Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oh, A Coruña...!

Or is it "La" Coruna…? Or "O" Coruña??
Never mind, you'd only be supposed to know about these things if you apply for an administration job here in Galicia. Then you have to pass a test in their local language, Gallego, which is a mix of Portuguese spelling and Spanish pronunciation. So, the right answer has to be "A" Coruña. Traditions are living up again here in the north-western corner of the Iberian peninsula, even the kids at school are being brought up with their ancestors language. The reason is only partly romantic, but has also a political and economical side: The general crisis forced quite a number of citizens, who couldn't compete with the tighter market, out in the countryside again where they still had fields and a house to take up old-fashioned, but self-sustained work again. That brings back the old times alright. And there's elections coming up and of course the swing to the old values is a great wave to surf upon, at least in the eyes of the candidates. 
History is strong here, has been for a long, long time. Certainly the most spectacular and - by function - most visible monument for that is the Hercules Tower, the oldest lighthouse in the world. Built by the Romans already around the year AD 180, its structure is still standing, be it with a few outside reparations in the 19th century. And it is still in use, still showing ships the way in the dangerous waters near Cap Finisterre, now equipped with a modern LED, replacing the oil lantern of the old, very old days.
The Celts were here, the Maures, Napoleonic Wars were fought, only the second World War somehow left this spot out, so most of the beautiful houses with their characteristic glass verandas are still there. They were built from surplus material of the shipyards and proved to be very useful to keep the humidity out of the apartments. And moist it is, here, on this spit in the sea, warm and mellow. 
In finest weather conditions the excursions leave to various places, top address obviously being Santiago de Compostela, destination of millions of pilgrims from all around the world, who come to see the place where the bones of St. James are buried. Not millions, but thousands seem to be here today, now imagine the throng in summertime…! However, the magic of this place doesn't fail to enchant all who saw it, and the - very rare! - swinging of the huge incense bowl is a big event.
Quite a bit more peaceful the village of Betanzos, where flowers bloom and the soft autumn light is perfect for getting a shot of the Franciscan's church, where the odd relation between cross and pigs, or rather wild boars, is reflected in many a stone mason's work.
Seems we have spent the best part of the day ashore, as soon as we leave port clouds are closing in, and toward the evening the familiar pitching of the ship sets in; today, however, most of us have already earned their sea legs and don't care so much.
The dolphins out there have fun, too, frolicking around FRAM and jumping in great numbers. Dusk comes early here in the South, so the ship calms down after dinner.
Tomorrow: Next port, next country - Portugal, here we come...