and I decided to take the bus for the short distance. Then he opted to stay there and I opted to walk 20 km (12.5 miles) to Zamora. The drizzle had stopped by then and I gained a day to spend at a more interesting place than a 200-people village. The short walk would have put me in town before noon with nothing to do. The whole walk would have been uncomfortably long.

Zamora is a fascinating city of some 60,000 with a history going back to Roman times. It lies on a rocky hill in the northwest overlooking the Duero (that empties into the Atlantic in Porto, Portugal. With its 24 characteristic Romanesque style churches of the 12th and 13th centuries it has been called a “museum of Romanesque art. Zamora is the city with the most Romanesque churches in all of Europe. I visited the Cathedral and the museum in its former cloister and was overwhelmed—so impressive.

Here are just a few pics: my entry into Zamora as I crossed the Duero River and the view of the fortifications and cathedral in the distance; the next three are inside the Cathedral, the religious float made of silver and gilded, a St James altar piece, and the third, an amazing silver altar piece; lastly is the outside of the cathedral.

 

Here is a pic of our four-bed room—huge space between top and bottom bunks!!!!

Day-25 (9 May—Thu) El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino

Much less windy today and more enjoyable; walked 12.7 miles (20.3 km). Had a continental breakfast at the other albuerge which gave me a good start because nothing else was available along the way—that had to last me (and it it). Chose the Albergue Y&M and was one of the early ones to arrive at about 1:30 PM and first in the shower is always a treat.

Here are some memorable pictures: the first pic gave me a real scare, as in, do I really have to cross this water—panic; after looking at my electronic track, I realized I missed a detour about 100 yards back! The second picture is what the trail looked like paralleling the highway; the third and fourth pics, were common sights along the way.

Day-24 (May 8—Wednesday) Calzada de Valdunciel

Mucho viento hoy! First day trekking in Spain was an easy one: about 10 miles (16 km) on level terrain but the head- and cross-winds were fierce, maybe with 30 to 40 knot winds. Most of the route was over a dirt farm road. By noon I reached my first destination staying at a municipal albuerge for 5€—a real bargain. Only one other peregrino is here, a young Spanish fellow. About a half dozen others are staying at another private albuerge that offers breakfast—I’m going to try to get a breakfast with them tomorrow morning because there’s nothing else available. You can see from the pics the road and my albuerge.

Day-21+ (5 May—Sun) Vienna

I spent a wonderful Sunday with family that culminated at a delightful lunch in the suburbs for nine of us—Harald, my three cousins’ father treated. With soon to be 94 years old, he’s doing wonderfully. Before dinner, however, Peter, Susanne and I visited the Ernst Fuchs Museum at the Otto Wagner Villa—amazing art is in understatement. Fuchs (1930 –2015) was an Austrian painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, architect, stage designer, composer, poet, singer and one of the founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism. In 1972, he acquired the neglected Otto Wagner Villa in Hütteldorf (just outside Vienna) which he restored and transformed into a magnificent showpiece. The villa was inaugurated as the Ernst Fuchs Museum in 1988. I was full of oohs and aahs.

After lunch, Harald and I went to Wolfgang and Maria’s house for desert and chit chatting.

Here are some memories from today: one of Ernst Fuchs’ creations; in front of the museum; entrance to the museum; lunch together; back to the museum (Otto Wagner Villa); the other end of the lunch table; and finally, Harald enjoying desert while Kurt and Wolfgang look on; (Kathi, Resi, und Gregor sind auch dabei).

 

Day-21 (5 May—Sun) Vienna

Since the last blog, it’s been a lovely time visiting my cousin Martina in Graz and my other cousin Susanne and Peter at their country home in Kreuzberg, about an hour south of Vienna, but also saying farewell to Martina soon after having a scrumptious Styrian lunch in Langenwang. After lunch all of us drove a short distance to Krieglach where the Peter Rosegger Museum is located. So who is Rosegger (1843-1918)? Well, quite honestly, I wasn’t familiar with him at all, even though I should have been after studying German literature. Above all,  he was an author but painted as well. Well ahead of his time, he believed in a tolerant church and party-less politics. He also advocated conservation and preservation of nature.

Here are some memorable pictures (not necessarily in order): first photo at the Rosegger Museum (Peter, Martina, Kurt); next, Peter and Susanne at their summer house; then, Peter next to the 1961 Steyr tractor, that some years ago we rode up the hill for a tour; then, Saturday taking a stroll in the drizzling rain; next to last, I’m standing on the Graben in the heart of Vienna with Julius Meinl in the background (Vienna’s deli in the heart of the city)—I had a hard time believing the large crowds visiting Vienna!!!; and lastly, on Saturday, the two sisters Martina and Susanne and Peter.

