Photos From Ribeira Sacra Lucense

As the first trip out of our town since the quarantine, we started north to Ourense, then headed northeast to explore the towns just before Monforte de Lemos on the lucense side of the Ribeira Sacra. The weather was mostly dry but a little chilly, the end of an unusual cool streak.

We passed the small railroad town of Canaval (or Canabal in castellano), right off the highway near Ferreira de Pantón, quite a few times this week. Along with the train station and a cluster of old homes was an old brick industrial smokestack that reminded me of Cologne. For whatever reason, memories of driving through rural France on the way to Germany came to mind. The town felt forgotten, but in peaceful way. Perhaps its train service and proximity to Monforte de Lemos.

After Doade, a touristy town dedicated to the area’s signature viniculture, comes the Lookout of Souto Chao with its great views of Canón do Sil and its granite statue of a grape picker.

We bounced around between lugares and parroquias in Sober, Pantón, and O Saviñao looking at different houses from idealista, talking with neighbors, and getting a feel for the rural life in this corner of Galicia. On the way, we found a lake near Rosende. It turned out to be private property but we still managed to have a nice lunch and walk around without disturbing anyone, or them us.

Alqo has been getting braver with going into the water and swimming a bit since we showed him the Arnoia river by our house. The last time he swam was in Long Beach and I think the waves scared him!

Van camping is fairly easy in Europe. While not exactly legal, if you’re off private land and and not conspicuous in you’re vehicle, you shouldn’t have a problem. When you camp off-season and in less-populated places, this becomes easier.

Alqo and I are almost always the first out of bed.

Many of the fincas we looked at have been long abandoned. Occasionally all that is left is the stone foundation, like this house that was built in the 19th century. Other times, we’ve seen houses with the bedspreads still on and knickknacks on the bookshelves. The older generation emigrated out of necessity. The Galician land inheritance system of minifundium prevented families from growing enough to sustain themselves, so they left; to Cuba, Argentina, to Catalonia or Basque Country. The younger generation inherited these places but either can’t or won’t live in the rural world for myriad reasons. No jobs, no option to telecommute, used to city life, etc.

Perhaps there will come a de-urbanization phenomenon due to the pandemic and financial crisis that pulls young people away from the cramped city life back into España vacía, empty Spain.

This mirador is actually on the Ourensan side of the canyon. Our last night we decided to cross over the river and camp near Paradela and Castro Caldelas. The mirador As Penas de Matacás offers a stunning view at sunset. I don’t think it’s possible to tire of looking at the canyon walls, the vineyards, and the villages nestled close to them.

There’s been a lot going on in the world, and I need to disconnect a bit. So I brought Castelao’s Sempre en Galiza, translated by Craig Peterson, with me on the trip. It’s a very interesting book. The publisher Francis Boutle sums the book up quite nicely:

Forever in Galicia is the most extensive account of Galician identity ever written, an idiosyncratic text that spans and erodes the traditional genres of memoir, political treatise, historical essay and revisionist analysis.

I’ll share more after I’ve read more, but suffice it to say that it’s a compelling read for another interested in the history and cultural diversity of Iberia.

Lastly, on our route home, we saw a few reservoirs on the map. We stopped at the small beach near the town of Pradomao and found a great potential camping spot for the future.

The trip was both refreshing and intimating. Refreshing as it removed us from the monotony of the quarantine life while still being safe and socially distant. But intimating as it made us confront new potentialities.

  • How big of a rehabilitation and agriculture project can we both handle?
  • How far is too far removed from nodes of denser society for economic and social futures?
  • What will the area look like in ten, twenty, thirty years?

And so many more. Patricia said it didn’t feel like a vacation since her brain was in constant overdrive with possibilities. I agree.

Next week, we head back to the Rías Baixas area for a few days to visit family and plant a small garden.

Galician Culture and History on WordPress with Tim Ginty

I’m drawn to places very easily. It could be the way I feel while there, or something read or imagined about the history or contemporary culture of the place. I start daydreaming about what life would’ve been like in the recent or distant past and what it might look like years from now.

What has changed recently is my desire to understand these places through the perspective of others rather than facts and dates. And so, I’m interested in reading more about my new home of Galicia much more than what’s happening in U.S. politics for example.

Other than Wikipedia and information about walking the Camino de Santiago, I don’t see much blogging on Galicia in English. While I can read castellano, it does not come as easy yet, and I struggle with written conjugated verb forms and less-frequently used vocabulary, slowing down my progress.

So I was delighted to stumble onto Tim Ginty’s blog Lives and Times this morning. He has a few posts about Galicia from last year:

  • Unearthing Gallaecia: The Ruins of Monte O Facho for an overview of castro culture, their subsequent romanization by the Roman legions, the unique syncretism of the society it produced, as well as photos of O Facho. “Even today, in Galicia there still exist signs of this fusion of Latin and Pagan, hints of a latent indigenous culture found in their Carnivals and Solstice celebrations, and in their mythology of mouras (siren-like women of the forest) and stories of meigas (witches).”
  • A Conversation with César Lema: On a Rural Return for a window into Lema’s worldview on communalism in rural Galicia and within the long-arc of history, the possibility of utopias. “Modernity, in contrast, offers an atomised community and alienated production, living beside people you might not even know and working to generate a profit you will never possess – that is, the absolute contrary of the shared life.”
  • The Eternal Wall of Lucus Augusti for a look at the fortified wall of Lugo and the building of of them symbolizing power and splendor but also insularity. “Only a few decades after the construction of the wall Lucus Augusti would fall. Its formerly all-powerful rulers – a slave-holding class of indolent elites – would wave the white flag to the invading Suave tribe from the north. The Germanic barbarians did not even need to lay siege upon the fortified city, and some say that the elite of the city were celebrating a feast when the occupiers came, too drunk on sweet wine to organise a resistance.”

I’m inspired by Tim’s writing. The posts on Galicia are just a small sample of what he has. He also wrote about Marinaleda, the communist pueblo in Andalusia. He effortlessly blends history with personal essay and photos, which makes for interesting reading.

I feel allergic to blogs that try to push or sell something; an ebook, a course, ads, more posts, etc. Blogs give everyday people a platform and a space to flesh out ideas, share something with the world, valorize practices and ideas. As I go on with Among the Stones, I hope it can also be a place to share like Lives and Times.