Day 6 – Torres del Rio to Logroño > excerpt 3
To warm myself I had coffee in the historic town of Viana, where I bumped into Eric again. This time he was sitting in a wind-sheltered corner under the town hall arcades, had just finished his brunch and was soon on his way. I visited the large and grand church on the main square which had a most luxurious golden altar wall covering the whole width of the apses and rising about fifteen metre right into the ceiling vault. The wall assembly of pictures is gigantic and particularly ornate for this small settlement. Viana nowadays, with its modern outskirts and industrial areas, has only about 4000 inhabitants.
The massive altar wall.
On my way out of town I bought a tortilla and a second cup of coffee. It was unusual for me to have two cups in one destination – but it was cold enough and I needed the energy boost for the remaining nine kilometres to Logroño. On arrival and before crossing the bridge over the River Ebro, I entered the tourist information office, which probably catered for just a sprinkling of pilgrims in winter. I was told that the Municipal albergue was being refurbished and I received instructions on how to reach the alternative private hostel. I either had not listened properly or misheard the instructions and could not find the place to which I had been directed.
Snow had fallen continuously and, although I had only walked close to twenty one kilometres that day, I was ready, in fact desperate, to have a nap. A police officer finally directed me to the refugio and I spread out and enjoyed the modern facility with its efficient central heating system. I was feeling content and at home. Humans, however, are seldom satisfied – at least I appear to be too hastily dissatisfied: the heating system in this hostel remained on all night and the heat was most uncomfortable for me. I did not have a good night’s sleep.
The cathedral in Logroño, which I visited that afternoon, was large and impressive. In many Spanish cathedrals, the choir – where bishops and priests sit on their richly carved benches during high mass – is central to the nave and the remaining space facing the altar is where the congregation gathers during mass. The hall-like space to the rear of the choir was, I assume, reserved for the public to mingle and converse without disturbing the proceedings. In this cathedral the rear part is now enclosed by glass and heated, making it suitable for regular church services. Worshippers drifted in and out, some settling while a woman prepared the altar for the next service. Once I had warmed myself sufficiently I left before the priest arrived.
I could not find a suitable restaurant in the city centre, so I returned to the hostel where I had seen a plain looking bar/shop/restaurant and Noelia joined me there for dinner. She had also visited the cathedral, and as we were waiting for our food, she poured out emotions and could not hold back her tears. Noelia is a very practical and down-to-earth young woman who knows how to organize and how to deal with people. She manages entertainment in a holiday resort on the Spanish island of Menorca, and most of her customers are from Britain. She certainly is not a shy person; she is a Spaniard and has a temperamental Spanish nature.
Noelia explained that in the cathedral earlier that afternoon she had been overcome with emotions: she had cried for a long time and was overwhelmed by the experience. She was a modern Catholic believer, and that was one reason for her to walk the Camino. Another reason was that she was caught in a fourteen-year-long relationship and saw no way of fulfilling the love they had in marriage. I understood that either his or her family disapproved of the marriage and this had prevented the union. She was now facing the consequences: if a solution could not be found, she would have to consider breaking off the relationship.
At this point Xavi, a young pilgrim from Spain she had met earlier in the day, joined us and we abandoned the discussion. What I would have suggested to her would have been along these lines: If the love is overwhelmingly strong and healthy, and the two lovers are mature and sincere in their union, then nothing should stand in the way of their marriage. Family concerns and opinions of family members should not prevent a union. This is my opinion, but I am not Spanish, so I do not understand the social dynamics that come into play. Nevertheless, it was quite disturbing that the family influence could be so strong.
I asked myself if their relationship of 14 years had not become a pattern or habit which might by now be lacking excitement and sincerity. For Noelia, having to wait for 14 years and still not seeing a resolution was a most distressing circumstance, one which prevented her from relaxing and enjoying her life. Perhaps a pattern of convenience had crept in. Noelia needed to evaluate her own feelings as well as those of her partner. If complacency emerged and the spark had dulled, then she should know what to do. If however, on final analysis, it was solely the family members preventing the union, an honest and frank discussion should take place between herself, her partner and the members in question. They should clear the air and assert the importance of their union over the family’s objections. If this is not possible and her partner was still not proposing, she needed to face the inevitable. Fourteen years of waiting is far too long and any action now would be better than none at all.