Today, Sunday, it’s off to a lunch gathering with as much of the family as we could muster (9 of us).

Day-18 (2 May—Thu) Graz, Austria

After an early start from Zagreb by train, went through some beautiful countryside and came to the Slovenian border of Dovnia. A squad of police boarded the train to check for illegals, a check that lasted about 15 minutes. Then we continued through nearly to the Austrian border and switched to a bus for the rest of the way on account of track maintenance.

When I arrived in Graz, Martina met me and one of the first orders of business was to change leftover Croatian money (kunas) into Euros. We drove to her house in St Oswald about 26 km from the train station. Martina had done some amazing home improvements starting with a covered car port and entry way that’s now more level. Her vegetable garden keeps her busy but rewards her with many just-in-time harvests.

Here are some pics: a fixer-upper still available along the way; typical countryside scene while traveling along the river before switching to bus;  Martina’s house with car port on  far  left, glass-house garden, and main house; lunch—all healthy things from fresh salad from the garden, and white asparagus and potatoes; and lastly, Martina with Sunny in front of the Glycine flowers that are stunningly beautiful.

Day-17 (1 May—Wed) Zagreb

Left Split at 8:33 AM by train and arrived at Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, at about 3:00 PM. Got settled as quickly as possible in a little apartment not far from the train station and hit the sightseeing trail a bit before 4:00. Being a holiday, the hustle and bustle of locals wasn’t there—it seems it was mainly tourists. Curiously, I noticed lots of Asian tourists (China and Hong Cong)—easy to spot and they’re extremely courteous. Although Zagreb lacks the historical flair of Split, their history goes back just as far—there’s just no Diocletian’s Palace to draw you in.

Here are some of my impressions, starting with two evening shots in Split from last night (the lighting gave it a special aura):

My quest followed the app called VisitACity— highly recommended: first was the Zagreb Cathedral and the sarcophagus behind the altar of Cardinal Stepinac who was tried under the communist regime and sentenced to 16 years, but only served 5 followed by house arrest; there’s a picture of the altar; then there’s St Mark’s with the tiled roof depicting the coat of arms of Zagreb (white castle on red background); then the stone gate entrance where people prayed before they entered the city; and finally, a statue of a serpent slayer amidst a bed of black tulips.

 

Day-15 (29 Apr—Mon) Split

Finished my walking yesterday in arriving in Bol (115 miles in all) and am in recovery mode until May 8th when I start walking again—pretty cushy! Took the bus/ferry combo and arrived on the mainland again at about 4:00 PM. Got settled into an apartment (the hostel I signed up for is out of business) for $30 a night—it’s very nice and modern and close to the city center.

My first evening out exploring the town and having dinner in the area Marjie/Mark recommended was amazing—picture taking saturation. The city center is built around the Roman emperor, Diocletian’s Palace that was readied for him in 305 AD. Every turn you make you feel obligated to take yet another picture—can’t post them all!

Here are my main impressions: first, the Temple of Jupiter was built sometime between 295 and 305, then converted to a Christian Baptistry in the sixth century; and on the sarcophagus as you enter you see one of the earliest sculptures of a Croatian King; next the Cathedral built in Middle Ages in Diocletian’s Palace, and further down a picture of the main altar as well as a picture of the entrance to the Cathedral from the main square; the other two photos show one of the many small streets winding through the Palace, and finally Restaurant Sperdun in the quarter recommend by Marjie and Mark (a family recommendation). The restaurant had a wait of over an hour when I finished—no wait when I started!

Day-14 (28 Apr—Sunday) Bol

After taking a 9:00AM ferry to the island of Brač, I walked 16 miles (25.5 km) with a 1500 ft climb over about half of the distance. That’s the end of my Croatian walk: 115 miles. Super tired, but found enough energy to walk down the hill for a dinner and a little wine. Am actually posting this the next day because it turns out that it’s not easy to get to Split, back on the mainland. I wasn’t going to opt for a 6:30 AM catamaran and miss breakfast; so I’m now taking a bus at 1:00 PM across the island and then a ferry to Split.

Here are some impressions: leaving Maskara; walking right next to vineyards; lots of cyclists on the last part of walk; my first view of Bol—I was elated because with the late ferry start, I didn’t finish until nearly 5:00PM which made for a long day; beautiful restaurant and view in Bol; here’s what much of the uphill terrain looked like—very rocky.