Via de la Plata – Day 30: Ourense to Oseira

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32 kilometers, 6 hours and 30 minutes. Up, up, and uphill through Cudeiro, Tamallancos, Bouzas, Sobreira, Veduedo, Casas Novas, Cea, and Pieles.

As Ourense was at a lower elevation, the VDLP route climbed for five kilometers and three hundred meters before relenting for a while. But the path, much of it over ancient Roman roads and through lichen-covered forests, made the trek worth the effort.

From our albergue (hostel) in the large city of Ourense, my Camino friends—Hiromi and Fernando—and I headed down through the busy rush-hour pedestrians to cross the Rio Miño on the Roman bridge (yes, yet another) and found a café for some coffee and churros.

After we filled ourselves for our climb, we said our goodbyes to Hiromi. She would be resting a day in the wonderful city and taking in more of the sights. Quick hugs and Buen Caminos (Good Caminos), and Fernando and I were off. A most enjoyable time we had with Hiromi. A nice young lady and a great person.

We were on our way to Oseira and an albergue in the large monastery of the little village for that night. We arrived there at about 3:00 p.m.

After finding the albergue locked, we entered a bar on the corner near the monastery. Two customers were in attendance, sipping on beers, with no bartender or innkeeper present. But we could hear the wrestling of dishes in the back, up just a few stairs at the right end of the bar.

On and on this went. The beer drinkers left for a smoke, and we sat there waiting for a good fifteen minutes before hearing the slow shuffle of a woman coming down the stairs leading behind the bar. She was no bigger than a minute. She reminded me of my mother-in-law: short, dark hair, and attitude. We placed our orders for red wine and bocadillos (sandwiches) made of local meats and cheeses and pan de Cea (bread of Cea), the best bread in Spain—by my estimation.

We took the wine from the bar, went back to our table, and waited for the sandwiches. She cut fresh bread and meats and cheeses and then brought our sandwiches out to us. She had to open a gate in the bar and to step down to come to our table. I was sitting on a very small stool at our table when she arrived, looking level, eye to eye with me. Again, she was no bigger than a minute. But she smiled when Fernando started chatting her up and asking her about the albergue and the monastery.

Eventually, we walked to the gift shop at the monastery, paid for our night’s stay, and arranged for a tour and to listen to the singing monks after we had cleaned up.

We were shown to the large dormitory where there were forty bunk beds—and no heat. But since there were just the two of us, we were allowed to use a small sitting room just inside the old building that was enclosed and, thankfully, had a heater. Heaven sent.

Later, we met one of the monks for an outstanding tour of the eight-hundred-year-old monastery and the large Romanesque church.

For slideshow, click on imagine.

We could not take a single picture, which was a shame, but I had so many from other churches and cathedrals, it was ridiculous. I must say I was incredibly impressed with the whole place, its history, and especially with the library we visited. We were shown a bible that was four hundred years old in this fantastic old room just above the albergue. That particular library wasn’t used much, as it was one of five in the monastery, the monk told us. Even if you were to enter that room blindfolded, you would know it was filled with old books. Nothing smells like that, malodorous and dusty, but it did in a way that would make a bibliophile giddy.

As we walked through cloisters and patios, up some stairs, and through the church, the monk asked about my “conviction.” To my questioning face, he said, “religion.” I said I wasn’t religious but spiritual. To which he said, after considering my response for several minutes as we walked, “Your religion is inside you.”

Stopping in Oseira for this experience was well worth the price of admission. Though I had found no, zero, nada Wi-Fi. Some of these places the Internet simply forgot. Or they just don’t think they need it. But it will come.

Costs: €5 for the albergue, €2 for churros, €7 for lunch, €3 for a tour of the monastery and a performance by the singing monks, and €10 for dinner.