“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” ~ Chief Seattle
It was Thursday, October 31, 2019, when we visited Santiago de Compostela. The gray skies predicted a cold rainy day. But that did not stop us from wanting to learn all about this lovely town. The drive was not long, only about 1 hour. But the fog made the visibility a bit difficult and when you don’t know the roads it’s best to use precaution and drive at safe speeds.
This medieval town is the capital of the northwest Galicia region. It is also the last stop for those walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. We encountered a few people who had just completed their pilgrimage. Some stood in front of the Cathedral in different poses with pride to photograph their victorious moment. Others bowed down to kiss the ground in a gesture of thanks. We didn’t know the people who completed the route but felt happy for them.
The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral stands tall and majestic at the Plaza do Obradoiro. It’s a beautiful Romanesque structure and one of Spain’s iconic landmarks. It is also the home of the largest “botafumeiro” (censor/thurible) in the world. You probably might have seen it in movies. It’s over 5 ft tall and weighs approximately 176 pounds. It was something I wanted to see up close. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the inside of the Cathedral since it was closed, and some parts were off-limit due to restoration of the building.
The narrow streets are lined with local shops, restaurants, and cafes. Then there’s the Mercado de Abastos central market which is just a 6-minute walk from the Cathedral. It’s the perfect place to find fresh seafood, local cheese, cured meats, fruits, vegetables, and local wine. We still have one bottle available of the Albariño Rias Baixa which is a local Galician white wine and perfect to pair with seafood.
Walking through these streets gave us a sense of going back in time. Communication was direct from person to person – no cell phones or texting involved. Transportation was limited to a few vehicles and more walking. Many streets are blocked off and only available to residents. And daily meals consisted of fresh meats, seafood, and vegetables with no processed additives hence the large variety of shops in the Mercado de Abastos.
As we strolled the medieval streets of Santiago de Compostela under the rain, we experienced the welcoming of the locals. Their genuine smiles and greetings, willingness to help us navigate the streets and their suggestions on where to eat good food was a well-received gesture.
We were not able to do much because of the rain but we did enjoy what little time we spent in Santiago de Compostela. Sometimes, travelers tend to skip small towns because they are not such popular tourist destinations or do not hold any famous landmarks. But being able to experience these little towns brings a whole new perspective into our lives. We get to experience the reality of the local’s lives and not just what the country officials want us to see. We urge you to think outside the box and visit other lesser-known towns such as Santiago de Compostela. It’s a place well worth visiting.